Ark Fortress, Bukhara
On Registan Square in the old town of the ancient city of Bukhara, there is Ark Citadel which counts its days back from 3rd century B.C.
Historian Narshakhi wrote in his book that the Citadel was destroyed by unknown reasons as soon as the construction had been finished. Only when one wise astrologer suggested building the walls according to the outlines of the Great Bear, Ark did not collapse again. Indeed, its shape of irregular quadrilateral reminds the constellation.
Yet, maybe it reminds the leather strip laid by Siyavush… According to the legend, King Afrosiab who married off his daughter to Siyavush threw a skin on the ground and offered to his son-in-law to build a palace that would fit into its size. Siyavush cut it into belts, tied them together and in this way shaped the walls of his palace. According to the same legend, he was buried under the walls of Ark near the eastern entrance, and each year since that time, at Navruz holiday, a Zoroastrian lamp is lit on that place and a cock is sacrificed.
Not only did Siyavush find its peace under the palace of Bukhara Emirs. Ark is threatening and when you see its walls, the greatness subdues. A walk inside the citadel is an adventurous movie, melodrama, tragedy, and excursus into history full of breathtaking events, provided a good guide, of course.
“Keep silence… Do you want to get into the Ark?” Once these words were heard more often than aznachi called for praying. Some people who got there were never back. Inside its walls, there were a zindan, a prison, and kanakhana, a dungeon, for dangerous special offenders. Khana is an Iranian bug that was a scourge of all prisoners. It was much easier at “obkhona”, where not that dangerous prisoners were kept but defaulters, embezzlers of state funds, and bribers. They were allowed to meet their relatives.
The main entrance of the Ark is decorated with two towers and a steep ramp which could be used only by the ruler. There were side ladders for all others or they could climb over the stones. One foreign officer used the ramp and lost his head.
Ark survived many emirs. There were short and regressive rulers among them such as “sinless emir” Shakhmurad. There were cruel rulers as well such as Nasrullah Emir during whose rule a huge lash appeared on the Ark which symbolized the power of the emir.
Foreign Ambassadors never met emir right after arrival. They tried to find out the peculiarities of the court etiquette beforehand. If you enter the throne-room, a square area in the middle of the Ark decorated with ayvan and marble eminence where once the throne was located, you can see a strange construction in front of the entrance – a wall of 2 meters in height and 5 meters in length. It was hiding the entrance from emir’s eyes. When the audience was finished, it was not polite to turn back to the emir, people had to move backward till this wall and go over it, and only after that, it was allowed to turn and leave.
Today, there is a museum in the open air in Ark. In niches near the entrance, a lot of small workshops can be found and anyone can go along the ramp these days. Gray walls of the Ark saw and heard a lot – they are dumb witnesses of greatness and fall, obscurantism and triumph of humanity, cruelty, and justice.