BOKHARA CITY (Bokkara-i-Sherif), capital of the state of Bokhara, on the left bank of the Zarafshan, and on the irrigation canal of Shahri-rud, situated in a fertile plain. It is 8 m. from the Bokhara station of the Transcaspian railway, 162 m. by rail W. of Samarkand, in 39° 47' N. lat. and 64° 27' E. long. The city is surrounded by a stone wall 28 ft. high and 8 m. long, with semicircular towers and eleven gates of little value as a defence. The present city was begun in A.D. 830 on the site of an older city, was destroyed by Jenghiz Khan in 1220, and rebuilt subsequently. The water-supply is very unhealthy. The city has no less than 360 mosques. Nearly 10,000 pupils are said to receive their education in its 140 madrasas or theological colleges; primary schools are kept at most mosques. Some of these buildings exhibit very fine architecture. The most notable of the mosques is the Mir-Arab, built in the 16th century, with its beautiful lecture halls; the chief mosque of the emir is the Mejid-kalyan, or Kok-humbez, close by which stands a brick minaret, 203 ft. high, from the top of which state criminals used to be thrown until 1871. Of the numerous squares the Raghistan is the principal. It has on one side the citadel, erected on an artificially made eminence 45 ft. high, surrounded by a wall 1 m. long, and containing the palace of the emir, the houses of the chief functionaries, the prison and the water-cisterns. The houses are mostly one-storeyed, built of unburned bricks, and have flat roofs.
Bokhara has for ages been a centre of learning and religious life. The mysticism which took hold on Persia in the middle ages spread also to Bokhara, and later, when the Mongol invasions of the 13th century laid waste Samarkand and other Moslem cities, Bokhara, remaining independent, continued to be a chief seat of Islamitic learning. The madrasa libraries, some of which were very rich, have been scattered and lost, or confiscated by the emirs, or have perished in conflagrations. But there are still treasures of literature concealed in private libraries, and Afghan, Persian, Armenian and Turkish bibliophiles still repair to Bokhara to buy rare books. Bokhara is, in fact, the principal book-market of central Asia. The population is supposed by Russian travellers not to exceed 50,000 or 60,000, but is otherwise estimated at 75,000 to 100,000. Amongst them is a large and ancient colony of Jews. Bokhara is the most important trading town in central Asia. In the city bazaars are made or sold silk stuffs, metal (especially copper) wares, Kara-kul (i.e. astrakhan) lamb-skins and carpets.
New Bokhara, or Kagan, a Russian town near the railway station, 8 m. from Bokhara itself, is rapidly growing, on a territory ceded by the emir. Pop. 2000.
(P. A. K.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)