Nadezhda Dukhovny
Nadezhda Dukhovny

Ancient and Unique Uzbekistan: Tashkent III

The incredibly beautiful capital of Uzbekistan, the city of Tashkent, can surprise with many beautiful places and unique attractions that are popular with local residents and guests of the city. The people of Tashkent are very pious. Today the mosque is visited by most of the male population of the city.

Sources presented in historical books relating to the past of the city of Tashkent indicate that the first mosque in Central Asia was built in Tashkent. Arab historians of the 9th-10th centuries Istakhri, Maqdisi, and Ibn Hawqal mention the Friday mosque next to the city arch.

It is known that during the XIII-XVIII centuries, Tashkent was one of the important socio-political and cultural-spiritual centers, and there were more mosques in the city than before. By the 19th century, the number of mosques in the city had increased significantly. This is due to the expansion of the city and the increase in the number of neighborhoods in it.

The main part of the mosques was traditionally rectangular or square, with covered superstructures – khanqah, minaret, mezzanine, porch, and gates.

Tashkent mosques of the 19th – early 20th centuries can be divided into several groups. In particular, these are Friday mosques, local mosques in makhallas (microdistricts), in markets, mosques in madrasahs, mosques in cemeteries-sanctuaries, mosques in bazaars and camps. At the beginning of the 20th century, 4-5 mahalla mosques functioned in the mahallas of the city of Tashkent.

Each mosque was distinguished by its unique beauty. One of such beautiful mosques is the Blue Mosque in the Shaykhantaur region, near the Chorsu trading domes.

 

The Blue Mosque in the Shaykhantaur district. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The mosque was built according to the type of traditional Central Asian mosques – with a summer veranda and a winter khanqah. The veranda consists of eight columns supporting a patterned ceiling. At the entrance to the mosque, a mujaz tower rises above the gate, the construction of which dates back to the 19th century. Remnants of blue tiles have been preserved in the minaret. There is an assumption that in the past the dome of the minaret was covered with glazed tiles of the same color, from which, perhaps, the name of the mosque originated.

The Blue Mosque is one of the unique Islamic monuments preserved in Tashkent.

In 819, after the Arab conquest, the young emir Yahya ibn Asad received a permit to manage the lands of present-day Tashkent and the Tashkent region. Examining the territory of the city, the emir stopped on his horse together with his subordinates at a hill, which is still clearly visible in the area of ​​the old city of Chorsu. “A new city will be built here – Shashkent – the northern outpost of Maverannahr,” Yahya said.

Many centuries later, the city has noticeably changed, but the Khoja Akhrar Vali Mosque is still one of the main attractions. The mosque has a rich history, which not every architectural monument can boast of.

the Khoja Akhrar Vali Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The mosque was built in the shape of a cube (which symbolizes the sacred Kaaba) on a hill in the 9th century. Tashkent is located in the foothills, that is, in the zone of seismic activity. For this reason, many medieval monuments were destroyed and damaged by earthquakes. The mosque was no exception.

In 1451, the building of the mosque on the ancient foundation was re-erected thanks to the efforts of the famous sheikh of the Sufi order of Naqshbandi – Ubaydulla Khoja Akhrar. In addition to the mosque, on his initiative, a one-story madrasah was also built, which, unfortunately, no longer exists.

Khoja Akhrar was born in the ancient mountain village of Bogustan (near the Charvak reservoir). The amazing village of Bogustan became home to twenty missionaries who visited here under the leadership of Sheikh Umar Wali, a descendant of the righteous Caliph Omar.

On the maternal side, Ubaydulla was a relative of a particularly revered Sufi from Tashkent Sheikhantaur, which means that Ubaydulla belonged to the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

From early childhood, the young man showed a developed mind and a genuine interest in worship. He took an active part in the dhikrs of wandering dervishes. It is not surprising that soon the young man decided to go on foot himself with a staff in his hand through the territory of Maverannahr. During his visit to Tashkent, Ubaydulla was already a famous sheikh.

In the 18th century, the Akhrar Vali mosque was restored under the leadership of the ruler of the Tashkent state, Yunus Khoja. But already in 1868, the building was seriously damaged due to a strong earthquake. For almost 20 years, the cathedral mosque was in a dilapidated state, and only in 1888 the cathedral was rebuilt at the expense of the Russian emperor Alexander III.

