Lyabi-Hauz architectural complex is located in the centre of Bukhara and consists of three monumental edifices. The complex possesses a distinctive character: contrary to conventional traditions of making city square or street junction the centre of an architectural complex, it was constructed around a large hauz (pond).
Initially, in 1568, there was constructed Kukeldash Madrassah, whose monumentality of forms matched the richness of ornamental decoration. The madrassah had 160 cells and was the largest Islamic school in Bukhara. The architect of the madrassah used the architectural laws quite artistically, breaking the flank facades with arched loggias.
Over 50 years later, in 1620, during the reign of enlightened ruler Imamkulikhan, the local dignitary Nadir Devanbegi decided to build within his estate a khanaga – a hospice for wandering dervishes. The building was not large; the architects had to actually cram it into a small space between tightly standing dwelling houses. On the south, khanaga was enveloped with the main Bukhara canal Shakhrud, and Nadir Devanbegi decided to build a pond in front of the building. The pond was later called ‘Lyabi-Hauz’.
By that time there had been over 80 ponds in Bukhara. They were the city’s main source of water. Lyabi-Hauz turned out to be the largest: 46 meters in length, 36 meters in width, and 5 meters in depth. The sides of the pool were made of stone blocks with steps for meshkab water bearers.
Nadir Devanbegi was the emir’s uncle, had a lot of influence on the state affairs and in the absence of the ruler even negotiated on his behalf with foreign envoys. Taking advantage of his authority, he intended to construct a profitable caravanserai on the bank of the pond just opposite the khanaga. However, Imamkulikhan was very hard on his men, both retinue and the relatives. When the caravanserai was finished, Nadir Devanbegi invited the ruler to the opening ceremony. Although the medieval Bukhara had a lot of religious buildings, such as madrassahs, mosques, and khanagas imposingly dominating the residential areas, Imamulikhan did not like the commercial project of his uncle. In his public speech the ruler unexpectedly congratulated him on opening another facility that pleased God, so Nadir Devanbegi had nothing else to do but to convert the caravanserai to a madrassah.
The layout of the structure proves the fact that the building was planned as a caravanserai. The entrance is straight, not angular as that of Kukeldash Madrassah. The back side of the building has an entrance for pack animals. There are nodarskhona classrooms and summer ayvan terraces for classes. A big portal was attached to the front of the structure. It is decorated with tile mosaics depicting fabulous birds flying to the sun with prey in their claws.
The famous Lyabi-Hauz is not a source of drinking water any longer; Bukhara has been using water pipes for decades. The water of the pond and centuries-old trees on its banks create a pleasant distinctive microclimate, which attracts the residents and guests of the city. A number of little restaurants around the pond are great places for relaxation and friendly chat. TodayNadir Devanbegi Madrassah houses traditional crafts shops where one can purchase splendid gold embroidered souvenirs and jewelry. In the evening the madrassah becomes a concert site: within its walls there resound traditional music tunes and beautiful girls perform folk dances and sing ancient melodious songs.