baland mosque in bukharaHidden on the fringes of the Bukhara old town, some 400 metres (440 yards) south of the Kosh Madrassahs on Mira Street in Bukhara, the Baland (High) Mosque is a frequently overlooked 16th century gem.

Upon initial inspection, its facade is unimposing, notable only for the slender columns of the iwan which gives the mosque its name, devoid of the monumentality inherent in so much of Bukharan architecture. But beneath its anonymous exterior revels undisturbed some of the most opulent decoration to be found in Bukhara.

This architectural schizophrenia is buried deep in the Baland Mosque’s raison d’etre. For, as a local guzar mosque, its style is personal rather than public, introspective rather than ostentatious—a place of contemplation and refuge rather than ceremony or formality. Yet at the same time its district was a rich one and a district traditionally reflected its social standing and religious piety through Balyand Mosque in Bukhara.

The interior of the Baland Mosque in Bukhara is small and intimate and prayer mats quilt the floor in comfortable familiarity. The artistic and spiritual focus of the mosque, the glittering mihrab wall and niche, is an intense burst of polychrome mosaic and tilework, decorated with vegetable motifs and thulth Koranic inscriptions, and the beautifully carved wooden ceiling is remarkable for its unrestored kundal paintwork, suspended on chains from the cross beams above.

The Baland or Balyand Mosque in Bukhara now functions again as a working mosque and should be left in peace during namaz prayer.