In 1997 and 2003, the mosque was rebuilt again, but with the use of modern restoration methods. Now this beautiful building with three domes makes up a large architectural ensemble and is one of the largest cathedral mosques in Uzbekistan. Not far from it you can see the old Kukeldash madrasah, which is in tandem with Friday mosque form the unique look of Tashkent.

One of the oldest mosques in Uzbekistan, the Islom Ota Mosque, has a 300-year history. Previously, it was called Jurabek, but later it was renamed in honor of the first President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov.

the Islom Ota Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

In 2015, the mosque was hit by fire, after which reconstruction work was carried out here, which doubled the territory of the complex with a capacity of up to 10 thousand people. There is also a library that contains rare editions and original manuscripts.

The complex is decorated with a huge blue dome, a high minaret near the mosque and four small minarets at its corners.

In the old city part of Tashkent, in the Kukcha mahalla, there is a mosque named after the Islamic saint Sheikh Zainiddin, whose mausoleum is located in the same place. The people call the mosque Kukcha because of its location.

The Kukcha mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The above-metioned Sheikh Zayniddin was born in 1164. He devoted his life to preaching the teachings of the founder of the Sufi order Suhrawardi – Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi on the territory of modern Uzbekistan. The saint’s mausoleum was erected at the end of the XIV century by order of Tamerlane himself.

Today the mosque is one of the most beautiful places of pilgrimage in Uzbekistan, as in 2011 it was reconstructed using calligraphic art, woodcarving and ganch.

Up to six thousand Muslims can pray at the same time in the mosque.

Uzbek masters never cease to amaze by erecting and decorating mosques. The Oltintepa Mosque construction began in 2016. It lasted two years and four months. Now the spacious place can accommodate 2,300 people at a time. The building is made in the best traditions of Uzbek architecture. It is decorated with a blue dome, and the beauty of the interior decoration is breathtaking. The large hall and the courtyard become like a refuge from the bustle of the city and a place to find harmony.

The Oltintepa Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

 

The Oltintepa mosque is located in the Mirzo-Ulugbek district of the city of Tashkent, on Gazalkent street. It has become a local landmark that is impossible to pass by.

On the banks of the Ankhor River, you can see the Minor Mosque, one of the newest city’s attractions.

The Minor Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The opening of the mosque took place before a significant event for the Muslim world – the holiday of Kurban Hayit (Eid al-Adha) in 2014.

During the construction, all the norms of traditional oriental architecture were observed, but the mosque differs from the older ones in the decoration of white marble.

It accommodates over 2,500 people. On sunny days, the shrine sparkles in the sun.

Minor consists of a ceremonial alley planted with greenery, and inside there is a large hall decorated with quotes from the holy book of the Koran and a gold mark pointing to Mecca.

One of the famous mosques in the Chilanzar district got its name from its location – the Dumbiraobod mahalla. The Dumbiraobod Mosque was built in 1992 by local residents through hashar (“joint work, charity of the local population”). In 2012, the mosque was reconstructed.

The Dumbiraobod Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Dumbiraobod is one of the oldest makhallas (block) in the south of Tashkent with a deep history. In ancient times, the Konkus, Shirin and Darkhan canals flowed here. Once upon a time these places were mastered by residents of the neighboring makhallas “Beshagach”, “Gulistan”, “Chaqar” and built large houses with plantations here.

The Dumbiraobod Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The senior residents of Dumbiraobod say that at one time in the local guzar (market) a butcher named Mirsoat opened a butcher’s shop. Every time after the slaughter of cattle, his son, who was with disabilities, began to beat the dumbira (national percussion instrument). Hearing the battle of the dumbira, the local population went to the guzar for fresh meat. Perhaps that is why the mahalla got its unusual name.

Another popular mosque in the Chilanzar district is the Nosirkhon mosque. It was built in 1990 and opened 2 years later. The mosque got its name in honor of the respected representative of the mahalla Nosirkhon, who lived with his family in the Beshagach makhalla at the beginning of the 20th century at the invitation of local craftsmen had a large estate in Dumbiraobod. As local residents say, Nosirkhon did a lot for his makhalla and his family was one of the most respected in the neighbourhood. There is a 19th century mazar near the Nosirkhon mosque.

