Seat of Power and Might
Unusually, Shakhrisabz's Dorus Siadat - Seat of Power and Might - although built by Temur as a burial place for first one, then another, of his sons who predeceased him, shows little sign of the restoration that has been so evident at other buildings of this period of Uzbek history. Instead, its reddish-brown bulk, with its most untypical cone-shaped dome, shows only a trace here and there of the magnificent tiles that once covered it.
A crypt, found when a child fell into it in 1943, contains a marble casket with an inscription that indicates it was prepared for Temur to be buried here along with his sons but that was not to be. Samarkand claimed the great khan's body and the crypt's sarcophagus remained empty. A small fee slipped to the guardian used to gain the visitor access to the crypt - a little bit of private enterprise that seems to have been stopped on our most recent visit. Above the ground, the building we see today is the mausoleum of Jehangir, Temir's favourite son, who was killed by a fall from a horse when he was only 22.
The 16th century Khazretu Imam mosque in the courtyard has an attractive high pillared iwan and a distinctive silver dome, and the courtyard itself is shaded by chinor trees that were planted over 600 years ago.
What we see here today is only a remnant of Temur's building. A walk around outside the walled courtyard will reveal how large the ensemble was - low walls mark out the original form of the complex.
Respect and Consideration ....
...are the virtues extolled in the name of the Dorut Tilovat madressah, built beside the Kok Gumbaz Mosque.
Two mausolea, each topped with a small blue dome, and a reconstructed row of student cells are all that remain of the once huge medressah that stood here. The first was built in 1374 by Temur for his father's spiritual advisor and it is thought both men, father and advisor are buried here.
The other mausoleum was built by Ulug Beg for members of his family who claimed descent from the Prophet's grandson, Hussein. One of the gravestones - the Kok Tash (the Blue stone - kok is blue) has a deep groove in the top, worn into it by the thousands of parents who have poured water over the stone in the belief that the water would be infused with health-bringing magical properties that would cure their sick children. Modern scientific analysis has proved the stone's salts have medicinal qualities.
If the contemplation of learned Sufis and royal tombs palls, you'll find lots of opportunity here to shop for the ubiquitous embroidered goods that pour out of Shahrisab's Khudjum embroidery factory and small workshops. You'll also have the opportunity perhaps to watch craftsmen at work - a stone mason here, a shoemaker there.
All that remains of the huge summer palace Ak-Serai - the White Palace- that Temur built here in Shahrisabz are the remnants of two massive towers that flanked the entrance. That this was once the greatest of all his palaces is attested to by contemporary writings.
It took 25 years to build the palace and no expense was spared. . The Spanish ambassador, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, who came to Shahrisabz in 1404 on his way to Samarkand, was amazed by the splendor and grandeur of the, as yet, unfinished buildings he saw and wrote such a detailed description it's possible to get a very good idea of what it was like.
It was a huge ensemble of several state, living and service quarters, all set around separate courtyards, the largest being 120 - 125 metres wide and 240 - 250 metres long. The main portal was 70 metres high and the corner towers pedestal at least 80 metres. The main entrance portal was 50 metres wide, and the 22.5metres span of the arch was the largest in all Central Asia.
Big isn't necessarily beautiful, but this palace was by, all accounts, a masterpiece of refinement and beauty. Clavijo and others describe exquisite tiles and other decoration of an almost inconceivable luxury as well as gardens planted with both shade and fruit trees, pools and fountains and open meadows.
Now all that remains of all that splendour are the towers with their crumbling brickwork and beautiful (and, so far, unrestored) tilework of blue, white and gold - including a Kufic inscription on one of the towers that say "The Sultan is a shadow" - an incomplete (and somewhat prophetic) version of the inscription on the other tower which says "The Sultan is the Shadow of Allah". No doubt heads rolled over that!
There are steps to climb the west tower for a great view of the city.
The Koba medressah is worth checking out both for its architectural history and its modern usage.
The medresah was built in the 15th century in the traditional format of a central courtyard surrounded by khudjras (cells) for the students along each side of the square and darskhona (classrooms) on either side of the portal. Unlike the grand medressahs in Bukhara and Samarkand however, it is only a single storey. The khudjras and classrooms each have a domed ceiling and the windows are covered with lattice screens. There was no mosque, the students went to the Khodja Mirhamid mosque across the road to pray. If the medressah looks like a caravanserai it's not surprising - it was built on the site of an ancient caravanserai and follows the same foundations.
