Day 10 – Tuesday, April 30 – Bibi – Khanum Mosque
The Bibi – Khanum mosque is the largest mosque in the world. There are others under construction which may be larger when finished, but at the moment our guides believe it is the largest. There was some discussion on this point.
This mosque was built in the 15th century and dedicated to Tamerlane’s favorite wife. This mosque pushed the building technology of the day and caused many problems with the building. From the very beginning, there were issues.
In the 16th century, Abdullah Khan ll, The last Shaybanid Dynasty Kahn of Bukhara cancelled all restoration work in the mosque. The mosque slowly deteriorated and became a mass of ruins.
The inner arch finally collapsed in the earthquake of 1897. The site was plundered by locals for building materials over the centuries.
Finally, in 1974 the government of the thenUzbek SSR began the reconstruction of the mosque. The restoration was still on going as of 2016.
Tamerlane’s grandson, Ulug Bek built one of the most advanced observatories in the ancient world.
He was a king but found his passion in the stars and planets. He built this observatory to be used with the naked eye, 150 years before the invention of the telescope.
Only a portion of the building remains and consists of a narrow track that one could view the heavens from through a narrow slit in the roof.
He was able to calculate the length of the year down to one minute through meticulous observation and recording. He also created the most comprehensive catalog of the heavens in his time, earning him a place in history. Try that on your I pad.
We then drove to A UNESCO supported site out side of Samarkand. It is the workshop for making handmade paper of Abdurakhim Mukhtrarov in Koni Gil on the outskirts of the city.
Paper making started here in the 8th century when Chinese solders invaded Samakand and were captured.
The ruler at that time was Abu Muslim. The Chines surrendered the secrets of paper making to him. It soon became one of the most important handicrafts in the city.
After many years, Smarkand became famous in western countries for its paper making.
There is a water wheel outside of this small building that operates hammers. They come through the wall and beat the boiled wood bark into pulp as it is hand stirred with sticks in small pots. There are six or eight hammers working at once.
The pulp is then placed in a box of water. A wood framed screen is passed under the surface of the water and pulled upwards. The screen is now covered in pulp and is held over the box to drain for a moment. It is then taken to a table and the pulp is turned out on a dried animal skin. This is done many times until there is a tall pile of paper, each separated by an animal skin.
This pile is then transferred to a different part of the room where it is paced under a flat piece of wood with a large rock sitting on it. The pressure from the rock squeezes the water out of the paper over night.
In the morning the damp papers are placed on a glass window to dry.
The weather had been kind to us and the sky is a beautiful blue. There are trees blowing in the breeze and the temperature is perfect.