Islamic Architecture Walking Tour, Tashkent

Islamic Architecture Walking Tour (Self Guided), Tashkent

A visit to Uzbekistan is like leafing through the charred chapters of the Silk Road. Nowhere is this ambiance more exemplified than within the Islamic architecture adorning the streets of Tashkent.

One such architectural jewel is the Kukeldash Madrasah, dating back to the late 16th century. There is talk of making it into a museum, but it is currently still being used as a religious school.

Located near is the famous Chorsu Bazaar. This huge open-air market is the center of the old town of Tashkent. Everything imaginable is for sale here, from the daily groceries to ceramics, national costumes, and tubeteika caps. And it is one of the major tourist attractions in the city.

Another notable site is the Hazrati Imam Complex. The construction of this religious ensemble was completed in 2007; it consists of the 16th-century Muyi Muborak Madrasah; Barak Khan Madrasah with two mausoleums Inside - the Mausoleum of Suyunchkhoja Khan, the burial place of the first ruler of Tashkent from the Uzbek Sheibanid dynasty, and the so-called Nameless mausoleum built for Barak Khan himself. The Mausoleum of Hazrati Imam (Kaffal Shoshiy) is yet another picturesque tomb built in honor of the 16th-century Islamic leader, Khazrat Imam (Abu Bakr ibn Ismail al-Kaffal ash-Shoshiy).

The Namazgokh Mosque and Islamic Institute are actually a one location, constructed in 1845-1865; it is now home to religious studies.

To discover tales behind the towering blue-topped minarets, as you delve deeper into the history of one of Central Asia's most exciting destinations, take this self-guided walking tour and find out some of the most interesting landmarks in the old part of Tashkent.
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Islamic Architecture Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Islamic Architecture Walking Tour
Guide Location: Uzbekistan » Tashkent (See other walking tours in Tashkent)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Jami Mosque (Friday Mosque)
  • Kukeldash Madrasah
  • Chorsu Bazaar
  • Hazrati Imam Complex
  • Muyi Muborak and Tilla Shaikh Madrasah
  • Barak Khan Madrasah
  • Mausoleum of Hazrati Imam (Kaffal Shoshiy)
  • Namazgokh Mosque and Islamic Institute
Jami Mosque (Friday Mosque)

1) Jami Mosque (Friday Mosque)

Mosque Khoja Ahrar Vali or Jami Mosque is the basis of the Registan ensemble in the area of Chorsu square. The only Tashkent example of the Friday mosque of the yard type, common in Central Asia in the late Middle Ages.

The main building has the shape of a cube covered with a dome with four windows in a low cylinder. On the eastern wall, facing the courtyard, there is a large arch cut through. The border of arches and niches at the entrance is lancet, which is not typical for the Central Asian outline, rather Gothic. The layout of the mosque is rectangular with a large building at the end of the east-west longitudinal axis.

The first building of the Tashkent Juma Mosque ( Uzb. Juma masjidi ) (Main Friday Mosque) was built in 1451 at the expense of Sheikh Ubaydulla Khoja Akhrar (Uzbek Akhror ) (1404-1490).

Ubaydulla Ahrar , the great master of Sufism , the head of the Muslim clergy, in preparation for the move, ordered the construction of a large Friday mosque and madrasah in the ancient Tashkent mahalla Gulbazar. Local legends say that Ubaydulla got the money for the construction from the sale of “cutting threads”, which remain after cutting the fabric into standard pieces.

The main Friday mosque was built on a hill; therefore it was possible to see this majestic building from a great distance. From that time to the present day, people call this mosque, the mosque of Ubaydulla Ahror , in memory of him.

In 1868 the mosque was severely damaged by a devastating earthquake. By 1888, the Juma Mosque was repaired with the participation of Russian engineers. Funds for repairs, in the amount of 15,000 rubles, were taken from a gift from the Emir of Bukhara Muzaffar made to Emperor Alexander III on the occasion of his coronation in 1883 . The grand opening of the renovated Juma Mosque took place in July 1888.

In Soviet times, various state organizations were located here: the department of the Ministry of Education, other state institutions and even a cinema.

The last restoration of the Khoja Ahrar Vali Mosque was carried out in the 1990s. The building was recognized as emergency and it was completely rebuilt by modern architects, the cube was demolished, and instead of one dome, now there are three of them.

In 2003, the mosque was rebuilt on the same site using modern construction and decoration methods.
Kukeldash Madrasah

2) Kukeldash Madrasah

The ancient Kukeldash madrasah (Islamic religious school) is the largest of the 23 madrasahs found in Tashkent. It is also one of the oldest in Central Asia, built circa 1570, under the Shaybani Dynasty. Back then, the area was the southern edge of the city, and the madrasah was set upon the remains of the rampart of the southern fortress with a moat (which is now a street).