Restored about 10 years ago, the medressah is now a handcraft centre, the student cells now shops selling high quality individualistic craft items. This is the place to come to see traditional crafts given a modern twist. It was fairly early in the morning when I was there and not all the shops were open but among those that were was one selling really lovely hand embroidered bags, each one worked and finished to the highest standard. A far cry from the souvenir stuff being sold by the women down by the palace and in the courtyard of the Kok Gumtaz mosque, these were something special.
To market, to market ....
....to buy a fat pig.
Well, I doubt very much that you'll find the pig of the old nursery rhyme in Shahrisabz's bazaar but you'll find just about everything else you can possibly think of is for sale here if you come on the right day.
The first time we visited Shahrisabz it was early summer, the spring wheat was harvested, the cotton was planted, the silkworm feeding frenzy was over - there was time to relax a little and maybe spend some of the money the sale of the cocoons had put into the family purse. The market was packed and there were traders everywhere, both inside the on the street There's a description of that scene here
Mid-October, it's a different scene. Now the cotton harvest is taking every spare hand out into the fields and there's no time for more than the most essential shopping. Cradles and home improvements will have to wait, though with the cold weather of winter about to arrive a new winter chapan may be on the shopping list. As always though in these bazaars of Central Asia, there are the mounds of fruit - fresh and dried, vegetables, spices, sweets, etc. Early morning sees knives flashing as sacks of carrots are peeled and shredded for plov and salads. The smell of fresh baked bread drifts around. Out in the street, the melons are piled high and elderly couples gossip together as they sit with the last of their grape harvest spread out around them. The market opens two hours early to allow the cotton-pickers time to shop before the day's work begins. It will be dark before they get home, no time for shopping then.
A stroll through Shahrisabz
It's a pleasant walk of about 2 kilometre from Temur's palace to the Kok Gumbaz Mosque and the nearby Dorus Siadad ensemble, a short walk but one that takes you on a stroll through the town's long history. Once known as Lenin Street, the road has been renamed Ipak Yoli - Uzbek for Silk Road.
The Khodja Mirhamid mosque and medressah sits set back from the road in an attractive garden. Built in 1914, it became a chaikhana during Soviet times; now it is amedressah once more, though now it counts both girls and boys among its students who attend religious studies here.
I'm not sure what purpose the nearby pretty grey building set back in an attractive garden served - it looks secular but is quite grand - some sort of civic building presumably.
Standing opposite the Khanaka Khodja Mirhamid is the restored Koba medressah, together with the hammam (currently closed and under restoration) one of the oldest buildings in the town.
The domed brick building in the middle of the road is the 17th century Chorsu. Like the trading domes of Bukhara, and the Capmaker's bazaar in Samarkand, this building once stood at a crossroads with a portal at each of the entries to its central domed hall. These domes were always left unadorned.
The hammam is closed for now, but the usual coterie of old men gather in the chaikhana next door. Maybe it will reopen for business soon to ease old bones with a long steamy soak.
- Arts and Culture
Ulug Beg's mosque
Built by Temur's grandson, Ulug Beg, in 1435-6, Sharisabz's Kok Gumbaz mosque (kok - blue gumaz-dome) great dome has been restored to its former azure glory along with the portal and arch leading into it. The tiling here mimics the astral themes of the tiles on the Ulugh Beg medressa in Samarkand. The internal decoration of the mosque and the two mausolea nearby differs from the usual style of the era in that the largely blue and white palette of the painted and frescoed walls seems to have a strongly Chinese influence, some of it looking for all the world like scenes from a Chinese plate.
As in so many places in Uzbekistan, the effects of the dire water problems caused by cotton's insatiable thirst are evident in the damage being caused by the rising water table. On our first visit in 2005, the restoration that had been done in time to celebtrate Ulug Beg's 600th anniversary in 1994 was already quite damaged. Now, in 2009, it was being done all over again.
There is also a big covered bazaar in the center of Shahrisabz, halfway between the palace and the Mosques. It is from the 18th century. Everything can easily be accessed by foot. It is a pleasant walk around in a quiet surrounding as almost no cars go into the area between the old city walls.
