Central Asia's oldest surviving mosque, the Magokiattari Mosque, is situated between the Taki Sarrafon and Taki Telpal Furushon trading domes. Descend the six-metre deep cultural layers of the Magok-i-Attari Mosque (in translation means "the mosque in the pit", "deep mosque") and you will find heathen shrines, the remains of a Buddhist monastery, a Zoroastrian temple and the mosque of the Arab invaders, all sharing the same space, jostling as uneasy bedfellows. At least this is what the Soviet archaeologist V. A. Shishkin found during his 1935 excavations, unveiling as he worked a unique vertical spread of 2,000 years of Bukharan history.
By the Samanid tenth century the mosque began to be known by its present name, partly from the medicinal herb sellers (Attars) who displayed their spices in the busy bazaar here, partly from the name of the name of the square (Mokh meaning either moon or the name of a mythological prince) and the twice yearly religious fair convened here, and also in part from the depth of its cultural layers (magok meaning pit), in 937 the four-pillared mosque was burnt to the ground in a city-wide fire and in the 12th century the present mosque was erected, from which the focus of the mosque, the original southern portal, remains. There is some suggestion that the columns at the sides of this portal may in fact be pre-Islamic, a tantalising suggestion of the appearance of the destroyed Zoroastrian temple. The domed portal on the eastern side is a relatively recent addition: it dates from 1547.
The absorbing portal draws the entire range of decorative techniques-ganch carving, polished brick, terracotta plaques and glazed tile work-into its richly receding facade. Two Sogdian-influenced quarter columns lead the eye to complex girikh panels, reminiscent of those in Uzgen, and fine filigree carved columns support a graceful arch still traced in turquoise majolica tilework.
In 1547 an eastern entrance facade was added with its skullcap dome, but today the mosque is still approached from the south. The mosque is today used as a Museum of Carpets (closed Sunday) whose highlights include a falcon holder and carpet bag for storing dead game, a heretic Christian Armenian carpet depicting figures and faces and a selection of Turkomen Ersari and Tekke carpets. Zoroastrian remains can be seen in the eastern pit, below a huge mass prayer carpet.
Magoki Attari is situated in the center of the city, near the Lyabi Hauz complex.
Legend about Magoki Attari Mosque
The 10th century historian Narshahi claims that in ancient times a mosque Mokh (moon) was built on the place of the fire worshippers' temple. Most probably, this temple was a place of worship for the God of moon Sin - the patron of the nomadic people, as the moon lights their way during the night. Possibly, this cult had been adopted by the local nomads with the addition of their existing beliefs. Besides, twice an year in the presence of the city governor, the trade fairs were organized where wooden and clay idols were sold.