Zindan of Emir (Emir’s Prison)

In medieval there were only two prisons in Bukhara. One was for the political prisoners inside the Ark fortress. And Zindan, which means “underground and in the dark” in Persian was for the other criminals.

Twice a month, Emir adopted decision to whom to execute, and whom to pardon at Registan square.

By the way, crime rate in Bukhara was very low and mainly debtors were kept in Zindan. However, only 40 persons could be kept in Zindan. As religion has paramount importance in Bukhara Khanate, violators of religious customs also joined them.

Early in the morning, a special official - rais - visited any mosque with check. And if someone was not at the morning prayers, he sent people to find this person. Rais issued warning or ordered to beat the culprit with lashes. For persistent failure to comply with religious obligations, the culprit can be sent to Zindan.


Emir’s Prison was constructed in the 18th century. Outwardly, it looks like a small fortress. There was a narrow corridor for walks of the prisoners. It was located in the top of Zindan. There was also tomb of the “saint” of prisoners - Kuchkar-Ata (the 8th century).

There were several chambers for debtors, punishment cell and dungeon, which was called as Black Hole by people. The prisoners and food were delivered to the hole with help of ropes. It was diameter of about 5 meters and the depth – 6.5 meters. In extreme cases, the prisoners were placed to Bit-hana (hole of mistakes). The hole was full with scorpions and poisonous insects. People were horrified from it. Nobody come alive from the hole.

Currently the museum operates in Zindan of Emir. Several cameras with mannequins and a torture chamber show the life of the prisoners. One room tells about the judicial system in Bukhara in the 19-20th centuries.

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