Twice now we've been to Shahrisabz, and each time we have had the loveliest guides - both middle-aged women, both history teachers and both utterly engaging in their warmth and enthusiasm for their town.
It was the first whose promise of autumn melons and balmy days was so instrumental in our decision to include a stay in Shahrisabz on our return; how glad we were that we did.
Our guide this time was just as sweet - and her manner of beginning every little spiel about the sights we were seeing - "Dear my friends" - became our catchphrase.
Our third close encounter with a local lady was at dinner when we were welcomed into a private house for a wonderful feast of home cooking. Yes, we were paying guests but we were made to feel so welcome and when our hostess found out MrL was a melon-nut, nothing was doing but she insisted we take one of her best back to the hotel with us for breakfast the following morning.
Timur was born in 1336 in a place near today's Sharisabz. At that time Sharisabz was called Kesh. His father was the Khan of a nomadic tribe of Centralasia with Mongolian origins. Timur very soon became a military leader. He and his men conquered Centralasia, destroying many cities and killing thousands of people.
In the 14th century Timur and many parts of Centralasia were vasals of the Ming-Dynasty Emperors of China. Many times Timur had to send gifts to the Chinese governement. But Timur wanted to restore the Mongolian Empire, as he considered himself a descendor of Denghis Khan. He even wanted to conquer China. He attacked China, but became ill and died at Otrar in 1405.
Beside all the battles and destroying Timur was also a patron of arts. He brought many artists from all over Centralasia to Samarkand. Many beautiful and impressive mosques, medreses and palaces were build during his rule.
Timur is now the national hero of Uzbekistan, because his empire reached from today's Iran to Mongolia. He stands for the power and the glory of Centralasia in ancient times. Many buildings show also the art and impressive wealth of th 14th and 15th century.
Favorite thing: Sharisabz is located on a very important North-South trading route, already founded in 3rd century b.c. Under the name of Kesh it was the capital of Timur, who build many monumental and beautiful builings to make his city very impressive. Visitors, who came to Kesh from afar always admired the astonishing work of the local artists. The rests of a monumental city wall can still be seen. Later Samarkand became more important under the descendants of Timur and Shahrisabz was almost forgotten. Big earthquakes did the rest and the monumental palace was destroyed. Today Shahrisabz has about 60.000 inhabitants.
Do research on the places I have seen in Uzbekistan I am getting more and more desperate: the different spelling of names makes it hard to guess whether it is the same or not. Which is the right name in English??
Here again an example quoted from Wikipedia-org:
"Tīmūr bin Taraghay Barlas (Chagatai Turkic: تیمور - Tēmōr, "iron") (1336 – February 1405), known in the West as Tamerlane, was a 14th century warlord of Turco-Mongol descent, conqueror of much of western and central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, which survived in some form until 1857. Perhaps, he is more commonly known by his pejorative Persian name Timur-e Lang (Persian: تیمور لنگ) which translates to Timur the Lame, as he was lame after sustaining an injury to the leg in battle. After his marriage into Genghis Khan's family, he took the name Timūr Gurkānī (Persian: تيمور گوركانى), Gurkān being the Persianized form of the original Mongolian word kürügän, "son-in-law". Alternative spellings of his name are: Temur, Taimur, Timur Lenk, Timur-i Leng, Temur-e Lang, Amir Timur, Aqsaq Timur, as well as the Latinized Tamerlane and Tamburlaine. As many as 17 million people may have died from his conquests."
Fondest memory: BTW: Shahrisabz has been Kesh in ancient times...