Historic Centre of Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

View over the Old City at Sunset - From The Ark (Original Settlement) - Bukhara - Uzbekistan

Today Uzbekistan has a population of around 27.5 million, mainly Uzbek people. Other ethnic groups include: Russians, Tajiks, Kazakh and Tartars. The country is landlocked and is sited in one of the world’s most troubled regions. Its neighbours are: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

Bukhara a Unesco World Heritage Site

Although those interested in the legacy of Samarkand, also a World Heritage Site, might disagree, for many Bukhara’s Historic Centre is the jewel in Uzbekistan’s cultural crown.

While Bukhara boasts a number of monuments and buildings, each with individual significance, the town’s historical importance is, says UNESCO, down to multi-layered levels of urban planning. Essentially as dynastic change took place the people built upwards rather than outwards, a bit like the Middle and Near East Tels, although on a larger scale. It means that almost every stage in Bukhara’s growth is visible in some shape or form. What more could a historian ask for?

Bukhara’s Historical Legacy

Evidence of one of the earliest points in the town’s evolutionary trail is provided by archaeological testament that links Bukhara to the 2nd millennium BCE Kushan state. However as the city changed hands in the ebb and flow of ever shifting political and military regimes, other points in Bukhara’s historical timeline were added. Bukhara became:

  • Part of the fourth century Ephtalite dynasty
  • Part of the region controlled by the Caliphate of Baghdad in 709
  • The capital of the Samanid Kingdom in 892
  • Part of the Timurid Empire in the early 15th century
  • The capital of the Uzbek Bukhara Khanate in the late 15th century
  • Part of the Soviet Union in 1920
  • Part of the independent Republic of Uzbekistan in 1991

In the Historic Centre of Bukhara there are a number of impressive and historically important buildings. They include

  • Ark citadel – palace and fortified residence of Bukhara’s rulers
  • Magoki-Attori Mosque – may originally have been a Zoroastrian Temple
  • Chashma Ayub Mausoleum – may have links to Biblical prophet Job
  • Minaret Kalian – erected by Arslan-Khan in 1127 and recognised as the symbol of Bukhara

Trading Domes (16th century): Taki-Sarrafon, where moneychangers worked, Taki-Telpak Furushon, where hats were sold, Taki-Zargaron, where jewellery was traded

World Heritage Nomination Papers

Perhaps this paragraph, from the World Heritage nomination papers sums up Bukhara’s importance. “The city of Bukhara is nearly twenty-five centuries old. Not only a large number of mosques, medressehs and mausolea have been preserved to the present day, but also whole districts… The historic part of Bukhara, which is in effect an open air museum, combines the city’s long history in a single ensemble.”