CARAVANSERAIS OF BUKHARA
Since ancient times the centres of economic life of cities in
the East were inns as well as caravanserais in the middle ages not only bazaars.
In fact, bazaars were closely related to the small crafts and retail trade. And
wholesale trade would almost entirely be concentrated in caravanserais. Through
both of those sale of goods brought via caravan routes would be conducted. What
they represented always intrigued the more inquisitive minds of humankind. Let
us turn to the unique monographic research paper "Far and near. Pages of life,
lifestyle, construction work, crafts and arts of old Bukhara. Bukhara notes"
published in 1982 in Tashkent. This book was prepared by the then famous
Uzbekistan arts doctor Lazar Rempel. This is what this scholar wrote about
caravanserais and bazaars of Bukhara of the second half of the 19th century,
their life and operations based on the examinations of notes taken by travellers
who visited this city over a hundred years before as well as a survey of folk
craftsmen, old residents and personal experiences and conclusions.
CARAVANS LEFT BUKHARA...
Every spring large caravans would depart from Bukhara on a long journey. They
went once a year in three main routes, one to Orenburg, the second to Troitsk
and the third to Krasnovodsk, and in each of these caravans up to 50 bays would
participate accompanied by yatims.
Each caravan would carry a cannon and armed people to guard the caravan. In the
head of each caravan was a caravan-bosh elected by the bays. There were three of
them: Bukhara. Shafirkan and Kazakh.
In each caravan several hundreds of loaded camels would go. On an assigned date
and time they gathered at Samarkand gates on the road as then headed towards
Shafirkan where at the house of one of the bays there was a meeting point and
beasts of burden waited.
From Karshi, Khisor, Shahrisabz and other locations of the khanate small
caravans consisting of 10-15 camels would also make way to Bukhara. They would
head for the city, to the municipal serais where they put the natural tax they
brought with them - millet, barley, etc.
CARAVANSERAIS WERE THE CENTRES OF WHOLESALE TRADE
Imported goods for sale were stored there and offices and branches of various
firms were situated there as well. The serais often served as premises for
travellers and tabibs (doctors), shroffs' (money-exchangers) and money-lenders
that would receive clients there. All the best brick serais were situated in the
centre of the city alongside the bazaars.
However, in economic life, for example, in cotton trade even wooden serais with
less attractive appearance would sometimes become rather significant, e.g.
Saroyi Pakhta near Samarkand gates.
THE GOODS SUPPLIED TO THE SERAIS ARRIVED ON CAMELS OR BULLOCK-CARTS.
Some serais were vakuf property of some mosque or madrasah; others were
privately rented or owned.
At the entrance to the serai (in dagoni-saroy or mion-saroy) two saroybons would
usually sit - owners of the serai or idjorador who rented municipal serai. They
would meet the newly arriving and allocate rooms to them (poyonhudjry or
bolohona), received goods to their basements (taghona or borhona) where they
stored them in a common facility for which the saroybon was responsible. There
was no facility for donkeys or camels there thus right after unloading they were
immediately taken back behind Samarkand gates where they had a special serai.
Once darkness fell the serai would be locked and the keys would kept by the
saroybon. Night visitors were permitted only with the permission of the saroybon.
The keeper of the serai saroybon received payment from the hudjra if it was
rented for office or dwelling whereas he would only receive presents ("saroyboni")
in the form of some, undetermined, interest from the transaction concluded at
the serai. "Saroyboni" was paid by the one who bought the goods stored at the
serai but not the one who shipped them there. Saroybon was thus interested in
the large scales of turnover at his serai. This was to be facilitated by brokers
- dallols. No big transaction would be made without a dallol.
LIFESTYLE AND MONOPOLY OF CARAVANSERAIS
To characterize the lifestyle of caravanserais let us point to the famous
Bukhara caravanserai Barra (Saroyi Barrakalon).
This serai, which constituted the personal property of the emir, owned a
monopoly for all astrakhan fur brought to the city. With participation of dozens
of dallols Barrakalon serai had large turnovers. Dexterous sorters of astrakhan
fur (sharofdostachi), packers (barband) and up to ten workers worked there. A
separate hudjra was occupied by an official of a lower kushbegi (zakotchi) who
collected taxes from the imported goods. In this chancery accounting of
transactions was done as well as aminonachi who collected interest from brokers
from the earnings they made in favour of the emir.