Historically, the establishment of the school has been attributed to two famous individuals of that period, namely: Qulbobo Kokaldosh, the influential minister of the Sheybanid sultan Barak Khan, and the governor of Tashkent, Darvesh Khan, nicknamed "kukeldash", which means blood brother of the khan. The opinions, as to who exactly founded and built the school, vary.

Over the years, among those who studied here have been the likes of Furqat, an Uzbek author, poet, and political activist, in 1889-1891; and Hamza, another prominent author, composer, playwright, poet, scholar, and political activist, in 1910-1911.

The two-story yellow brick building is of traditional square shape, with a huge gate and inner yard. The actual walls surrounding the inner yard are the living quarters for students – two-story dormitories in the form of cells (“hujras”).

By the 1730s, the structure had fallen into disrepair and was converted to caravanserai, a roadside inn for caravaners. Following that, for a while, it served as a fortress. In 1830-1831, the first floor of the building was demolished, and the bricks were used to build the nearby Beklarbegi madrasah. It was later restored.

Several earthquakes, in 1868 and 1886, destroyed the façade, which was subsequently restored in 1902-1903. The building was reconstructed again, in the 1950s, following yet another devastating earthquake, in 1946, and was one of only few religious sites in Tashkent to survive the most recent, 1966 earthquake.

Throughout the 20th century, the building served as a museum, first of atheism, and later of folk music. In the 1990s it was made a madrasah again. As a result of numerous reconstructions, the appearance of the madrasah has changed. Despite that, it still remains a must-see attraction in Tashkent, known for its landmark gate, 20 meters (66 feet) high, flanked by two towers.

In 2008, on the occasion of the 2200th anniversary of Tashkent, the frontal part of Kukeldash received a fresh “facelift”.
Chorsu Bazaar

3) Chorsu Bazaar (must see)

Chorsu (or Charsu) Bazaar, otherwise called Eski Zhuva Bozori, is one of the largest markets in Uzbekistan. It is also the oldest one in Central Asia, known since the Middle Ages as the great place to buy groceries and other daily necessities along the Silk Road. Centuries on, the place still buzzes with activity, being equally popular with locals and tourists.

The word "Chorsu" translates from the Persian language as "crossroads" or "four streams", and indeed, Chorsu Bazaar lives up to its name, located between Alisher Navoi Avenue, Farobi and Chakhchi Imom streets.

Albeit ancient as such (it has several buildings dating back as far as the 15th-16th centuries), the market these days is famous primarily for its modern central building with a signature blue-colored dome, designed in 1980 as the late example of Soviet Modernism.

The vast – some 350 meters in diameter – domed ceiling of the market is richly covered with ornaments. The building itself is quite monumental, comprising a three-tier structure with an elevator system. The lowest tier – the basement – contains utility rooms. Merchandise stalls are located on the middle and upper floors, divided into sections: vegetables, fruits, nuts, oriental sweets, spices, cereals, etc.

There are separate pavilions for clothing and household items. Also on sale here are a huge variety of unique handicrafts, such as carpets, national costumes, ceramics and other fascinating stuff and souvenirs fit to impress anyone.
Hazrati Imam Complex

4) Hazrati Imam Complex (must see)

Hazrati Imam, which means ‘Great Imam’, is an entire complex of historical and architectural monuments that was established here during several centuries. The place became sacred afterwards; in 976 Kaffali al Shashi was buried here – one of the most enlightened men of his period. In 1541, a Mausoleum was erected here and it is the oldest building of the Hazrati Imam complex. Also situated here is a beautiful Djuma Mosque with two beautiful minarets at the entrance, each of which is 56 meters tall. For more than 1000 years Hazrati Imam has been the centre of Muslim culture in Uzbekistan.

Cathedral Mosque of Khazrati Imam was erected in 2007 on the initiative and project of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov . The mosque has two domes and two minarets 53 meters high. The interior of the domes is decorated with gold leaf . At the entrance to the mosque there is an aivan with twenty carved sandalwood columns . The window openings are designed in such a way that they allow the sun's rays to penetrate inside the mosque from sunrise to sunset

The Khazrati Imam Ensemble also includes the building of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of all Uzbekistan, built by folk craftsmen of Uzbekistan. The same building houses the Committee for Religious Affairs under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Muyi Muborak and Tilla Shaikh Madrasah

5) Muyi Muborak and Tilla Shaikh Madrasah

Muyi Muborak Madrasah was built in the 16th century. The hair of the Prophet Muhammad is stored in the madrasah , in connection with which it got its name. The madrasah houses the library of the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan. The library's fund contains the Qur'an of Usman , which dates back to 644-648, as well as about 20 thousand books and manuscripts, translations of the Qur'an in more than 30 languages.

