Rabats and Sardoba of Abdullakhan

Issue #1 • 2106

On the territory of modern Uzbekistan there are a lot of architectural structures related to the name of Abdullakhan II Sheibanid who reigned at the second half of the 16th century. He succeeded to use feudal separatism and conflicts for his own benefit. With a support of the Djuibar sheihs, Khodja Islam and later his son Khodja Sa’ad, Abdulla – sultan took a power. For a long time he had ruled on behalf on his father, Iskanderkhan (1560 – 1583) and after his death Abdulla – sultan became official khan.

At the time of Abdullakhan (1583 – 1598) the state territory was extended, economy became stable and were formed favourable conditions for development of agriculture, crafts, domestic and foreign trade. Many caravan – serai and sardoba all over the country were constructed. According to some documents, at his time were constructed and reconstructed 400 sardoba, according to another – 1000. Sardoba were constructed on the sites of halts, and rabats – on the places of night’s camps. The word “rabat” in Arab means “fortified camp”, “hostel”. Rabats as architectural structures appeared in Central Asia after the Arab conquest. Initially they were military camps for Arab troops, which later transformed into hostels for merchants.

The word “sardoba” has two radicals: “sard” – cold wet and “ob” – water. The word “sardob” as a reservoire for coolness means “grotto”, “icy house”, “icy stock house”, “cellarage” and others. Sardoba are big reservoirs scratched in the ground with walls of the brick and roofed with cupola, which were used for water storage. They were located along big trade roads, in settlements and cities, where was lack of pure water. Special channel carried water to sardobas. According to the source of water they can be classified in some groups – some collected melt and rain water, the other got water from rivers and channels, the third ones collected ground waters.

A. Burns, during his journey at the middle of the 19th century, wrote down the legend about Abdullakhan who returned after his hadj to Mecca with firm belief that Allah displeased him. With a hope to obtain God’s favour he began to construct caravan – serais and sardobas all over the country.

The construction of rabat was equally piety dead as in the case of mosque (1, p.203). There are many legends about charity of Abdullakhan. Indeed, most of caravan – serai and sardoba were connected with his name (2, p.38). On the road from Karshi to Derbent there are two rabats, caravan-serais of Abdullakhan nearby Akrabat kishlak and Derbent, which by the 19th century had been almost ruined (3, p.145 – 148). Sardoba and caravan – serais of Abdullakhan are also nearby Charshanga station (2, p.34).

Ruins of numerous sardoba were fixed in the Golodnoya and Karshin steppes. They pointed courses of ancient trade roads. In the steppe of Urtachul, beside ruins of the Karaulbazar caravan – serai there was sardoba, which was often called “palace” thanks to its decor of tile. Its entrance was marked with arched portal moved ahead, from which wide bottom of reservoir stretched like a corridor. Above the corridor there are small rooms with arched windows for service personnel. Diameter of reservoir is 15.8 m, depth – 8.1 m. Height of the cupola with nine windows is 6.35 m. Water for this sardoba was taken from the Kashkadarya river. Farther along the steppe road to the Kerki ferry on the Amudarya there are some other caravan-sarays and sardoba dated from the time of Abdullakhan. They are sardoba of Sanghisulak, Nishan, Talimardjan, Yusuf and Urasi. There is also sardoba of Abdullakhan at Charshanga station. Nearby there are ruins of rabat of the same name. Diameter of sardoba is 12.5 m., height of the cupola – 10 m.

Remains of the ancient rabats were revealed among the ruins of ancient Paikend, a city of merchants, where according to the written sources were thousands of rabats, which in the quiet and peaceful periods were caravan – serais, and at the war time could become fortified military posts (4, p.24). The earliest rabats included premises of hotel type – standard rooms and corridors. Paikend rabats of the 9th – 10th centuries had one – and three – room sections and economic premises. In the period of the High and Late Middle Ages such planning layout got further development and classic completion both in monumental architecture – caravan – serai, medreseh, khanaka and in the construction of dwelling houses (4, p.147).

Net of trade roads covered the country and linked Central Asian cities with Afghanistan, India and Iran, the Syrdarya cities in the north, nomadic Kazakh steppe and Siberia. These trade roads and numerous seasonal auxiliary roads found description in the works of Russian military engineers. N.A.Mayev gave information on roads linking the Bukhara khanate with post stations and accurate calculations of distances between posts.

At the time of Abdullakhan the construction and repairing works on the trade roads obtained big scope. The state guaranteed safety for caravans within the state territory. In that period was constructed the bridge over the Bandikhansai, known also as the bridge of Iskander, Gishtkuprik and Tashkuprik. It is located on the important trade road from Termez to Chaganian. The bridge was constructed of the brick. The length is over 70 m, the width – 5.75 m and chord of arch – 5.8 m (5, p.75).

During Abdullakhan’s reign the trade with Russia, especially in the part of cotton fabrics, became intensive. Trade caravans, owned by feudal aristocracy, usually included several hundreds of camels. Many foreign merchants, the Persians, Arabs and Turks, visited Samarkand and Bukhara. In Bukhara there was a special quarter of percenters and merchants from India. The Europeans also visited markets in Bukhara and Samarkand (6, p.124).

In spite of sea track to America and re-orientation of world trade, medieval Movarounahr had still reserved importance in the trade between the East and West, what was notedly in the period of Abdullakhan’s reign.

Author: Rakhbar Khalikiova

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