Timur's dynasty (web only)

| May 15, 2020

The size and ambition of the Bibi Khanum Mosque are breathtaking. Constructed by Timur to be the most impressive building in his dominions, and built in honour of one of his wives, it was not only enormous but also spectacularly decorated. The size of the building hugely stretched construction techniques at the time, and the building began to crumble almost before it was completed. Earthquakes compounded the problem, and by the start of the 20th century people were no longer praying there for fear of being hit by falling masonry. However, an extensive programme of restoration is under way, and much of the mosque has been restored to its former glory. It is still, 600 years after it was built, one of the largest mosques in the world.

The Gur Emir Mausoleum marks the final resting place of several members of the Timurid dynasty, including Timur himself. Originally built to house the body of his son, Mohammed Sultan, Timur was also interred here because at the time of his death the passes to Shahrisabz, where he wanted to be buried, were closed by the winter snows. The cenotaph over his grave was a huge, single slab of jade, the largest in the world at the time. It is now two pieces cemented together - a Persian invader, Nadir Shah, tried to carry it off, but it split, so he returned it fearing bad luck. There is a story that after his death, Timur carved on the underside of the slab an epitaph to the effect that should he be disturbed in his grave, terrible things would happen. In June 1941, a Soviet anthropologist entered the crypt and exhumed his body; the next day Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

Other sites you will visit in Samarkand include the remains of an enormous observatory built by Timur's grandson, Ulug Bek, a street of tombs with some of the best examples of traditional tile work in the region, a carpet factory and a local craftsman's family.

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