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Uzbekistan: Bukhara Ark

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Bukhara Ark | Uzbekistan | Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

We had passed the Ark before, on our way to seeing other places in Bukhara. That morning, we decided to visit the Ark itself. From the outside, it looked like a well-kept, impossible to conquer fortress. Enormous walls with even more robust, round towers gave a lot of confidence in the structure. Two 18th century towers frame the enormous entrance gate. But even before we bought our tickets, we knew that, after having served as such for many centuries, and located on a site that had been occupied since the 5th century CE, the Ark was heavily bombed during a siege in 1920. Still, after we walked the cobble-stone and covered corridor leading up towards the main area of the Ark, we were discovered that, indeed, much of it had been destroyed.

Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Wall of the Ark

Some buildings survived or have been restored, with 17th century Juma Mosque as an example. Slender, wooden columns are the elegant supporters of the roof. But around it, ruins and destruction. When we walked to the end of one of the streets, and climbed the wall, there was just a barren terrain. In the background, we could see Kalon minaret and the cupolas of the mosques and madrases of historic Bukhara. We returned to exploring the Ark, and discovered that ... all the museums, which seemed the most interesting parts of the Ark, were closed. We were quite dismayed when we found out, and wondered why the woman at the ticket counter did not inform us. And no, the answer was not difficult to think of.

Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Guarding the Coronation Room

Still, we were looking for interesting parts of the Ark, walking all alleys, turning corners, pushing open doors - but in the end, we did not see much more than houses, and closed doors. We ended up at the Coronation room, which was probably the most interesting part of the Ark. Lion statues guarding the tiled gate, the room was basically empty, but with platforms on all sides. Ahead of us, the main platform, where the actual coronations took place. The last coronation ever to be celebrated here was in 1910, ten years before the destruction of the Ark. Two would-be dresses, together with headdresses, were lying on the platform, as if a future king and queen could walk in any time to be crowned. Once out of the Ark again, we walked the open square right in front of the Ark, which once upon a time was the Registan, and used for executions - among which the infamous one of the British military Stoddart and Conolly. Now, on this hot summer day, the square was empty, we were thirsty, and had reason enough to walk back to the main city of Bukhara.

Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Building inside the Ark
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Wooden pillars supporting Juma Mosque
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Finely decorated ceiling of Juma Mosque
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Detail of one of the wooden pillars supporting the roof of Juma Mosque
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Coronations took place right here, in the Ark
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Entrance to the Ark with plaza
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): The sturdy defensive wall of the Ark could have withstood any attack, bar one
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Arched gateway to the Coronation Room
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Slender wooden pillars are part of the Juma Mosque inside the Ark
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): View of the Coronation room from behind the platform
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Inside the Ark: one of the houses
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Pile of cannon balls in a corner of the Ark
Picture of Bukhara Ark (Uzbekistan): Kalon Minaret and other famous Bukhara sights seen from a distance in the Ark

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