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Bolo Hauz Mosque

One of the most elegant-looking mosques in Bukhara is the Bolo Hauz Mosque close to the Registan. Every Friday, an exquisite spread of deep red Bukharan rugs would embellish the ground leading from the Ark to the 'Mosque Near the Pool' and the splendidly attired emir would venture out from behind his fortress protection to atone for his sins under the splendid dome of the Bolo Hauz.

Today, the carved stalactites of its elegant wooden pillars still carry echoes from the royal court mosque in the Ark and the high carved and painted decoration of the Bolo Hauz (1712) still draws an admiring faithful after its brief Soviet interlude as a proletarian worker's club. The mosque's facade again attracts the eye with a veritable riot of restored primary colour and its 12-metre high iwan still stands as one of the highest, most graceful and most beautifully decorated in Central Asia. The 12m-high pillars, 20 in all, that support the iwan are so slim that they look like super-sized chopsticks. They are made from elm, poplar and walnut wood.

The Bolo Hauz Mosque is the only historic building on this side of the square to survive: all the others were destroyed in the early 20th century, and the mosque itself was turned into a working-men's club. This did, at least, save it from a far worse fate, and both the pool that gives the mosque its name (hauz meaning reservoir or pool) and the brightly coloured paintwork have been sensitively restored.

Also bordering the Registan is the Sadriddin Ayni Theatre (1930), an early victim of the post-independence Russian exodus and economic hardships. Here in 1925 Mikhail Kalinin, first President of the Soviet Union, chaired the first congress of the Uzbekistan SSR. Today, its fusion of Russian columns and Arabic calligraphy plays host only to the occasional renegade martial-arts video.