The Nosirkhon Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The huge mosque with an area of 2000 square meters successfully combines national modern styles and holds about 4500 prayer places. There is also a separate restroom and a prayer room for women.

The main khanqah consists of 2 floors. In addition, the complex has a basement, a hall for celebrations and conferences and a modern web studio. The construction of the mosque began in 2019 and was raised with funds from local sponsors within 2 years.

According to the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, the construction of the Sirozh Solikh Mosque, located in the Karakamysh mahalla, was started in the 1990s funded by a local businessman named Sirojiddin Solikh, who was forced to leave his country as a result of political repression in the post-Soviet period.

The Sirozh Solikh Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The Friday Tukhtaboy Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Tashkent, located near the Chagatay Gate. It was built in 1908 and is an architectural structure of the Nikolas I era. This is evidenced by the unique brickwork. During the construction of the mosque, not burnt bricks, traditional in the construction of Muslim structures, were used, but the “Nikolaevsky” white bricks, which were new at that time.

The construction of the mosque was laid by the local merchant Tukhtaboy, the son of a wealthy businessman Alimboy. Tukhtaboy lived in the years 1870-1934 near ​​the Chagatay gate.

According to a legend, the merchant Tukhtaboy, sending goods by train to Russia, said: “If the trade goes well, I will build a mosque here for the profit made.” With the grace of Allah, his intentions came true and a magnificent mosque was erected on this place.

The Friday Tukhtaboy Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

According to the stories of local elders, for the construction of the mosque lasted for several months, handymen carried huge bags from Chorsu on their backs for a double fee. The merchant generously rewarded all the craftsmen and workers, since he believed that during the construction of a spiritual institution, none of the participants should have been dissatisfied, and the funds for construction should not be spent on bad ends.

During World War II, the Tukhtaboy mosque was used as a military garrison, then there was a school and even a barn for storing dishes.

On the eve of gaining independence in 1989, the mosque was reopened and transferred to the management of Tashkent Muslims.

The Okhunguzar Mosque is located in the area of ​​the modern Sebzar block. Among the people, the mosque had a different name – Lailakkundi – “storks have arrived”. During the construction of the mosque, storks nested on the main dome and it is believed that this served as a good sign.

The Okhunguzar Mosque. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The main building of the mosque was erected in 1775 by local craftsmen. But on the entrance plate at the mosque, but there is another date for the construction of the mosque indicated – 1850. It is very possible that the last date is the date of the reconstruction of the mosque.

Interesting data are provided by researchers of the toponym of the mosque name. According to some sources, the name of the makhalla Okhunguzar in translation from Uzbek means “deer place”. According to others, “Okhunguzar” means “quarter of blacksmiths”. There were a lot of smithies in this place, which were famous far beyond the borders of Tashkent.

Products of Tashkent armourers have long been in great demand. Their products could be found not only in the markets of the cities of Uzbekistan, but also in the bazaars of other countries, such as China, Iran, India, Turkey and even Europe. In many battles and victories won by Amir Temur and his heirs, their victorious troops were armed not only with Baghdad, Samarkand, but also Tashkent weapons, which faithfully served their owners, and often surpassed the imported ones in quality.

In our time, multi-storey buildings have grown on the site of a quarter glorious for its craftsmen. In the past, the Okhunguzar Mosque served as a caravanserai. Today, the unique Ohunguzar Mosque adorns the corner square at the intersection of Zarkainar and Karasaray streets.

One of the spiritual monuments of Tashkent is the Khazrati Imam complex, known among the local people as Khast-Imam. It is located in the hinterland of the old city, which survived the strongest earthquake in 1966. The complex was built near the burial place of the first Tashkent imam al-Qaffal al-Shashi, who was a scientist and religious figure.

The Khazrati Imam complex. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

 

The complex consists of the Tilla Sheikh Mosque, the Abu Bakr Qaffal al-Shashi Mausoleum, the Barak Khan Madrasah and the Imam al-Bukhari Islamic Institute.

