As I was waiting for the rest of the group to come down I took some photos of what was going on in the street right in front of the hotel entrance hall. On the right hand side stood the sixteenth century Tok-i- Zargaron ("Tok" meaning arch and by extension the vaulted structures that support the domes and "zargaron" jewellers) one of the biggest trade markets bazaars of Bukhara, whilst on the left hand side one could sight the dome of the Kalyan mosque behind the Mir Arab Madrasah along which some street vendors were beginning to spread their carpets.
We would soon visit the Poi Kalyan ensemble comprising the Kalyan Mosque, the Mir Arab Madrasah and the Kalyan Minaret considered the most historical and significant complex of Bukhara.
The Kalyan Mosque is among the most ancient in Middle Asia, in fact archaeological excavations revealed some of the oldest ground floors of the territory and an inscription at the main entrance indicates that the construction of the building began in the fifteenth century.
Once you walk through its main entrance you realise the building occupies a huge area (one hectare according to written information) allowing space for about 1,000 worshippers.
I couldn't help but admire the mosaic decorated portal and façades though it was the colour of the mosque dome rising above the whole ensemble that really caught my attention ... it perfectly blended with the colour of the sky though highlighting its distinctive mark.
The 46.5 metre Kalyan Minaret dates back to 1127, according to a date inscription to be seen on three of its belts. It is said to be linked to the roof of the Kalyan mosque by a small bridge. Its name stands for "Big Tower" but it is better known as "Death tower" because of the fact that in ancient times many are said to have been thrown down from its top.
One of the many legends related to it refers to a cruel shah having decided to have his wife thrown from the top, upon which she requested a last wish (wearing all her dresses on the execution day). Unaware of the intention behind her last wish he didn't realise that once having agreed to her request he granted her the living, as when she was pushed to her death the dresses blew up like a parachuting device and consequently saved her from almost being killed.
Another legend claims that when Genghis Khan walked into the Minaret square after having defeated his opponents and destroyed half of the city he happened to look up at the minaret, upon which his helmet fell to the ground. He was forced to bend down in order to pick it up, having said " never before have I bowed to anyone, but this construction is magnificent enough to deserve my bowing to it".
Legends apart, the sight of the Minaret was definitely impressive, particularly if one thoroughly looked at its carving.
The Mir Arab Madrasah, which was undergoing some works, is considered one of the most sacred Islamic educational places in the post Soviet territory. It was built during the governing period of the Shaybanids in the sixteenth century. We were only allowed into its entrance hall from which we took some photographs. We could distinctly hear students reciting the Koran.
As we walked out of the Madrasah we came across an old street vendor selling what looked like pipes, until we were told these were used for babies to pee during the nigh, by having the rather awkward looking"instruments" fixed in-between their legs and directly connected to a pot placed underneath the bedsheets and mattress for which a whole had been deliberately made. It all sounded rather unintelligible to us but the guide told us we would be given a demonstration later, so we asked no further questions as to how it all functioned.
A quick walk around led us into the open market for gold and gold object dealers. We were really impressed , to say the least, with the amount of golden jewellery and the number of female vendors.
(To be continued)