Deciphering the culture of city squares in Islamic countries

  If we talk about the origin and function of city squares in modern urban planning, we need to take a longer view, jump out of Eurocentric thinking, and learn more about the past lives of famous city squares in North Africa, Asia and even Latin America this life.
  At least as far as the city squares of Islamic countries in West Asia and North Africa are concerned, they do not directly inherit the traditions of European cities. Here is a particularly important reason: Islamic tradition emphasizes mutual assistance in communities, and the relationship between neighbors has been stronger than that in Europe since ancient times. The community is closer, the class gap and the difference between the rich and the poor will not make the neighbors stay away from each other, and the community life is centered on the mosque. Therefore, Islamic countries have formed a tradition in the Middle Ages: each city must have multiple community squares, centered on mosques or seminaries. Its city square tradition can be traced back at least to the Middle Ages, and its scale and number are even larger than those in Europe at the same time.
  West Asia, Central Asia, and North Africa are the regions with the strongest Islamic traditions, where most of the Islamic countries and Muslim populations in the world are concentrated. The author has traveled in almost all countries in this area, and the central squares of five cities left the deepest impression on me, namely: Imam Square in Isfahan, Iran, and Djemaa Square in Marrakech, Morocco , Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, and Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. Among them, the last two squares were built in modern times and are famous for the political events in the modern history of Turkey and Egypt. For example, in the “Arab Spring”, all the protest rallies and coup revolutions in Egypt took place in Cairo’s Liberation Square. In the center, as the political situation in Egypt has been flipped repeatedly, the appearance rate of Tahrir Square in the world’s political news has remained high. But the author prefers the first three ancient city squares. I think they really show the ancient charm of Islamic culture, allowing us to appreciate how developed the urban life of Muslims has been. They interpret theocratic power, royal power and civilian life respectively. of different themes. Among them, the first two are still listed in their respective tourist brochures, proudly claiming to be “the second largest square in the world after Tiananmen Square”.

The seminary “Lion House” in Registan Square is named after the yellow flying lion, sun and human face pattern on both sides of the main entrance of the college, which has become a symbol of Uzbekistan tourism.

On September 13, 2022 local time, people walk in Registan Square in the center of Samarkand.
Theocracy: Registan Square in Samarkand

  Among the three ancient Islamic city squares, the smallest but oldest is Registan Square in Samarkand, a famous city on the Silk Road. Samarkand is called “Kangju” in Chinese history books, and it is located in the river area surrounded by the Amu Darya River and the Syr Darya River. Although the large Eurasian grasslands in the north and northeast are dominated by nomadic tribes, the Hezhong area is fertile. The Kangju-Sogdian people who settled here in ancient times focused on farming and took advantage of the geographical location in the middle of Asia. Become a commercial center that communicates the East and the West along the Silk Road.
  The most magnificent monuments in Samarkand today all come from the Timurid Empire era. The capital of the Timur Empire was in Samarkand. Timur invited a large number of construction craftsmen from the culturally developed Persian region, and gathered the wealth of the entire empire and poured it into the construction of the capital. Registan is the most beautiful central square in Timur’s capital, which means “sand land” in Tajik. The three sides of the square are mosques and seminaries, and one side is open. The oldest building on the left-hand side of the square is the Ulugbek Medressa, which was built in 1420 under Timur’s grandson, Ulugbek Khan. Ulugh Beg is not known for his martial arts, but he is a mathematical genius and a professional astronomer. He established an ancient astronomical observatory on the outskirts of Samarkand, and the remains are still there today. An astronomical work written by him has profoundly influenced the development of modern astronomy. To commemorate his outstanding contribution, the modern scientific community even named a crater on the moon after him. It is recorded that Ulugh Beg Khan often taught mathematics at the seminary in Registan Square.

Ulugh Beg Madrasah next to Registan Square in Samarkand.

  The two buildings in the middle and on the right side of Registan Square are also seminaries. The building form and height are consistent with Ulugh Beg Theological Seminary, but the time is 200 years later. The Timurid Empire began to split in the Ulugh Beg era. In 1500, another branch of the Central Asian gold family, Shaybani, the descendant of the fifth son of Genghis Khan’s eldest son Jochi, occupied Samarkand, defeated the Timurid Empire, and established The Khanate of Bukhara in Central Asia. The Khanate of Bukhara survived until modern times. When these two seminaries were built, they were already in Samarkand under the rule of the Bukhara Khanate. They were built by the local rulers at that time. The seminary on the right was called “Sher Dor Medressa”, which means “Lion House”. , named after the yellow flying lion, sun and human face pattern on both sides of the main entrance lintel of the college, which has become a symbol of Uzbekistan tourism. Traditionally in Islam, the decoration of religious buildings not only does not allow human figures, but even animals, and even flowers and plants are rare. The majestic lion and human face pattern on the gate of Lion Seminary is an extremely striking exception.
  Although the buildings on the three sides of the Registan Square have spanned two centuries, the artistic style is still in the same line, achieving harmony and unity. They are all in the form of a Persian iwan, veneered with blue tiles. The architectural culture of the Timurid Empire imitated Persian civilization, but it was not completely copied. For example, the dome with raised rib arches is a feature of Central Asia, which is not found in Persia. Persia’s blue tile dome All smooth.

The Imam Square in Isfahan is the product of the Persian Safavid Dynasty in the 16th century, which demonstrated the majesty of the king and benefited the capital.

  Today’s Registan Square is paved with tiles, empty and solemn. Three seminaries and mosques silently overlook the square, revealing the majesty of theocracy. In fact, in ancient times, mosques and seminary squares in Islamic countries have always been bustling trading markets and the center of local citizens’ lives. Traditionally, there are high and low points for various transactions, and there are their own gathering areas in the square: the bookstalls for buying and selling the Koran and various classics are considered the most noble transactions, and they are always at the position closest to the gate of the mosque, slightly outside The first floor is a variety of daily necessities, among which carpets are also a necessity for worshiping at home. The location is the most in the middle, and the stalls of various food and spices are located on the outer periphery.

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