Sher-Dor Madrasah, Samarkand
The decoration on the portal of the Sher Dor medressa poses perhaps the greatest puzzle of anything you will see in Uzbekistan. That it should feature not only animals ( tiger-like beasts that are referred to as lions - the do have manes of a sort, and small white deer) is odd enough, given the Islamic taboo on figurative art, but it is the sun-rayed white faces on the lion/tigers' backs that are the real enigma. They obviously refer back to Uzbekistan's Zoroastrian past but why they should have reappeared almost a thousand years after the arrival and domination of Islam is a mystery.
Birds and animals appear on a few other buildings of the time, both here in Samarkand and in Bukhara, but these sun-heads are quite unique.
When standing with your back to Medrese Ulughbek you see the famous fassade of Medrese Schir Dor. This almost looks as if it mirrors Medresse Ulughbek. But it was build almost 200 yeras later (1611 - 1636).
The most impressive details are the two white tigers hunting deer, which build the ornaments of the fassade. They are a great exception in Islamic art, as it is said, that Islamic art does not show pictures of living beings. Very strange also: a face like a sun seems to come out of the back of the tigers. The tiger and the faces symbolize the ruler and his power. It seems, that the original reason for this decoration is still a miracle. But anyway: it is very beautiful and impressive. Also the cupolas with their blue tiles glazing in the sunlight are very beautiful. Their shape is called "melonshape".
After seeing lots of madrasah, mausoleums and minarets, listening to hundreds of names and datas and walking under the sun, take your time to relax in the shadow, chat with friends and do some shopping. Here you'll find lots of craftshops: pottery, satin scarfs, t-shirts, jewllery....
These courtyards of Madrasahs are like little oasis...
The tympan in portal arch of madrasah is especially interesting: human face, radiant oval of Sun and a figure of the tiger snatching on a fallow deer. That was against all Islamic prohibitions that prohibit the depiction of live animals. The tigers mean the people who study in this medrasah, that try to catch the KNOWLEDGE and the WISDOM represented by the sun
Sher-Dor Madrasah was constructed in 1619-1636 as a "mirror architectural reflection" of Ulugbek's Madrasah. On the side of the main portal are located ridge domes on the high reels, towering above a two storied facade.
The tympan in portal arch of madrasah is especially interesting: human face, radiant oval of Sun and a figure of the tiger snatching on a fallow deer. Hence it follows the name "Sher-Dor" that means "tigers having"
The rich colored finishing and the depiction of sun, lion (tiger) and antelope tell of a different approach to artistic expression, unique in the islamic world. The construction is also remarkable for its wall painting using "kundal" techniques with rich gilding of the main Mosque's inside walls.