The heart of the ensemble is the water basin (“khauz”), which also provides refreshment in the hot summer months. The khauz is framed in the west by the Nadir Divan-begi Khanaka (dervish lodge), in the east by the Nadir Divanbegi Madrasah, both named after the founder of the ensemble. To the north is the Kukeldash Madrasah. There is a restaurant with Uzbek cuisine right by the water basin. A number of other restaurants, as well as hotels and souvenir shops, are located in the immediate vicinity.
Nadir Divan-begi Khanaka
Khanaka is a convent for pilgrims who could find shelter here. Initially, they were very simple, but over time they developed into entire complexes which usually housed a mosque and sometimes a mausoleum. Later, khanakas became centres of knowledge, where reading and writing were taught, as well as religion. Often libraries were also located in the khanaka.
They were usually funded by donations from rulers or rich people, as it was considered a charitable deed.
Nadir Dīvan-begi, finance minister and uncle of the ruler Imamkuli Khan, ordered to build the khanaka named after him in 1620. The building is part of the Lyabi-Khauz ensemble and is situated opposite Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah. The khanaka was built together with a water reservoir (khauz) and is located close to the pool so that its façade is reflected in the pool when the weather is good.
The building has a rectangular shape with an area of 25 by 35 metres. There is a dome above the main hall, but it is hidden behind the entrance portal and is only visible from the side. The entrance portal itself bears the usual style and is flanked by two round towers that give the building a compact look. Inside the building is a hall that was used for prayers, meetings and meditations.
The Khanaka was rebuilt in 1914-1916 by the order of the last Emir of Bukhara.
Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah
Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah was originally built as a caravanserai (a large inn enclosing a courtyard providing accommodation for caravans) and later rebuilt as a madrasah.
Legend has it that construction was about to finish when the khan (king) passed close by the street praising the “beautiful madrasah”. Since the khan was never wrong, the building was immediately turned into a madrasah.
The construction was started by Nadir Divan-begi, finance minister and uncle of the ruler Imamkuli Khan in 1623. Thus, the madrasah and the khanaka of Nadir Divan-begi were built on the principle of Kosh (two buildings facing each other). However, due to the relatively large distance between the two buildings and the fact that there are a pond and a small park between them, visually it is barely noticeable.
The madrasah has a square base with an edge length of about 70 metres. The inner courtyard is surrounded by two floors of student rooms. Due to the original plan of using the building as a caravanserai, large classrooms are absent here. The madrasah was probably only used to house students. At best, the larger rooms in the corners were used for teaching purposes.
Especially beautifully decorated is the building’s façade, which is adorned with mosaics and majolica. The animal depiction is unusual: it shows two large Semurg birds from Persian mythology, which shows a certain resemblance to the phoenix bird known in the West. This is a distinguishing feature, as representations of living creatures on Islamic buildings were generally not permitted.
The madrasah was renovated in the 1960-1970s. Today the courtyard is home to a craft centre where many works of applied art are made by artisans by hand using century-old techniques and approaches. Every evening Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah hosts a folk show in its courtyard, highlighting Uzbek dances accompanied by traditional instruments.
Kukeldash Madrasah was built in 1569 by the order of Kulbab Kukeldash. “Kukeldash” is a title that means “milk brother”. Kulbab Kukeldash was the milk brother of ruler Abdullah Khan II and served the Khan as vizier and commander. The madrasah is the oldest building of the Lyabi-Khauz Ensemble.
The building has a rectangular shape, with an area of 69 by 80 metres. It is not only the largest madrasah in Bukhara but also one of the largest in Central Asia. Compared to its size, which was supposed to symbolize the power of Bukhara, the decoration is relatively modest.
160 rooms can accommodate a total of 320 students. There are two large dome-covered rooms on either side of the entrance: one was used as a classroom, while the other was used as a mosque. It is worth noticing the openwork window lattices above the doors of every single room, called a ‘panjara’. Each “panjara” was individually decorated and shows options of creating a pattern based on a hexagon.
The famous Soviet writer Sadriddin Aini once lived in Madrasah Kukeldash, where he wrote his book “Bukhara” in two volumes, in which he described in detail the process and method of teaching in the madrasah.
During the Soviet period, the madrasah was used as a hotel. A large room to the left of the main entrance was used as a cinema. Between 1995 and 1997, the madrasah was restored. Today there are several souvenir shops inside the building.