Nadezhda Dukhovny
Nadezhda Dukhovny

Ancient and unique Uzbekistan: Qashqadaryo III

Welcome to Uzbekistan! Welcome to Qashqadaryo Region!

Posted by Uzbekistan Embassy in Israel on Saturday, April 10, 2021

If you plan to visit the Qashqadaryo region you need to see its most famous attractions of Qarshi and Shahrisabz – the two major cities that were there for centuries.

The administrative center of the Qashqadaryo region is the city of Qarshi. The ancient city in 2006 under the auspices of UNESCO celebrated its 2700th anniversary. There is a legend that Alexander the Great himself visited the city and that the famous brave Sogdian military leader Spitamen was born. Alexander the Great himself was amazed at his courage in the confrontation. In the city, you can see several ancient places of worship, which successfully coexist with residential buildings and urban infrastructure.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

The history of the name of this ancient city is interesting. Babur mentioned this toponym in his work “Babur-name”. He wrote: “Another district is Qarshi, which is also called Nessef and Nehsheb. Qarshi is a Mongolian name; castle or mausoleum in Mongolian is “Qarshi”. This name reflects the construction activities of Kepekhan, who founded his residence in this place. Later, under Amir Timur, a defensive wall was erected around the city.

Qarshi is an interesting place where old and new, modern new buildings and ancient monuments intertwine. Here you can see several places of worship that successfully coexist with residential buildings and urban infrastructure.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

According to archaeologists, the first settlement in Qarshi appeared around the 7th century BC. At the same time, the first defensive wall was erected around the city, the ruins of which have survived to this day. At that ancient time, the settlement was called Navtak, which in translation from Sogdian means “new building”.

The city was located on the territory of the Great Silk Road, so it was a tidbit for the conquerors. A path passed from Samarkand and Bukhara to India through it.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

Then, in the interval between the 9th and 14th centuries, the city was called Nakhshab and in 1346, on the orders of Tameralan, a fortified palace was built here, due to which the city received its modern name – Qarshi, which translates from Turkic as “fortification”. Since that time, the city has constantly flourished and improved.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

During the reign of the Sheibanid dynasty, the peak of its development came and by the XVIII century, it was the second city in the Bukhara Khanate. Now the city of Qarshi is already 2700 years old and it is the administrative center of the Qashkadaryo region. The city has preserved many historical attractions.

For example, the Odina Mosque and Madrasah is the first and only women’s educational institution in the region. The complex was built in the 16th century on the site of the destroyed Kebek Khan’s palace. In madrasah, women were taught sciences and religion. They came to the mosque to pray and thank Allah for their children and loved ones. Such a religious complex was the only one in Central Asia, which had no analogs anywhere. Currently, the mosque has a museum that tells about the rich history of the Sheibanid dynasty, whose rulers and khans left a significant contribution to the history of Islam.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

There are 7 steps to the top of this palace. There are many stairs, and the palace is the largest building in the city.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

Today, the Odina Mosque, built during the reign of Amir Temur, is the most valuable monument in Qarshi. The mosque was surrounded by thick walls and was turned into a prison during the Soviet era. It was the first to enter the architectural heritage of Qarshi as a madrassa where mostly women were educated.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

Excavations at the Odina Mosque uncovered ancient brick walls, blue-glazed brick floors, circular brick columns, and square columns under the mosque’s floors.

In the following period, these pillars were used in the construction of the Odina mosque, adapted to its construction. As a result, some of the circular columns are oriented on one side. Along with these architectural remains, fragments of high-quality majolica and mosaic wall coverings of the late 14th century, as well as carved bricks were found. These findings indicate that a building covered with high-quality murals was built here during the reign of Amir Timur.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

The walls and fragments of tiles found under the Odina mosque are more likely to be the remains of a mosque mentioned by Hafiz Abru in his 1414–1420 report, as he described the mosque as tiled. But which mosque is this, the mosque where Tarmashir prayed or another mosque that was built later? If the construction built by Tarmashirin had the status of a mosque, Ibn Battuta would probably have mentioned it. But he did not describe it as a mosque.

Another landmark of the city is the Memorial complex of Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrokh. Ubaydah al-Jarrokh was a famous commander, politician, companion, and physician of the Prophet Muhammad. According to legend, he was able to heal the Prophet wounded with an arrow. The complex was built in the 15th century and recently renovated. On the territory of the mausoleum, you can see a minaret with figures of storks, an incredibly clean and transparent pond, ancient burial places, found artifacts, an old plane tree. There is a wide alley with flower beds near the entrance to the complex.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

The Kok Gumbaz cathedral mosque in Qarshi was built at the end of the 16th century on the site of the more ancient Namazgoh mosque. The name of the mosque is translated as “blue dome”. The building impresses with its grandeur and beauty, which surprises how people of that distant time were able to build such beauty. Kok Gumbaz mosque is considered the largest and most beautiful mosque in the city.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

The Qarshi bridge is an ancient bridge with a rich history. It has several names: Amir Timur Bridge, Sheibanid Bridge, Qashqadaryo Bridge, Nikolaevsky Bridge. The structure was built in 1583 in a typical Persian style. The construction was launched on the initiative of Abdullah Khan II, for whom it was important to create a convenient passage in the city not only for pedestrians but also for trade caravans. At that time, Qarshi was an important stopping point for merchants. Since then, the bridge has been a symbol of the city. It is 122 meters long, 8 meters wide, 5 meters high above the water and has 10 arches.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

There are two madrasahs in the city that worth to be seen.

First of them is Madrasah of Khuja Abdulaziz. The architectural monument was built in 1909, during the reign of the Bukhara Emir Seyid Abdulahad Khan. At the beginning of the 20th century, the madrasah was a popular educational institution, where students came from all over the Bukhara Emirate. 1975 to 2007 the Kashkadarya Museum of Local Lore operated in the madrasah.

Madrasah of Kulichboy. The building was built in 1914, in appearance it is very similar to the Khuzh Abdulaziz madrasah. 12 study rooms in the madrasah are located on the first and second floors. Inside the courtyard, there was a tashnov – a sewage system. The solid walls, built of baked bricks, are impressive and attract attention from afar. At present, there is a museum in the madrasah.

Sardoba – a reservoir for collecting water, was built in the XIV century. Since the climate in the region is rather arid, the structure made it possible to collect rainwater. Sardoba operated until the beginning of the 20th century, now it is empty and you can go down inside. Inside the structure, there is amazing acoustics, as well as an unusual piece of wood that looks out of the hole for water intake.

This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Territorial Administration for the Development of Tourism in the Qashqadaryo Region

Medieval baths are one of the most interesting objects of the city. Their construction dates back to the 16th century. The elders say that the baths were designed in such a way that heat was stored from one small stove. Inside and outside, the baths look very unusual, which arouses genuine interest.

Qarshi is a fascinating city. Ancient architecture, beautiful streets, fountains in the city center, the benevolence of the townspeople, and delicious dastarkhan will appeal to everyone. Make this amazing city a must-see on your itinerary.

About the Author
Nadezhda Dukhovny was born and raised in Uzbekistan and made aliya in 2005. She holds an MA in Linguistics from Tel Aviv University and works in translation. She has a true interest about her motherland and would like to tell more about that fascinating country to make Israeli readers familiar with another culture from other part of the globe.
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