Exploring Tourism in Uzbekistan
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Zindan, Emir’s Prison

Bukhara, Uzbekistan


There were only two prisons in Bukhara. One was located inside the the Ark Fortress, where political criminals were imprisoned; the other – Zindan – was in the city, behind the fortress, next to the former Shakhristan Gate. This high bricky construction looks like a small fortress and today it is a museum.

The real horror and revulsion were caused by the agony that waited unfortunates who were condemned to rot in jail, known as the Bit-hana – “bug pit”. This terrible prison was full of scorpions and poisonous insects whose bite is extremely painful and deadly. Locked up inside the Zindan, the prisoners died on the second or third day in terrible convulsions.

Zindan consisted of several debtors’ prison, solitary confinement cell, and 6.5 meters deep underground dungeon (Black-pit). The prisoners were lowered to the pit with special ropes as well as their food. The word ‘Zindan’, in Persian means ‘underground, darkness’. Twice a month prisoners were taken from the dungeon to Registan square in front of the Ark Fortress, where Emir decided who was to be killed and who to pardon.

Today the cells hold hostage only a few unconvincing dummies and an abridged collection of dungeon memorabilia displayed in the old torture chamber. The museum exhibition gives information about the legal proceedings in the Bukhara emirate during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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