In Tashkent`s public green space situated between two busy wide roads lined with high blocks of flats, just behind "Istiqlol" Palace, there is a remarkable old building. This is Abdulkasim Madrassah, whose carved doors are always open for visitors interested in antiques and Uzbek traditional arts and crafts. Here are the workshops of the craftsmen working under the aegis of The International Fund Oltin Meros (‘Golden Heritage’).
The construction of this madrassah was sponsored by Sheikh Abdulkasim, one of the most respected and educated residents of the town in the 19th century. It was not by accident that this place was chosen for the construction site. As far back as the 18th century one of the pilgrims, who had made a hajj to Mecca, brought to Tashkent a holy relic – a few beard hairs of Mohammed the Prophet. The relic was placed in a special domed shrine called Khonakoy’i Muy’i Muborak constructed by the residents of the nearby mahalla (neighborhood). Above its entrance they wrote ‘The hairs of Rasul himself (Mohammed the Prophet) have been placed here’. In 1850 by order of Abdulkasim there was built a madrassah adjacent to this very shrine, with the praying room and the darskhona (hall for lectures) directly adjoining the khonakoy’i. The architecture of the madrassah is that of the Middle Ages. Its entrance has a high peshtak-portal; the façade is decorated with lancet niches, three on either side, and guldasta towers at the corners.
In the centre of the yard there used to be a domed sardoba well, this being evidenced by the extant stone foundations. The yard is surrounded by two-storey building of hudjra cells where the students of the madrassah would live. Note that every cell had a cooking oven, sandal oven for heating and a washbasin. The windows and the second floor gallery railings had composite panjara lattices. One hundred and fifty young men would study here at a time. Among the students of this Muslim school was the famous Uzbek writer of the first half of the 20th century Abdulla Kodiriy.
Today, the resonant sounds of engravers’ hammers and scratchy accompaniment of wood-carvers’ chisels are heard from these cells. Inside the cells, watched by curious tourists, calligraphers, nakkosh and mussavir artists paint Oriental miniatures and decorative patterns on little varnished papier-mâché boxes and pencil-cases. You can buy any of the works by these artists right here first hand.