Urban Metamorphosis and Change in Central Asian Cities after the Arab Invasions

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Sobti, Manu P
Lewcock, Ronald B.
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This work is a study in urban history, in particular, one that examines a crucial period in the rise and development of large cities and metropolises in the region of Sogdiana within Central Asia, between the seventh and tenth centuries. The primary focus of inquiry is to show the effects of inter-relationships between social change, intense urbanization and religious conversions that occurred within Sogdiana at this time. All of these processes were initiated as a result of the Arab invasions between 625 and 750 A.D. Sogdia or Sogdiana, along with the regions of Bactria and Khwarazm, were incorporated into the Islamic world through the process of conquest that followed these invasions, but once resistance was extinguished and Islam widely accepted among the populace, these regions became among the most vital centers of urban life in the Islamic world. Sogdiana, among these three regions, witnessed the rise, change and unprecedented development of many large metropolises that were distinct in several ways from the cities in other parts of the Islamic world. Traditional cities in the Islamic world further west and south of Central Asia had a dense structure within an encircling wall, and eventually the residential areas were found to extend beyond the wall, only themselves to be eventually protected by another wall. However, in Central Asia yet another further stage of development took place. Here the main administrative functions and markets moved out into this outer residential area and abandoned the central core. This outer area of the city (the rabad) became the locus of political and commercial activity. In due course the process repeated itself - the residential areas overflowing beyond the walls of the rabad, only themselves to be surrounded by a third outer wall. In this way the Central Asian city developed into a distinct type, markedly different from cities further west and south.
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