In the very center of the historical part of Bukhara there stands Magoki-Attori Mosque. Since the 16th century this building with two domes on faceted drums and a tall peshtak portal of the eastern façade has been known as a neighborhood mosque. The archeological excavations in the 1930s proved that the structure dates back to pre-Islamic time.
At the beginning of the Common Era there used to be a fire temple at the place where the mosque stand nowadays. Around the temple there bustled a busy market called Makh (‘lunar’) where on Navruz, traditional ancient festival of Persian New Year, the traders used to sell modeled figures of Zoroastrian gods of fertility. After Islam was established in the area, the ancient pagan temple was demolished and in its place there was constructed a mosque. During the excavation works archeologists opened its floor on four foundation bases and discovered the lower parts of the older walls and remains of the 10th-century gunch plaster decoration. In the 12th century the building was completely rebuilt. Of that time there remained intact a fascinating southern façade of the mosque. To expose the facade, archeologists had to remove 5 meters of archeological strata.
The mosque originally had 6 pillars and 12 domes. Its main entrance lay outside the central line, in the long side of the building – probably due to the fact that there wasn’t enough space: the mosque was built inside the market among numerous shops.
The design of the mosque built in the 12th century had little in common with traditional architectural principles which were established only two centuries later. The main decoration of the mosque is close to that of the Samanid Mausoleum – decorative brickworks. Here polished figured bricks are artistically assembled into patterns of scrolls, spirals and meanders. The main entrance has a slightly protruding portal emphasized by an arch on the stone pillars with caps and carvings. The patterned brick surface of the recessed archway niche has a small door. The arch ceiling is decorated with brick terracotta stalactites. The symmetrical half columns attached to the peshtak portal are evidence of pre-Islamic architectural tradition.
In the decoration of the mosque the craftsmen used combinations of bow-shaped bricks, coupled bricks, terracotta bars and glazed tiles as inlays. The vertical panels on the portal bear diagonal inscriptions in Arabic and relief girikh geometric decorative patterns. The variety of ornamental shapes and amazing chiaroscuro of the brickworks on the southern façade of the mosque testify to the great artistic skills of the 12th-century Bukhara architects and craftsmen.