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City Walls

Just beyond the Chashma Ayub, the weathered remnants of Bukhara's broken city walls encase the bazaar in a series of Morse-code dots and dashes. Sand castle remains are all that is left of the original 25 kilometre bastioned wall-ten metres high, five metres thick and wide enough to sit a cannon on its ramparts-that encompassed the Shakhristan and kept the hostile desert and its nomads at bay.

The first set of walls were raised as early as 850, when the medieval shakhristan was linked to the expanding suburb rabad. During the tenth century Samanid expansion a second set of walls was built, only to be subsequently fortified during the turbulent 12th and 13th centuries. Later still, a much larger oasis wall nicknamed the Kampirak or 'Old Woman' snaked all the way to Karmana and completed the Bukharan fortifications.

The seven original gates were expanded to 11 and named after the outlying suburbs. The Mazaar Gate led to the shrine of Bakhauddin Nakhshbandi, the Karakul Gate led to Khorasan and the Tallipach Gate pointed the long march to Khorezm. From the outbreak of World War I until 1920 these gates were continually locked, sealing the city against Bolshevik agents and British spies, and permission to enter the city was granted only by the Bukharan consulate in Kagan. By this time, however, the walls performed more of a policing than a defensive role and they were no match for the Soviet artillery when the Red Army stormed the gates and entered the city through the Sheikh Jalal Gate on 2 September 1920.

Today the walls look like they have simply melted in the desert heat, but the restored Tallipach Gate still stands, next to Pioneer Lake, and the Sheikh Jalal Gate is preserved to the southwest in the middle of Jubor Street. Both date from 16th century renovation.