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Mir-i-Arab Madrasa
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    The Mir-i-Arab madrasa (1535) across the plaza forms, with the mosque, Bukhara's main kosh ensemble. One of only two working madrasas allowed in the Soviet Union (the other was in Tashkent), it has never closed to students and never opened to tourists -who can glimpse from outside the calligraphy and mosaic round the drums supporting its two blue domes, but still miss out on some of the finest ceramic decoration in Bukhara. Its 120-130 students study Islamic law and literature and Arabic for five to seven years, and live in two storeys of cells with balconies round the central courtyard. Their main assembly hall is under the dome to the right of the pishtak, Under the left dome are buried Ubaydullah Khan (one of the first Bukharan royals not to have his own mausoleum) and Sheikh Mir-i-Arab after whom the madrasa is named. He is variously described as an architect, a Yemeni merchant, and 'spiritual mentor of the early Sheibanids'. He may have been all three. He certainly seems to have been foreign, to have founded the madrasa and to have paid for it with money made by Ubaydullah from the sale of 3000 Persian slaves, or Shi'ites branded slaves for belonging to the wrong Muslim sect in a Sunni city. 

    Next to and south of the madrasa, the Amir Alim Khan madrasa was built near the start of the 19th century. With separate courtyards for living and working it breaks all the architectural rules for madrasas and was always more important as a library, which it still is, though now for children. 

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Last updated 14.08.99 16:20 This site created by MasterWD