According to some sources, Muyi Muborak (“Sacred Hair”) Madrasah was rebuilt in 1856-1857. by decree of the Kokand Khan Mirza Ahmed Kushbegi.

Another building of the Hazrati Imam Ensemble that stands beside Muyi Muborak Madrasah is the Tilla Shaikh Madrasah, which was built at the expense of one of the richest people in Tashkent in the 19th century, Tilla Shaikh, and consists of two parts - mihrabs for the convenience of worshipers.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Barak Khan Madrasah

6) Barak Khan Madrasah

One of the most impressive buildings within the Hazrati Imam Complex in Tashkent is the Madrasah of Barak Khan. It was built in 1531-1532, first as a mausoleum, and then, in the middle of the 16th century, was rebuilt into a madrasah (religious educational institution) during the rule of Shibanid Navruz Ahmed Khan, nicknamed "Barak Khan", which means "lucky".

Originally, there were two mausoleums on the site: big and small. The former was a two-domed mausoleum – khanaka, built in 1530 in honor of the governor of Tashkent, Suyunchkhoja Khan (1454-1525). It was under his rule and that of his immediate heirs that the role of the Uzbek language in literature became firmly established, and Tashkent became a magnet for the intellectual elite of that time. The other mausoleum is called Nameless, for it was built for Barak Khan who was subsequently buried in Samarkand.

The artistic design of the madrasah's gate is not typical for Tashkent and is close to the architectural style of Samarkand. Its vault is made in the form of a niche – colab-kori; tympanums and piers are decorated with carved bricks and various mosaics.

The thick walls of the building are made of bricks of different sizes, clad in colorful glazed ceramic tiles, making up intricate geometrical patterns. Doors of the cells inside the madrasah are also richly decorated, with ivory and non-ferrous metals. The overall shape and decoration of the building remains unchanged, despite numerous earthquakes, thanks to the meticulous restorations carried out in 1946, 1949, 1951, and 1967.
Mausoleum of Hazrati Imam (Kaffal Shoshiy)

7) Mausoleum of Hazrati Imam (Kaffal Shoshiy)

The Mausoleum of Kaffal Shashi, also known as Hazrat Imam (Hastimam), is an architectural monument and a final resting place of the prominent Islamic leader of the 16th century, Imam Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Ismail al-Kaffal ash-Shashi, revered by Muslims around the world. The sons of Hazrat Imam and his students are also buried here.

The mausoleum was built by the architect Ghulam Husayn in 1541-42; later, the entire Hazrat Imam Complex was built around it. The actual date of the construction and the name of the architect are inscribed, in Arabic, above the front entrance. Other inscriptions, on the basement, have not been preserved, much as the original crypt.

The building features an asymmetric domed portal – khanaka – with residential cells (hujras) intended to provide shelter for dervishes (members of Muslim religious orders) and pilgrims. The complex also includes a mosque, and a kitchen, called oshkhona. To the south of the main building is a small courtyard with a burial ground (sagan).

The mausoleum is clad in hard-burned tiled bricks, decorated with majolica, and is topped with a large blue dome. The windows are decorated with ganch panjara.

Both sides of the mausoleum adjoin chillahona (underground cell). Nearby is the house where Khoja Ahrar Vali, one of Kaffal Shashi's followers, used to live.

During the Soviet period, when the authorities fought against Islam, the mausoleum of Kaffal Shashi was closed. Despite that, worshipers continued to visit it. In 1945, the Council of People's Commissars of the Uzbek SSR issued a decree placing the mausoleum under the jurisdiction of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Namazgokh Mosque and Islamic Institute

8) Namazgokh Mosque and Islamic Institute

The Tashkent Islamic Institute, named after Imam Al Bukhari, is an educational institution, the only one of its kind in the former USSR, dedicated to Islamic studies. Its curriculum is focused on Islamic theology and Arabic language. Almost all muftis on the post-Soviet territory have graduated from here.

The institute is located within the quarters of the Namazgokh Mosque, an architectural monument which forms part of the Hazrati Imam complex.

The mosque itself was built from 1845-1865, during the reign of the Kokand Khan Mirza Ahmed Kushbegi (aka Khudoyar), and served primarily as a venue for Friday and holiday prayers.

After the Russian revolution of 1917, the building was seriously damaged and plundered, but in the 1970s was restored to its former beauty and placed under the administration of the Board of Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. In 1971, the Islamic Institute was opened on the site.

The rectangular, elongated building incorporates a number of domed galleries (12 domes in total) with a wooden aivan (covered veranda). The walls of the mosque are made of hard-burnt tiled bricks. The interiors are not decorated. The only detail is the mihrab niche in the main hall, a small flat one with muqarnas (a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture) and panjara carving on top of it.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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