Monthly Archives: March 2012

March Trip to Istaravshan, Part Four, Mazar I Chor Gumbaz (Mosque with Four Domes)

March Trip to Istaravshan, Part Four, Mazar I Chor Gumbaz (Mosque with Four Domes)

Our last stop was the most interesting. The humble Mazar-i-Chor Gumbaz (Four Domes) mosque has some gorgeous ceiling paintings inside the prayer room. We were told there is another mosque with four domes in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

All three photos of the ceiling were taken by David. Notice the Ottoman sign of the sultan and the six-pointed star, which might be a symbol of Judaism, or perhaps a symbol of something else. No one could tell us why these symbols were painted into the ceiling decorations.

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March Trip to Istaravshan, Part 3, Two More Mosques and a Market

March Trip to Istaravshan, Part 3, Two More Mosques and a Market

Next stop was the 19th century Hauz-i-Sangin Mosque, which has a dry well, a mausoleum and beautiful painted ceilings on the front porch of the mosque.

Here is a sample of the porch ceiling paintings. They have recently restored the paintings, but left pieces of the original intact. You can mark the difference on the bottom two panels of this photo. David took this photo.

The 17th century Sary Mazar (Yellow Tomb) complex was one of my favorite stops on this trip because of the ancient plane trees, at least one more than 800 years old. The legend is that when the founders of the first mosque on this site came to this place and decided to build, they staked their horses with wooden pegs that grew into these trees.

You can see the sign declaring this tree is more than 800 years old, as well as one of the two tombs that this mosque features.

Here is our friend Dildor as she passes by the trees.

Before we went to the last mosque on our list, we passed by the market. Vendors were pleased to have their photos taken.

These apple vendors gave us an apple as a gift. I don’t know if it was because we took their photo or because we were foreigners, or both.

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March Trip to Istaravshan, Part 2, Hazrit-i-Shah Mosque and Kok Gumbaz Medressa

March Trip to Istaravshan, Part 2, Hazrit-i-Shah Mosque and Kok Gumbaz Medressa

Istaravshan has several interesting mosques that are open to visitors. It seems that the Prophet Mohammed has at least two cousins buried in this city, which the friendly imans will tell you about as they are happy to share the history of their mosque and the ciy.

One such mosque is the Hazrit-i-Shah Mosque, the main Friday mosque of the town.

Our student guide Kaykhusrav and the oman at Hazrit-i-Shah Mosque.

Couldn’t resist posting this photo of the friendly imam.

Next we went back to the Blue Dome (Kok Gumbaz) mosque that I took photos of when I was in Istaravshan in February with some embassy folks. It turns out that it’s not a mosque after all, but a 15th century medressa.

Since I have already posted a photo of the stunning blue dome, here is a detail of the beautiful entryway to the Kol Gumbaz.

Here are some children that followed us into the medressa. David took this photo.

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March Trip to Istaravshan, Part 1, Mug Teppe

March Trip to Istaravshan, Part 1, Mug Teppe

During the Navruz holiday, David and I went to Istaravshan with our friend Dildor and one of David’s students, Kaykhusrav Usmonor (I have such a difficult time pronouncing many Tajik names.) It’s about an hour away on a good, two-lane toll road.  Dildor talked with a friend who is a law professor who arranged a private car with driver for us. I have no idea how that worked, considering the driver was not a professional driver. I think he was just a friend of the law professor. It is all a mystery to me! But yet, another example of the fantastic hospitality of the Tajik people we have met (or in this case, not even met.)

Beautiful views of the city of Istaravshan and the Turkestan Mountains from the heights of Mug Teppe, the site of the fort that Alexander the Great stormed in 329 B.C.

Istraravshan is an old city – in 2002 it celebrated its 2500 birthday. It was conquered by Alexander the Great, and our first stop was Mug Teppe, the site of an ancient fort that Alex stormed. The gate was reconstructed in 2002 and not much of the original site is visible, just a few old mounds of dirt, but the views of the city and the surrounding Turkestan mountains are fantastic.

One can glimpse the city through the windows of the gateway.

David took this photo of Mug Teppe from near the Lenin statue on Lenin Street in the town. The zoom lens does not do justice to how tall the hilltop is.

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Navruz, Part 2

The city’s outside stage overlooking the Syr-Darya River with the Mongol Mountains as a back drop was the setting for a lovely production of dance and music late morning of Navruz. I had the small camera and was standing not terribly far from the stage. Unfortunately, I was also standing not so far from the government officials. I was told, several times, that I could not take photographs – first by someone standing near me, then by some burly looking secret service looking guys. I am guessing the reason was my proximity to the mayor and others. At one point, one of the “guards” was signaling that he wanted my camera, but I just moved away and then ignored him. Gallantly, a bunch of young men who were standing just in front of me argued my case, but lost the argument.