It’s library is open for visitors. It’s there  where a large amount of oriental handwritten literature is concentrated. The Quran of the third Caliph Osman is also kept here separately. Written in the 7th century, it managed to make a considerable journey across many countries. This ancient holy book is quite large and includes 353 parchment sheets.

The Khazrati Imam complex. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The book arrived in Uzbekistan during the time of Amir Timur. Russian scientists have studied and confirmed the authenticity of the book.

Many different exotic plants were brought to the territory of the ensemble, and storks nest here in Khast-Imam from spring to autumn. Khast-Imam is especially beautiful at night, when the territory is illuminated by lanterns and creates the illusion of an oriental fairy tale.

Another equally famous complex, Sheikhantaur, is located in Tashkent between Abdullah Qadiri and Alisher Navoi streets. The complex consists of three mausoleums: the mausoleum of Sheikh Khovendi at-Tahur, the mausoleum of Kaldyrgach-biy and the mausoleum of Yunus-Khan.

The Sheykhantaur complex. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Sheikhantaur whose name was given to the place was born at the end of the 13th century into a Khodja family in the mountain village of Bogustan. Now the waves of the Charvak reservoir are splashing there.

His father, Sheikh Omar, was a descendant of the second righteous caliph, Omar. The people believed that Sheikh Omar knew how to work miracles and command the elements. The highest grace seemed to have passed from him and to his son.

Young Sheikhantaur learned Sufi truths. According to biographers, the Tashkent Sufi was particularly struck then by the truth: “high spiritual qualities and knowledge in the sciences are directly proportional to the patience and meekness of a sage in relation to the rudeness of the ignorant.”

The Sheikh lived and preached in Tashkent and died between 1355 and 1360. According to a legend, the mausoleum over his grave was built on the initiative of Amir Timur himself. This is a two-chambered low structure under two domes of different heights. The building acquired its present appearance after numerous restorations and alterations at the beginning of the 19th century. Inside there are three tombstones, one under a large dome and two under a small one.

In the mausoleum, the only one of forty-eight sauras, Saur Iskander, planted by Alexander the Great and named after him, has survived. The petrified coniferous tree is located inside the mausoleum right next to the majestic tombstone of the Sheikh.

The Sheykhantaur complex. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

It is worth noting that many outstanding Tashkent residents belonged to the Sheikhantaur clan. Among them are the famous preacher of the Timurid era Ubaydulla Khoja Akhror (1404-1490) and the independent ruler of Tashkent in the second half of the 18th century Yunus- Khoja.

Another mausoleum has survived to this day near the Sheikhantaur mausoleum. This is the Kaldyrgach-biy mazar. With the characteristic shape of the pyramidal dome, this architectural monument of the 15th century differs remarcably from other buildings of the complex and resembles the mazars of the Kazakh steppes. Indeed, under the arches of this mausoleum lies the ashes of the famous statesman Tole-biy, a Kazakh by birth.

The Kaldyrgach-biy mazar. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

With such structures, they seem to imitate the native land of Tole-biy, the mountain peaks of the Tien Shan and Alatau. The tent-roofed form of  mausoleums is associated with the ancient funeral customs of the peoples who inhabited the northern regions of Central Asia, which explains the amazing resistance of this form in them, which was used more recently in the grave structures of the Kyrgyz and Kazakhs.

The Kaldyrgach-biy mazar. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Together with the people of Tashkent, Tole-biy managed to expel the Dzhangar-Kalmyk invaders from the land of Central Asia.

Tole-biy appointed the Sheikhantaur ruler Yunus-Khodja as his confidant in Tashkent, who after his death became the independent ruler of the Tashkent state.

The Kaldyrgach-biy mazar. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Another surviving mausoleum of the complex of the late 15th century is the mausoleum of Yunus Khan, a Mughal poet and warrior who also happens to be the grandfather of the great Babur.

The building has been restored many times. It has a rare type of T-shaped khanqah with a high visor along the top of the facade.

The Yunus Khan mausoleum. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

In Tashkent, there is an architectural complex dedicated to the noble mentor of all craftsmen – Suzuk-Ota. This man was known throughout the city and even beyond its borders. Suzuk-Ota was famous for his talent for uniting the people, as well as for his beneficent deeds, which caused great respect among the locals.

