Bukhara, one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, was already a town in the first millennium BC, it became important historically in the eigth century, when it was conquered by the Arab Abbasid Caliphate (709 AD/90 AH). Bukhara flourished both intellectually and commercially, and by the tenth century, under the powerful Samanid Dynasty, it became a renowned center of the arts and learning, especially the sciences and mathematics. The city's rich cultural heritage, commissioned by the patronage of its rulers, includes many architectural landmarks of the Islamic world. Recent excavations by the Uzbek Academy of Sciences have revealed that present day Bukhara is built up on layers of past settlements. By dating some of the discovered remnants that have been excavated, it is quite likely that Bukhara can be considered at least 2,500 years old.
Bukhara lies on a flat plain and is surrounded by semi-desert lands. It is situated on the edge of the Kizilkum desert and has a dry and arid climate. In the past, the Bukhara oasis formed part of a vast region of Central Asia which had been conquered by Alexander of Macedon. These events led to the forming of feudalism in the Bukharan oasis.
The new social system introduced a social hierarchy: the individual principalities were ruled by kings supported by armed nobility. The process of town formation became very active and the ancient settlements surrounding Bukhara developed into the towns of Varakhsha, Vardanzi, Ramish, and Kermine. All these towns followed a similar structural pattern, they all were made up of: the Ark (citadel), the Shakhristan -well planned residential; core, and a necropolis on the outskirts of the city.
Bukhara in this period followed the same layout and pattern of development. It sprawled over an area of forty hectares. The Shakhristan which was rectangular was cut into four sections by two crossing main streets which led to gates opening out on all four sides of the city. At the turn of the tenth century, Bukhara had developed into a major cultural and religious center. Bukhara was almost leveled by Gengis Khan in 1226/623 AH; few monuments survived the destructiveness of the Mongol hordes. Bukhara revived under the Shaybanid Dynasty in the sixteenth century, but it's importance decreased with the decline in traffic along the Silk Road. In 1753/1166 AH, Bukhara became an independent emirate and remained so until 1868/1285 AH, when it was incorporated as a vassal state under Tsarist Russia. Bukhara was forcefully taken by the Bolshevik forces after WWI; a number of monuments suffered great destruction during the bombardment.
The Tak-i Zargaron is a multiple dome-covered market located at the intersection of the primary east-west and north-south streets of Bukhara's center city (Shahristan). The largest and best preserved of Bukhara's once numerous crossroad markets (chorsu), its name translates to "The Dome of Jewelers or Goldsmiths", which conflicts with its traditional function as a textile market. Although no single patron or inaugural date is recorded, passages in Arab historian Zain- ud Din Wofisi's (1485-1551) 'Badaye' al-Vaqaye' suggest an early sixteenth century date under Timurid instead of the popularly believed Shaybanid patronage.
Domed crossroad markets were popularly called "Taks" (arch) referring to their characteristic vaulted shell structures. The pivotal role of "tak"s in sustaining Bukhara's eminence among Silk Road cities was reflected in their central location within the city. Organized in clusters by commodity or trade, crossroad markets grouped with caravanserais, warehouses and baths served as integrated institutional complexes, often governed by tradesmen or craftsmen guilds.
The Tak-i Zargaron connects two of Bukhara's famed public squares; the square to the east is flanked by the Ulugh Beg Madrasa (b.1417-19) and Abd al-Aziz Madrasa (b.1645-80) ensemble, while the one to the west is flanked by the Kalyan Mosque (b.1512-14) and Mir-i Arab Madrasa (b.1536). The tak also forms the northern end of the commercial spine linking the Tim Abdullah Khan and terminating at the Tak-i Tilpak Furushon (Hatsellers' Dome), near the Tak-i Sarrafon (Moneychangers' Dome) and the Labi Hauz Ensemble.
The primary purpose of displaying and storing commercial goods, while ensuring smooth transactions and unobstructed pedestrian traffic dictated a generic plan that is shared by all taks, despite of their diverse functions and character. The Tak-i Zargaron has a rectangular plan with four projecting portals and a grand central domed chamber surrounded by a five-bay domed arcade on each side. Display areas are arranged along the arcade and inside the central hall, with storage accommodated in deeply recessed, faceted niches along the walls. The various sizes of niches allowed for different scales of commercial operations, ranging from single niche or stall based vendors to merchants occupying larger rooms or alcoves.
The structure of the Tak-i Zargaron domes consist of an arch filled in by a half dome, which was cheaper and faster to build than complete or intersecting dome structures. Light filtered in from the oculi of the arcade domes and the windows pierced into the central dome's drum. Massive structural ribs and the ascending profile of its domed roofing create a distinct skyline. The structure is built entirely in yellow brick.
The Taq-i Zargaron has been in continuous use over the past few centuries, over which several additions were made around the iwans of its east, west and south portals. Restoration efforts in the 1950s and 1990s removed these extensions and reinforced the central dome.
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Prochazka, Amjad Bohumil. Bukhara: Architecture of the Islamic Cultural Sphere, 100-101. Zurich: MARP, 1993.
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