As we were walking towards the Ark Citadel we came across a rather interesting scenario that inevitably caught everyone's attention. A couple walking back and forth on a patch of grass. As he was cutting it with a grass mower she followed him, whilst holding the electric cord so as not to get caught in the water splash apparatus spread on the grass. It was not so much the "double" act of getting the job done in such an inventive way but the camaraderie that seemed to exist between them.
Upon reaching the main entrance to the Ark a few villagers, who were climbing on a camel invited Nathalie to join them in an unexpected improvised dance, which led to the stupefying delight of everyone including Nathalie, who suddenly became the centre of attention of both male and female villagers, not to mention the eight of us acting as photographers and "film" producers of this rather interesting street scenario sequence.
The ancient fortress Ark, with its front entrance architecturally decorated with two shaped towers did seem to catch everyone's attention because of its exquisite shape.
Its upper part led to a covered long corridor and the Djami Mosque. Throughout the Middle Ages the Ark Citadel had been an entire city comprising the Emir's Palace, the mint, mosques, shops a prison and a square for public meetings. In 1920 during the fight with the Soviets it is said to have been extensively damaged by a fire, this being the reason why still today only a small part of it can be visited and this includes the court mosque and the open air throne hall, both of which were nevertheless impressive.
According to a National legend Siyavush, the epic hero of Central Asian ancient times, is considered as the founder of the Citadel. Having been defamed by his mother-in-law and thus forced to flee to Turan he is said to have reached a wealthy country stretching out in the desert oasis, where he and the daughter of a prince are said to have fallen in love. Her father imposed one condition - for him to build a palace which would fit on his ox-hide.
Siyavush is said to have cut the ox-hide into thin lines connected the ends together and then built the palace inside the circle, this being why according to the legend the Bukhara Ark has such a peculiar shape. The palace is said to have collapsed numerous times and reconstructed an equal number of times until finally a governor decided to call upon several scientists and under their advice had it rebuilt in the shape of the constellation the Big Dipper, on seven pillars.
Just across the entrance to the Ark stood a mosque built in 1712 for the mother of Abdul Fayud Khan, which is usually named after the small pool which separates it from the Ark, Bolo Hauz ("hauz stands for reservoir"). The small minaret near the porch was built in 1917, but the most impressive feature of the mosque is without any doubt the terrace design, whose pillars have intricate stalactit-like parts, decorated with flower and geometrical ornaments.
We were unfortunately not allowed in because of the number of local pilgrims.
(To be continued)