- Historical Travel
Tomb of Timur
In 1437 - 1438, two years after the mosque's Gok Kumbaz construction, a burial vault (makbarat) for the descendants and members of the Timurid clan was built, by order of Ulughbek, beside the south wall of the mausoleum of Shamsiddin Kulal. Among the marble gravestones of the 15th - 17th centuries transferred to the burial vault at various times from the neighbouring cemetery, there are several examples that mention the names of the Termez Sayyids. This is the origin of the second, and later, name of the vault, the Gumbazi-Sayidon (Dome of the Sayyids). But only Dschahangir, the Sun of Timur was buried here. In a deep vault a sarcophagus can bee seen. There is a inscription saying that Timur has been burried here. But that was never. Russian Archaeologists opened the tomb and the sarcophagus in the 1940s. They found two bodies in it. But Timur himself was burried in Samarkand.
This Mausoleum is a very strange buildings with a white cone-shaped cupola. It is east of the Kok Gumbaz, called Dorussiadat (Seat of Power and Might), which contains the Tomb of Jehangir, Timur’s eldest and favorite son. The adjacent mosque is said to house the tomb of a revered 8th century imam from Iraq, Hazrat-i Imam, "Holy Imam".
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Mosque Gok Gumbas
This wonderful mosque was build in 1446 under Timur's descendat Ulughbek. The neame means "Blue Cupola". it belongs to the Doruttilovat ensemble. The Doruttilovat complex was formed after the death in 1370 - 1371 of the eminent religious leader Shamsiddin Kulal, the founder of Sufism, the spiritual mentor of Emir Taragay and of Timur himself, and the teacher of Bahauddin Naqshbandi. His grave immediately became a place of reverence for his numerous disciples. It is a nice complex with many flowers and very old trees.
On the second pic you can see the way the columns for the mosque havve been build: witha cone-shaped basis, losely connected to the column itself. That is to give it more space in case of an earthquake.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Palace Ak Saray
Ak Saray means "Wgite Palace". It has been the summerpalace of Timur. He build his palace in Shahrisabz to impress the people. Above the entry of the Ak-Saray are big letters saying: "If you challenge our power - look at our buildings!" The ruins still dominate the town. Of all the rooms and courtyards, which have been as is said full of gold and blue ornaments, only the gate has been left. The right and left part of an overwhelming big portal still have a height of 38m. But the gate must have been as high as 65m, when it was completed. The span of the arch had been 22m.
Tha palace has been destroyed early and has never been restaurated. But the big gate still gives an impression of its wealth. Sharisabz is now in the list of UNESCO World heritage.
The ruins are in the middle of a nice park with flowers and fountains.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
But who was that Timur?
Timur was one of the greatest conquerors in Central Asia. He was born in Shakhrisabz by the year 1320 from a noble family of turkish origins. In only twenty years he created one of the biggests Empires in the world from India to Russia and Anatolia establishing his capital in the mythical city of Samarkand. Brave warrior and very intelligent he had always the loyalty of his nomadic subjects and his soldiers. The tradition of the Mongol Empire, accepted by all the nomadic tribes in Central Asia, said that only descendants of Gengis Kan could become "Qan" and rule as kings. For this reason Timur never used this royal title instead of his great power and authority. He only became güregen (royal son-in-law) ,the highest title he could use,when he married a Mongol princess, descendant of Gengis Kan.
In1405 he died unexpectedly of pneumonia in Kazakhstan, where he was in the course of planning an expedition against the Chinese and was buried in Guri Amir Mausoleum in Samarqand.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
The other crypt of Timur
This crypt had to be the resting place of Timur. Very simple, the only decoration are some biographical inscriptions about Timur on the casquet of the dome and some Quoranic quotations on the arches. Why was not buried here? There are different explanations about this. One of them tells us that when Timur died during an expedition against the Chinese his people were worried about the stability of the country without him so in order to keep his death in secret for a while (his eldest son died some years before Timur) they decided to bury his body not in Shakhrisabz where he was expected to be buried (and it would be difficult to hide his death) but in Gur Amir Mausoleum in Samarqand.
- Budget Travel
The Chorsu is a market arcade. It's a round, five domed building and maybe it's a copy of another one that was built at the same place during XVth century. Like the other buildings is on Ipak Yuli Street and inside you can buy some craft gifts
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel