Your complete guide to places to go in Qarshi including Qarshi‘s top sightseeing tips, restaurants, pubs and bars, hints on shopping in the Qarshi, it’s attractions, sports, parks and more.
Strategically situated on the main 11-day trade route from Balkh to Bukhara, Karshi has transcended previous incarnations as the Sogdian city of Nakhshab, the Arab city of Nasaf and the second city of the Bukharan emiratem.
Karshi (‘palace’ in Mongolian) gets its modern name from the twin palaces built here in the 1320s by the Chagatai Khans Kabak and Kazanby on the site of Genghis Khan’s old summer pastures. In 1364 another governor, Tamerlane, wintered in Karshi and ordered the construction of a citadel and moat in what is now the southern part of Karshi. It was into this citadel that most of the town later fled, under siege from the successive campaigns of Shaybani and Abdullah Khan.
The 18th century saw the city’s importance grow as Shakhrisabsz declined and before long Karshi was to become the second city of the Bukharan emirate and the begship of the emir’s heir designate. By this time the double set of city walls had expanded to encompass four madrassahs, ten caravanserais, public baths, gardens, a prison and even a secret tunnel which, in times of nomadic incursions or domestic revolt, would provide the palace of the beg with an escape route to the outside world. The city even had the occasional pane of glass—the truest indicator of ostentatious wealth.
At the top of the bazaar square and within earshot of its endless thumping pop music is the attractive, turn-of-the-century Bekmir or Rabiya Madrassah. As a once again functioning female madrassah. Four hundred yards behind the Rabiya on Nasaf St, the Khoja Abdul Aziz Madrassah is the largest in town and now houses the obligatory Regional Museum. The right half of the museum is crammed with endless black-and-white photographs of heroic Soviet labour construction, but the left has some exhibits on the history of the Bukharan emirate, including the emir’s personal army on parade. The army enjoyed a wide repertoire of marching songs, one of which was entitled ‘Our general is a brave man and does not fear the Bolsheviks’.
One hundred yards from the museum is the crumbling Khoja Kurban Madrassah. From here cross to the far side of the bazaar, past the 16th century baths on the right, to the Kurgancha Mosque, one of the best attended on Fridays with turbaned believers filing past its deep hauz and intricately carved pillars. Also hidden in the maze of old town alleys lurk the revived Chakar local mosque and the now defunct, miniature 18th century Sharafbai Madrassah (Ramazan Ibragimov St).
A five-minute walk east of the bazaar along Nasaf St brings you to the Kok Gumbaz Mosque, a pale reflection of its better restored architectural forefather in Shakhrisabz. This very Timurid-looking namazgokh mosque was built at the end of the 16th century as part of a series of architectural buildings given impetus by the great Abdullah Khan, which include the still-standing public baths and bridge over the Kashkadarya. The faithful originally spilled out of side chambers into the courtyard in front of the mosque, but now only the main hall and right hand chamber are used for weekly Friday namaz prayer.