When approaching Bukhara, travelers can already see the Kalyan Minaret in the distance, high above the buildings of Bukhara. In the Middle Ages, the caravans that traveled hundreds of kilometers along the Great Silk Road used the minaret as a landmark. The word minaret comes from the Arabic minora, which means “lighthouse.” In times of war, the guards on the minaret observed enemy movements in the vicinity of the city. When Bukhara became an Islamic city in 713, a mosque and a minaret were built there at the foot of the fortress. At the beginning of the 12th century, during the rule of Arslankhan of the Qarakhanid dynasty, the mosque was relocated to an urban area some distance from the Ark fortress. The old minaret was reconstructed and a new minaret was built opposite the southern flank of Shakhristan. The minaret was designed to reflect the size of the city and the piety of its ruler. But this new "beautifully made" minaret collapsed shortly after construction and fell on the main mosque, almost completely destroying it. In 1127 the architect Bako laid the foundations of the minaret, for which he mixed bricks and mortar from ganch plaster with camel milk. He left town and returned two years later when the cornerstone was hard as stone. On this basis he built the minaret, later Kalyan, which means "large". The landmark of Bukhara was made of baked bricks, the minaret is about 154 meters high with an underground base and a depth of 32 meters. The strong, slightly tapered wall of the minaret is crowned with a cylindrical rotunda gallery and 16 arched windows. At its base, the minaret is 29.5 meters in diameter, while the diameter of its upper part at the base of the rotunda is 19.6 meters. The lower part of the rotunda is decorated with stalactites. The minaret is covered over its surface with decorative ribbons made of masonry and turquoise glazed tiles. The minaret door opening is 5m wide and an arched bridge from the roof of the Kalyan Mosque leads to this door. There is a steep, winding staircase into the minaret with 105 steep stone stairs to the rotunda.
The Friday prayer mosque “Kalyan” is one of the oldest buildings on Poi Kalon Square (“Foot of the Great”). The main mosque is not only a temple for every Muslim in the city, but is also a center of public life. Kalyan was the second largest mosque, after the Bibi-Khanum, in Movarounnahr. There is space for more than 12,000 people. The architecture is particularly remarkable: the building has seven doors to let in large numbers of people. Each of the four sides of the mosque has a huge portal. The main portal, facing east, has a very rich ornamentation. The portal stands on a hill and several stairs inside lead to a large courtyard: under its arch, one can see the inscription in Arabic characters with the year the Kalyan Mosque was built 1514 read. On the opposite wall, under a huge peshtak, is the Mekhrob niche, facing Mecca. The ornamental mosaic in the Mekhrob still bears the name of the master: Bayazid al Purani. Two large blue domes show the location of the prayer niche. Along the perimeter of the courtyard are galleries with 288 small domes supported by 208 strong columns. The colonnade makes the courtyard look even bigger and creates a feeling of solemnity. One of the domes of the gallery has an opening through which the Kalyan minaret can be clearly seen. If you walk through it step by step, you can count all the bands of the decorative masonry of the minaret and at the end you can see its rotunda. On the other side, standing with your back to the mikhrab, you can just see the mosque from the large peshtak of Miri Arab Madrasah, behind the opposite portal. So in a special way, three main buildings are formed, the architectural ensemble of Poi Kalyan.
Among the multitude of madrasahs in Bukhara that were built in the 16th century, the Miri-Arab Madrasah is a true masterpiece. It was built on a raised platform directly across from the Kalyan Mosque. This architectural technique, called kosh (“coupled”), was quite common in the Middle Ages. It was built and after the Miri-Arab madrasah concluded with the Poi Kalyan Square. The Miri-Arab Madrasah is still one of the world's most famous and largest Islamic universities. Construction of the building took about 15 years and was completed in 1536. The main designer of the madrasah was Sheikh Abdella Yemeni, known as Miri-Arab. He was a fairly influential figure in the court of the ruler Ubaidullakhan Sheibanid, who ruled Bukhara for only six years but left his name in the history of Central Asia. The madrasah has a basic plan that was made standard by the Timurids. The facade has a large portal with two-tier loggias next to it. The corners consist of massive towers. Two lines of the small vertical relief arches accentuate the height of the portal. The main entrance leads through a corridor to a square yard with four Ayvan platforms and two floors of Hujra rooms. The ceilings, arches and walls of the madrasah are harmoniously covered with mosaics, fine colorful stylized images of plants and also with a large number of inscriptions in elaborate Sulu script (an italic liquid script with rounded letters). In the right and left wings along the facade there are two halls under the domes on high bases. One of these halls served as a mosque, while the hall on the right side of the entrance was a classroom. The construction of the mosque became the tomb of Sheikh Miri-Arab. Its cruciform hall has a systematic layout and is crowned with beautiful stalactites. A dome with a star-shaped decoration hovers above them, as if in the air. The ruler Ubaidullakhan himself was buried at the foot of the Sheikh Miri-Arab. A beautifully decorated sarcophagus with carvings lies over his grave. Next to it is the grave of the famous theologian Mohammed Kasim. Several two-story rooms surround the courtyard of the madrasah. Compared to other madrasahs, they are quite comfortable living spaces for students. A vaulted vestibule leads to a vaulted living room with alcoves and storage compartments in the walls.