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Between the Stars and the Moon

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For some reason, tourists are less interested in the suburban palace of the Bukhara emirs with poetic name Sitorai Mohi-Hosa (a palace between the stars and the Moon). Although the palace was built comparatively recently (less than a hundred years ago), and its architecture was influenced by European traditions, it is there that one can see an interior typical of Bukhara palaces and get an idea of everyday life of the Emir`s court.

The palace Sitorai Mohi-Hosa is currently situated within the city limits and is surrounded by sanatoria and residential buildings. Surprisingly enough, it has a peculiar microclimate of its own. As compared to the centre of Bukhara scorched by the July heat, it is cool in the palace`s grounds: its architects knew where it was best to build the palace. They possibly resorted to an ancient method of selecting a construction site. Having chosen several suitable sites, builders used to bring skinned sheep carcasses there and left them for some time. Construction started on the site where the carcass remained intact for the longest period of time.

Construction of the palace under Abdulakhad-khan, the farther of the last Emir of Bukhara Said Alimkhan from the Mangyt dynasty. The first palace (harem) is a monument to the traditional way of the life in a palace, with a traditional layout and d?cor. Its walls are painted with distemper paint and decorated with amazing stucco carving. The decor is typical of the old Uzbek national style.

The ensemble of the palace is built according to traditional Bukhara mansions and consists of three parts: the entrance surrounded by craftsmen`s workshops, the outer yard(for men) and the inner yard(for women).

The emir borrowed the European technique when decorating the palace, which imitates the mixed style or suburban European palaces. All this is reflected in the layout of the palace, its d?cor, the layout and the content of the garden, and the shape of arbours and pavilions.

The palace proper is an L-shaped one-storey building with an adjoining terrace. In front of it, there is a yard with stucco moulding. A balustrade decorated with vases runs along the entire perimeter of the roof.

The splendid d?cor of the throne hall is remarkable for its stucco carving against the background of mirrors. The invention belongs to Usto Shirin Muradov. There is a monument to him in the palace`s grounds. Incidentally, half a century later Usto Shirin Muradov and his apprentices used the same technique for decorating the Bukhara hall at the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Alisher Navoi in Tashkent. The splendid red carpet in the throne hall used to be substituted with the white one on solemn occasions.

However, in the d?cor of the reception hall of the palace Usto Khazanjan used traditional stucco painting. Both the walls and the ceiling are painted in diverse patterns , not a single of them repeating the others. It is a manifestation of concern for those who had to wait for the audience for hours: at least their eyes were not tired of looking at the such diverse patterns.

Among the inner chambers of the palace the following premises are worth mentioning: the summer room with varicolored windows (the tea-room), the banquet hall with sliding walls that were changed depending on the season(only one set of the walls has survived to this day), with Dutch tiled stoves that mostly fulfilled a decorative function considering the local climate, and with a domed ceiling that ensured fresh air circulation.

The summer room contains a large collection of Japanese and Chinese vases. It is said that the Emir had a bowl brought from China, which changed its colour if there was poison in a meal or a drink. The Emir ate only the food that had passed the test of the bowl.

Mirrors draw the visitors` attention : a Venetian mirror reflecting objects without the slightest distortion, a Japanese mirror framed with the so-called “boiled ” glass, and a mirror where an object is reflected forty times. It is said that the Emir`s new concubines used to be brought to it and warned that they had as many rivals in the harem.

In the depth of the garden, there stands a commonplace building called “Princess Olga`s pavilion” in honour of the sister of Russian Emperor Nicholas II. True, Olga had never been there ; the building was used as a guest house. Thanks to its rich d?cor, it looks more spacious inside than it does outside. To restore wall painting, 4,25 of gold leaf was used.

The construction of the palace was completed in 1918, and in 1920 the Emir fled abroad taking a glut of wealth known as the Mangyt Treasure with him. He did it in the mountains , but that is another story…