Luckily, David was farther back with the better camera with the nice zoom lens. He was standing on a wall and had an excellent view. Here are some of his photos, without captions.


















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Navruz, Part 1.75

I’ll be damned if I let wordpress get the better of me. Here is the last photo of the ones I wanted to post of Navruz before I started working on the musical celebration photos.

David and his student Shaboz discussed philosophy, history and culture much of the day. Shaboz spent his holiday acting as a tour guide, along with our friend Dildor, for Navruz, the Persian/Turkic holiday celebrated on the spring equinox. It is the Persian New Year and the biggest holiday in Tajikistan.

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Navruz, Part 1.5

I’m having some problems posting photos. I wanted to post two more of Navruz, but I wasn’t allowed to add more to the last post. So I tried to had both here, but it is only accepting one. But I will go ahead an post it. If you will remember, Navruz is the Persian/Turkic New Year celebration at the spring equinox. Next post will have photos of the dancing and singing program at Khujand’s celebrations.

Occasionally I’ll see an exhibit that makes me realize how much the Soviet Union did for Tajikistan. This couple represents a traditionally dressed bridal couple pre-Soviet era. After the wedding, the woman would still have to have her body, including whole head, covered whenever she was out of the home or with men other than her relatives. Think the equivalent of a burqa. The area which would become Tajikistan was part of the Persian Samanid dynasty (819-992 AD) and they take pride in the literature and culture of that time. But two-thirds of the country is mountains, and when the Russians and eventually the Soviets took over in the late 19th century, most of the sparse population was a brutal feudal society scattered in the high Pamir mountains, isolated from the rest of the world.

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Navruz, Part 1

Navruz, Part 1

As part of the Khujand city Navruz celebration, these men are sitting on a hand-carved, traditional bed, which we often see in other towns outside restaurants and other “hang out” kind of shops, especially in smaller towns. They are as much a couch or chatting and smoking room as a bed. Notice the hats – the fur ones I associate with Russia, and the Uzbek black and white hat I see everywhere around town, especially on Friday near the big mosque. Behind the men is a traditional tapestry, which can be embroidered by either hand or by machine. Either way, it takes great skill and a lot of time. Photo by Nancy

Our friend Dildor, who is one of David’s colleagues, and David’s student Shaboz, went with us to Khujand city’s Navruz celebration on March 21. As David has described elsewhere, it was like a fair – with government officials parading, exhibits of handicrafts, cotton candy and traditional Navruz food, amusement rides for the kids, and a big stage production of traditional dancing and song. Here are some representative photos.

Folks at the city park await the parade of government officials. The fort-like building is the city museum. Behind it, you can see the ruins of the old fort, which are now part of a modern day military installation. As always, my lovely mountains and plane trees. Photo by Nancy

This troupe of dancers let me take a lot of photos of them posing in front of the National Theater. Dildor, third from the left, wanted a photo of herself with the girls. Can you find me? Photo by David

This woman was one of the adults with the dancers above. While you often see a few, several or many gold teeth, you rarely see a whole set like this. Tajiks seem quite fond of this fashion. Photo by Nancy

Three traditions in one photo. Pretty girl in traditional clothes, round bread and wheat sprouts. The last is on posters celebrating Navruz around town. It is mixed with oil and seeds and boiled for about 24 hours to create a brown drink that looks enticingly like melted caramel. It does not taste like that. I suppose it is what you would call an acquired taste. Since Navruz I have seen this drink being sold right outside of the big market from street-side vendors. Photo by Nancy

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Oops, forgot photo of the Kistakuz tea house from outside

The tea house at Kistakuz, Tajikistan, unfinished.

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Kistakuz Tea House

A sample of the wood carving on the columns.


The dome of the Kistakuz tea house, near Khujand.

Kistakuz, not far from Khujand, is the home of a traditional tea house, financed by the president of Tajikistan. Construction began in 2010 and it is not yet finished. David and I got a tour of it on March 10. Walking into the main room, you feel like you have entered a cathedral or large mosque. The one large dome is supported by hand-carved wooden posts. The above photo was taken by David Sears.

Behind the tea house, workers are continuing the hand carving on columns. Women and men work in separate rooms because they are “more comfortable,” according to the man who was showing us around. I can deal with that. But, I was not happy when I heard that the women earned $200 a month and the men receive $500 a month – for essentially the same work. Because, we were told, the men are more experienced and work faster. The men are not older than the women, but still they might be more experienced. But 150% more experienced?

A woodcarver at the Kistakuz tea house listens to music on his computer as he works. He and his male colleagues earn $500 a month, 150% more than the women workers, according to our guide.

Women working as wood carvers for the Kistakuz teahouse earn $200 a month, daily lunch and transportation to and from work, according to our guide.

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