One thing I noticed when planning my trip to the ‘Stans was that a large number of sites were in fact mausoleums or memorials. The Chor-Bakr Necropolis was definitely the first on this trip that felt monumental in nature. This complex was built over the burial place of Abu-Bakr-Said (d.970-971CE), one of the four descendants of Muhammed. However, it didn’t become the complex we see today until the 16th century. Over the years it became an important place for prayers and ceremonies, but it gradually lost its importance starting in the 19th century, and then of course as the Soviets took over it was forbidden to use it as a religious site. Today it’s considered an important place of pilgrimage for Uzbek Muslims, who visit it before heading to Mecca.
When we first arrived the first thing you notice is the mosque (dedicated to Djuybar Sheik Muhammed Islam Khoja, the teacher of the ruler Abdullakhan II), a small minaret that was added in the 20th century, and all the pigeons! In fact, there was a local man encouraging local tourists to come feed the birds when we were there.
As we walked through the complex, we passed by numerous family tombs, many flanking the various courtyards scattered throughout the grounds.
As per Islamic tradition, the graves and tombs are quite simple in design, often with no writing on them whatsoever. Some, however, stood out, either due to the material of the stone, and/or because of the writing on the tomb itself. (see above)
Muhammad Islam’s son was buried next to his father, as were two other family members. These four men were known as “Bakr” (four being “Chor”) and they were all buried in the same tomb.
Even with all the exposed brick, you could find some interesting patterns in the buildings and archways, including the classic Zoroastrian symbols (see below).
I found this quite an interesting place but I think my interest in it surpassed that of my fellow tour-goers, so I tried to see as much of it as I could in the time we had available, forgoing visiting the mosque and some of the other buildings there. It was definitely an interesting place to visit!
Monuments: Mostly tombs and mausoleums, and various other buildings.
Grounds: Flat and easy to walk around, some stairs to get to the raised courtyards.
Visitors: A few when we were here
Notes: Bring water. I found the pigeons hanging out on the exposed bricks to be an interesting photo subject.
Site: Chor-Bakr Necropolis
Established: around 970 CE
Notable Internments: the four Bakrs, most members of the Djuybar dynasty.
Location: Kalaya, Uzbekistan, about 5km from Bukhara