The complex consists of a mosque and a mausoleum, built during the reign of Amir Temur in 1392. In 2019, a major reconstruction of this religious building took place.

The Suzuk-Ota complex. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Not far from Chorsu Square is one of the largest Islamic sights of Tashkent – the Kukeldash Madrasah. This madrasah has long been considered a symbol of the old part of the capital. In the 10th century, one of the three city gates was located here.

The Kukeldash madrasah. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

The madrasah was built in the 16th century during the reign of the Sheibanids in Tashkent. The construction was supervised by the chief vizier, nicknamed “kukaldosh”, which  is the Turkic for “milk brother”. He was close to the Tashkent rulers Barak Khan and Dervish Khan. This is where the unusual name of the madrasah comes from.

Many legends are associated with the activity of the madrasah. As long-livers say, earlier public executions were carried out on the territory of the madrasah. Unfaithful wives were thrown from the highest minaret in order to teach and shame the local population.

According to another legend, a spreading pistachio tree once grew here. It was considered sacred, as it grew on one of the domes of the madrasah.

On one of the inner walls of the madrasah, we can see an inscription that is similar to the ancient Roman proverb: “Ars longa – vita brevia”. It is written on the wall: “Death is inevitable, but the work performed by a person remains forever.”

Today the Kukeldash madrasah is one of the largest architectural monuments of the capital. The high baked brick building was built on the principle of the construction of Muslim spiritual institutions. It has a large courtyard surrounded by prayer rooms, hujras, and study rooms.

The most beautiful facade is represented by an entrance portal called “peshtak”, which is almost 20 meters high. Here, next to it, there are two-tier carved balconies with traditional corner towers.

On the windows of the building, you can see sun-protection bars, where an engraving with the use of the sacred name of Allah and his Prophet Muhammad is visible to the attentive gaze.

The Kukeldash madrasah. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Throughout the history of its existence, the building of the madrasah has witnessed many events. These were both internecine wars and catastrophes. The madrasah was repeatedly destroyed due to earthquakes. It also once housed a caravanserai. And in the XIX century this building served as the residence of the Kokand khans.

From here, the Tashkent rebels were fired from cannons. Kukeldash madrasah has seen a lot.

With the help of Tashkent masters, the madrasah was completely restored during the years of Uzbekistan’s independence. At the same time, it was decided to return the status of a spiritual institution to the madrasah.

Here today you can hear the voices of muezzins calling Muslims to prayer, and classes for students and various religious services are held in the study rooms of the hujras.

Tashkent is full of interesting and sacred places associated with the names of the legendary devotees of Islam. One of such places is the Kuylyuk-ota mausoleum, which gave the name to the whole block in the south of Tashkent.

The Kuylyuk-ota mausoleum. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

Sheikh Hafiz Kuylyuky, the patron of cattle breeders, was one of the descendants of the Samarkand sheikh Nogai-ota and the successor of the teachings of Ahmad Yassawi.

Sheikh Hafiz Kuilyuky grew up in a learned family, his maternal grandfather was an imam in Samarkand, his parents later joined the Zhakhriyi Yassawi stream. He served for a long time as an imam in a mosque in the Samarkand region, and was engaged in the interpretation of suras and ayats of the holy Quran and held talks about the main tenets of Islam in his own khanqah. He also wrote scientific treatises under the pseudonym Kuylyuky.

In the 15th century, he moved from Dashti Kipchak to the village of Dormen in the Tashkent region.

Sheikh Hafiz Kuilyuky died in 1554 and was buried on the southern outskirts of Tashkent near the market. A few years after the death of the sheikh, his grandson Sheikh Azizkhon built the Kuilyuk-ota mausoleum on the grave of his grandfather.

The Kuylyuk-ota mausoleum. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tashkent Region Tourism and Sports Department.

In the 50s of the last century, the Kuylyuk-Ata mausoleum fell into decay and was under the threat of flooding. In 1994, the body of the deceased was moved to a new place not far from the old one and a new mausoleum was built here according to a special project.

 

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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