Samarkand: the Jewish Cemetery, etc.

We had some free time in the afternoon, so I went first to Hazrat-Hizr Mosque just north of Siob Bazaar. The mosque, which dates from only 1854, stands on a low hill on the edge of Afrosiab. A mosque dating from the 8th century used to stand on the site, but it was destroyed by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Very carefully restored in the 1990s, Hazrat-Hizr is in many respects Samarkand’s most attractive mosque. It has vibrant colours on the ceiling of the pishtak and a domed interior. From the top of the free-standing minaret are excellent views of Afrosiab, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-i-Zinda.

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Siob Bazaar, Samarkand
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Siob Bazaar, Samarkand
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Siob Bazaar, Samarkand
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Hazrat-Hizr Mosque, Samarkand
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Hazrat-Hizr Mosque, Samarkand
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Hazrat-Hizr Mosque, Samarkand

I walked a short way north-east of the mosque to an entrance to the large cemetery beside Shah-i-Zinda. I spent about 45 minutes examining the cemetery itself, then, because the temptation was too great, descended into Shah-i-Zinda. I enjoyed my second visit even more than the first, not least because, with time to spare, I identified better views of the domes and the pishtaks and examined with greater care the outstanding tilework. I could not resist hearing for a second time the hafiz chanting in one of the most attractive interiors of the complex.

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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand
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Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand

I left Shah-i-Zinda by the main entrance and walked east to the Jewish cemetery. Occupying an elevated but undulating site with many tombs and graves more interesting than those in the Jewish cemetery in Bukhara, I found the visit most rewarding. Two men engaged in maintenance work urged me to examine the building near the entrance where services take place before a body is laid to rest in the ground (it was a modern building of limited architectural interest and, in contrast with the synagogues in Bukhara, largely devoid of visual interest). A young Jewish woman emerged from within a nearby building (she appeared to live in the building, perhaps with other members of her family) and walked to a tap to collect a bucket of water. She would not let me carry the bucket when I offered to help.

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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand
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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand
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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand
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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand
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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand

I knew that a synagogue still existed in the Jewish Quarter a short walk south-east of Siob Bazaar, but I got the impression that Samarkand’s Jewish community is now smaller than the one in Bukhara.

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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand
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Jewish cemetery, Samarkand
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