Mosques to visit after the coronavirus lets up (Chapter 6): Po-i-Kalyan

Religious islamic Complex - Po-i-kalyan
Courtyard at Po-i-kalyan religious complex. Uzbekistan, Bukhara © Vadim Startsev | Dreamstime.com

Many days and nights have gone by since the outbreak of COVID-19. It is clear now that in situations like our own, only collective action and responsibility can help prevent further damage to mankind. Though it also becomes clear to see, when everyone is at their weakest, the frailness of the relational balance between certain countries.

As Muslims, we shouldn’t hesitate to make use of this opportunity to ask forgiveness from our Lord and pray in Dua for the safety and well-being of others.

Certainly, there are multiple upsides to what at first glance might seem like a relative disaster. In isolation we can focus on strengthening our Imaan and growing in the eyes of Allah, as well as improving upon our individual qualities and good habits. Nevertheless, not only the extroverted are now in dire need of fresh air.

What could be more revitalising right now than taking off on vacation and spending your carefree days tenderly basking in the sunlight, enjoying slice after slice of Uzbekistan’s most mouth-watering watermelons and melons alike. 

Uzbekistan’s fruitful, age-old culture has brought about an array of marvellous mosques among which, once you finish the mandatory degustation of every fruit on the market, you definitely won’t regret visiting the legendary Po-i-Kalyan.

This spacious, three-structure complex located in Bukhara is a site where formerly stood many successive mosques starting from the year 713CE. The last of them was burnt down in an invasion led by Genghis Khan in 1121, who, amazed by its grandeur, had at first believed it was the palace of a Khan. Only the Kalan minaret (the Grand Minaret) was preserved from the devastation of the attack.

Frightfully, this sole surviving architecture was formerly known as the Tower of Death, a name acquired throughout the hundreds of years during which wrongdoers were thrown down it as punishment for crimes sufficiently severe. Despite this relatively cruel past, this imposing yet elegant 45 meter tower is a beautiful asset to the Po-i-Kalyan site up until today.

Curiously, however, it has only served its initial purpose of providing a vantage point for the muezzin for the first several decades following its construction, due to its impractically enormous height. To be heard when calling for prayer, it was sufficient for the muezzin to simply climb atop one of the roofs of the mosque.

In 1514, during the Shaybanid empire, the governor of the city erected the structure known today as the Kalan mosque, adding to and embellishing the sight of the exceptional minaret. By conceiving such a striking ensemble Bukhara began to attract more business and people, thus commencing its rivalry with the power of the capital – Samarkand.

Little less than 20 years had passed when another magnificent addition was made to this verily impressive complex. The Sheikh of Yemen, who frequently provided spiritual guidance to the currently running Khan, decided to further the beauty of the site and began the conterminous creation of the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa.

This third and final structure of the ensemble was accorded the purpose of serving as a centre for islamic studies. In 1533, one year after its construction, the recently reigning Ubaydallah Khan made the decision of electing Bukhara as the new capital of the short-lived Shaybanid empire, perhaps owed to the indubitable greatness of the newly formed complex.

Though it gracefully merges with the rest of the construction, it would be most difficult to stroll by without noticing its monumental, intricately tiled gate surmounted by two giant cyan domes. The vivid azure patterns playfully intermingle with fragments of ruby, emerald green and daffodil arabesque, creating a stunning wall of colour at the entrance.

Inside the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa lies a noble mausoleum where later on were buried Ubaydallah Khan and his mentors.

Delving further into the cultural background of the Po-i-Kalyan will lead you to fascinating discoveries if your are someone passionate about history and travel. If sights are what’s most important to you on your trip, simply making a small prayer while admiring the architectural wonder of the complex will leave you with enough positive emotions to greatly enjoy your adventure !