In the days before Bukhara even existed, a millenium before Islam was even a glimmer in the Prophet’s eye, the prophet came to the Zerafshan Valley and witnessed a great and terrible drought. As people perished of thirst around him, Job struck the dusty earth with his staff and a cool source of sweet spring water brought liquid salvation. The Chashma Ayub in Bukhara, the Spring of Job, commemorates this site.

The present-day mausoleum stands in fortress-like austerity, almost devoid of decoration, a few hundred meters from the Ismael Samani Mausoleum.

It consists of four domed chambers, each built during a different epoch and topped in a different style of cupola to form a remarkable visual spread of architectural history. Although the original construction of Bukhara tourist place dates from the 12th-century rule of Karakhanid Arslan Khan, the earliest surviving dome was raised by Tamerlane in 1380 over the existing tomb chamber. This unusual conical cupola of Chashma Ayub, rare for Transoxiana, has its roots in the nomadic tent designs of Khorezm and was most probably designed by architects forcibly repatriated by Tamerlane in the wake of his 1379 campaign to Gurganj (Kunya Urgench). Suspended underneath the conical cupola is a concealed second dome so that from the inside the cupola looks much the same as its three later 16th century additions.

The commemorative complex of Bukhara tourist place is underscored by the almost cultish respect given to water in these harsh and arid climes, a theme adopted by the modern order into the present-day Museum of Water Supply. Displays range from the time of the emirate, when professional water carriers sold inflatable skins of worm riddled water in the bazaars, to the ecologically overambitious schemes of the Soviet era, such as the Amu-Bukhara and Samarkand-Bukhara Canals. For most Uzbek and Tajik visitors, however, these soviet schemes stand dismissed as mere drops in the ocean and their object of admiration and veneration lies in the deep, sweet spring water of Job.

Just opposite the Chashma Ayub is the striking, new Memorial Complex of Al-Bukhari, the city’s most revered son (see page 189). The giant book cradled by a crescent represents the collection of hadith—the sayings of Mohammed—that Al-Bukhari spent his life compiling. The basic museum within entertains little English. Nearby is Bukhara’s main bazaar, most active on Sundays/Thursdays, and a circus highwire.