Temur, Timur, Tamerlane - what ever name he is known by, was a colossus of history, known and feared by what, in his time, was truly half the world. His gigantic figure strides across Uzbekistan's history, almost as much today as in his lifetime as the present government has rehabilitated him from a brutal and ruthless conqueror to a charismatic and benevolent ruler, a local hero of almost mythological proportions to replace the heroes of the Soviet era who held sway for most of the last century.
Born in Shahrisabz in 1336, he made Samarkand his capital but built his summer palace in the town of his birth, no doubt to enjoy the cooler climate and the good hunting in the valleys and forests in the nearby Pamir foothills. Not that he can have spent much time there - successive campaigns saw his armies conquer lands as far away as Moscow and Delhi, Baghdad and Constantinople. During his reign, Samarkand , already a beautiful and important city on the Silk Route, began to acquire the mosques and madrassas that still bring glory to its name but with his death his great empire began to shrink almost immediately. Within 50 years his lands had fallen to the Turk and his great-grandson, Babur, had fled to India to become the first of the Mughal rulers there.
Temur's statue has replaced those of Lenin and Marx as Uzbekistan reclaims its own proud history and museums dedicated to him have been established in Tashkent and Shahrisabz. In Tahkent he sits astride a horse , arm raised - perhaps to exhort his men to follow him. In Samarkand he sits upon a throne, a stern but wise and benevolent ruler. In Shahrisabz he stands rather awkwardly. Appparently, when the statue was first erected he brandished a sword but that was deemed too aggressive and the sword was removed to be replaced by what, to all intents and purposes, looks like a towel - very odd!
Intending to be buried near two of his sons who predeceased him and who were buried in Shahrisabz, he had a tomb constructed, carved with his name and placed in a crypt below the his sons' mausoleum. When he died in 1405 in Kazakhstan, it was winter, the passes to Shahrisabz were closed and so his body stayed in Samarkand.
October is "wedding season" in Uzbekistan - the harvest is over, there's time to celebrate - and celebrate they do. Three days or more of ceremony and celebration are the norm, wealthy families may take a week.
Of all the ceremonies of family life Nikokh - marriage - is the most important, for the couple and their families. Family is the fulcrum around which Uzbek life revolves and marriage is seen as the birth of a new family - a cause for real celebration.
The first day is the day for the civil ceremony at the local wedding palace and the ritual parade around a local monument. Shahrisabz's monument of choice for bridal parties is the huge statue of Temur that dominates the park at the top end of town. This is the day for western-style white - a little girl's fantasy come true of lace and crinolines. And the brides are not much more than little girls themselves - 17 is the legal age for marriage for girls and 18 for boys but dispensation can be granted for both bride and groom to be a year younger. A big, and loud, party follows the parade - and then the bride goes home with her parents - maybe that's why all the young couples we saw looked downcast as they wandered along surrounded by friends and family.
The following days are the time for the Uzbek traditions - and the elaborate velvet and gold robes and square white hats seen in the bazaars. Fotikha - toi (a ceremony of prayers for the future) comes first. Kiz - oshi ( a meal for the women) and kuyov - nakhori (for the men) follow after which the groom and his friends come for the bride. Time-honoured symbolic rituals invoke blessings and good luck on the couple.
The new bride will wear her white wedding hat for the first year of her married life whenever she leaves the house
I don't know why but the favourite place for wedding photos in Shakhrisabz is in front of the Timur statue. I saw five different weddings (one next to the other) taking pictures at the same time so you can immagine the pictures...
The chaikhana or teashop is like a men's club where they can meet to drink tea and talk about their things. Usually shaded, people sitting in a takhta (like a bed with cushins around and a low table in the middle) is a central asia's institution. On the right side of Ipak Yuli St. there are some shaded areas with two or three chaikhanas full of people (it seems all the men of this village are here!)