Uzbekistan as a part of Central Asia, contains a great number of religious monuments, buildings and sacred places. Their history encompasses more than 3000 years, starting with ancient monuments of the unique Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrian people worshiped land, air and water, but fire was its main sacred element. Museums of Samarkand and Bukhara keep many relics and objects of that age, such as ossuaries.
Shakhi Zindah, Samarkand
Another ancient religion that influenced the cultural diversity in Central Asia and neighboring Afghanistan was Buddhism, and a number of interesting monuments are still remaining in the some areas of Uzbekistan, such as Termez and Ferghana valley.
Two hundred years after the birth of Christ, Christians emerged in Maveranahr to never leave it. Their churches and temples co-existed with Zoroastrian temples and, later, with Islamic mosques for centuries. A number of famous monuments which are now known as mosques, were previously churches, for example, the Poi Kalyan Mosque in Bukhara.
Islam emerged in Central Asia in the 8th century AD and till now it is the dominating religion in the region. Muslim cultural heritage comprises hundreds of monuments in all five republics of Central Asia and include buildings of secular, civic and religious nature. Those are palaces, houses, madrassah, khonaka, mosques and minarets, mausoleums and mazars, chillyakhonas.
Below we present a short description of main attractions for tourists and travelers who may be interested in exploring the amazing cultural and religious diversity of present Uzbekistan.
Mausoleum of Abu-Bakr-Muhammad Kafal Al Shashi
Kafal Al-Shashi originated from the Shash region (present Tashkent) and was a missionary who propagated shafiitism. Also, he was a very educated person and mystic poet. He died in 10th century AD and his mausoleum, rebuilt in 16th century, was a popular pilgrimage destination for thousands of Muslims.
Madrassah Barak-khan and Cathedral Mosque
Built in 16 century by Ulugbek's grandson Suyunij-khan. Presently it accommodates the Clerical Board of Muslims of Central Asia. Next to it is the Board's Library, containing a precious Koran written by the famous fourth Caliph Osman, known as the compiler of Holy Korans for the entire Islamic world. The legend goes that he was murdered while working with the book, and it still keeps blood stains on its pages made of gazelle skin.
Two single-chamber mausoleums were built by Timur to commemorate the famous Black Khodja (Zangiata) and his wife Ambar Bibi. They were the followers of the outstanding leader of all Turkic tribes in Central Asia, Sufi Akhmad Yassavy. Like Ismail Bukhori and Bahauddin Nakshbandi they belonged to one of the Sufi trends in Islam.
Bahauddin Nakshbandi Complex
Sheikh Bahauddin Nakshbandi (died in 1389) was a spiritual tutor of Timur. He is highly respected in Bukhara as a Saint and protector of handcraftsmen. A pilgrimage to his grave was considered as an adequate substitution of Hajj to Mecca.
Before Arabs brought Islam to Central Asia, the place of the present Bahauddin's grave was a pagan temple of a Dying God, whose blood was symbolized by petals of red roses. Later, a number of buildings were constructed here, including a small minaret and sakokhona.
Ismail Bukhori Complex
The mazar of Muhammad Ibn Ismail Bukhori is located 12km north of Samarkand. Recently an impressive renovation was carried out using funds from all over the Islamic world. Precious onyx slabs now decorate the grave of one of the most prominent Saints and personalities of Islam, who lived in 9th century. He spent 12 years in Mecca learning and collecting various khadises - legends and rules of Islam. Many of them later were used as the basis for Sharia, Law of Muslims.