The largest owner of storage facilities for textiles was, as Bukhara old
residents recall, Ubaydullahodja. He received textiles by the railroad from
Russia from the firms of Zin-del, Danilskiy, Savva Moro-zov. Tverskoy, Ryabinov,
Belyakov, Zakharov, and others. Satin, chintz, coarse calico, wool, trcot, and
white tussore silk were supplied on a regular basis. Thick woolen cloth was
brought from Constantinople, English satin - from Peshawar, silk and
gold-embroidery of the firms of Sapojnikov and Ivanov - from Moscow.
Deals for up to 15 thousand rubles were concluded at Ubaydullahodja's serai
every day. The brokers announced goods supplied, their cost, which were received
under credit or bill of exchange and for what time period.
Bays dealing in silk, gold-embroidery, pearls, diamonds, and gold were stationed
at the state (emir's) serai Sayfiddin.
This was a home to swindlers mostly known by their nicknames. "Abram-Yunus"
(Iranian) had several passports and multiple citizenships. Kuri Izro was more
known as "Aynaki" (One wearing glasses) sold jewellery. Others were known as "Kura
Malahim" (One-eyed), Aboi-Kok (Dry). The broker for this serai was Daud (a Jew).
The daily turnover of the serai reached SO thousand rubles.
In the emir's serai Nogai money-lender Kori Ismat-kallya settled (his daily
turnover made up 1000 rubles). Another bay, Kori Silkoi, supplied textiles to
the entire Eastern part of Bukhara khanate.
In the same serai up to 30 other traders (savdogars) were accommodated. On the
second floor of serai Nogai robes were
sewn. Every hudjia had its owner. The serai's daily turnover constituted around
A certain Mukimov, an English citizen, owned serai Gu-lomdjon where mostly
Peshawar people stayed. Along with textiles, tea brought from Afghanistan and
China was also sold at this serai.
At serai Nabod offices of the cocoon and cotton warehouse were situated whereas
the warehouse itself was located at Ayaz serai rented from emir by Mirzo Nabod.
Serai Pakhta was a wooden, one-slory building with tents. There were two small
rooms for ammachi and saroybon there. Under the tents 14 pairs of scales (tarozu)
stood which were used for weighing raw cotton. Cocoons (pillya) were also piled
here. They were weighed on special wooden scales (shiin-tarozu) in special
packages (zagoma). This seemingly plain serai was serviced by 14 brokers (one
per every pair of scales on which cotton was weighed). Over 40 zagomadors were
busy carrying cocoons and about 150 ordinary stevedores loaded or unloaded up to
6,000 loads of guza-paya and about 5 loads of cocoons.
Serai Pashm was rented from emir by Abulvakhab Samiboy and Abdukayum Samiboy.
With the help of five weighers they conducted trade operations in wool and
monopolised the buying up of wool.
In a semi-brick serai Meshi Kamalboy Nasyrboev settled. He monopolised the
buying up of skins and handed them for processing to Voronov's factory.
CARAVANSERAI OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARE
In addition to wholesale trade and transactions, serais would also provide their
premises to doctors, money-lenders and other accidental needs.
Doctors (tabibs) had their own hudjras lor receiving patients in a number of
serais (for example, in serai Mirzo-Gul, Kozi-Kalon and others).
Tabibs would treat all diseases with semi-quack methods. Here at hudjra (hey
would for a long time touch the patient's pulse and more frequently hold him by
his hand and ask various questions mystifying the patient.
Then, imitating the techniques of European doctors they would listen to
heartbeats and examine eyeballs but at the same time they would keep asking such
questions that made it apparent that they used these manipulations absolutely
formally - the point was not in that.
True experts in folk medicine familiar with classical medical literature were
few among them. However, bone-setters and surgeons were famous. Although they
were mostly unlucky healers. They treated patients with self-made medications (doru)
or send them for one or another medication to at-tors - sellers of herbs and
other medicinal potions. Every tabib in addition to having hudjra where he
received patients also had his own dukon, a spice/herb shop at the bazaar where
he would send his patients for medication.
Later tabibs would also use Russian drugs. Superstitious bays would especially
trust expensive medication and tabibs would gain large profits from this bay
psychology. Thus, tabib would grind pieces of gold, emeralds and diamonds in a
small utensil and add 40 types of different potions. The medication would be
taken in pills (kurs) in small dozes. We leave it up to the reader to judge the
"curing" qualities if this really expensive medicine.
Besides tabibs there were also ordinary quarks, mainly gypsies (djugies) who did
"sorcery" and tricked people. There were more tricks in their manipulations than
actual healing. They had neither hud-jras in serais nor any other permanent
dwelling. There were also "bibi-khokims" or women-tabibs. They would treat only
women at their homes and used tabib's methods mixed with "magical" techniques
and spells of ordinary quarks.