Sightseeing in Uzbekistan
The Uzbek city of Samarkand, whose city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its magnificent buildings that impressively embody the Islamic architecture of the late Middle Ages.
Just a few hundred meters from the Registan Ensemble, which is known far beyond the borders of Uzbekistan, is the Gur-Emir mausoleum, another important architectural monument of that time, which attracts special attention with its blue, ribbed dome.
Burial place of the rulers from the Timurid dynasty
In the position of an emir, the ruler Timur, who came from a Mongolian nomadic tribe, stood out as a military leader in Central Asia on the one hand through a special brutality and on the other hand through his understanding of art. Towards the end of the 14th century, for example, he commissioned the construction of a mausoleum for his favorite grandson. However, this fell in a battle about three years before the completion of the building, which was inaugurated only a few weeks before Timur’s death in February 1405.
It served as the tomb of Timur himself and of other rulers who died later, who came from the Timurid dynasty founded by Timur.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Samarkand lost its previous importance, which among other things also led to the deterioration of many of its important buildings. Comprehensive restoration work did not begin until after the end of the Second World War.
Architecture and interior
Study trips to Central Asia increasingly lead to Uzbekistan again, where visits to ancient cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva and their grandiose buildings have become an integral part of the travel programs.
The Gur-Emir mausoleum welcomes the visitor with a main portal about 12 meters high. There is a clear view of the inner courtyard, behind which the actual mausoleum rises up against a second portal. Two of the four originally preserved decorative minarets flank the mausoleum, the substructure of which, like the columns of the minarets, is clad with mosaics.
The octagonal substructure carries the drum on which the dome shell rests, which consists of 64 ribs corresponding to the years of Muhammad’s life. These are clad with glazed turquoise and cobalt-colored tiles, which, depending on the time of day and the incident light from the dome, provide their blue color nuances.
In the splendidly decorated interior of the tomb, it is noticeable that the inner dome differs considerably in shape and height from the outer one. This is due to the fact that the second inner dome is much smaller, so that there is an invisible cavity between the two domes, which was used to stabilize the overall construction.
The interior itself is covered with lavishly painted Persian wallpaper. On the floor are the mock graves, which symbolize the tombs of the Timurids. A crypt located under the main room is accessible from outside the mausoleum.
Registan and Sha-i-Zinda
When on vacation in Uzbekistan and especially in the local city of Samarkand, Registan and Sha-i-Zinda are two fascinating excursion destinations that should not be missed on such a trip. Registan, which translates as a somewhat sandy place, is in fact a place where an ensemble of three madrasas unites to form an enchanting sight. A madrasah is a school for the training of Muslim clergy. In detail, the three objects of Registans are the Ulugbek Madrasah, the Sher-Dor Madrasah and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah. The Ulugbek madrasah impresses with a large portal and very high minarets. The courtyard of this madrasah contains classrooms, rooms and a mosque. The Sher-Dor madrasah is particularly impressive because of its symmetry, which was used very purposefully and for that reason is one of the most important architectural buildings in Samarkand. The Tilya-Kori madrasah completes the ensemble and not only serves to educate the clergy, but was also the most important mosque in the country for a long time. The highly gilded hall of the mosque is particularly impressive.
Sha-i-Zinda in the northeast of Samarkand opens up a view of numerous mausoleums and is one of the most famous tombs in Central Asia. Sha-i-Zinda literally means something like The Living King. According to a legend, Kusam ibn Abbas, cousin of the Prophet Mohammed, came to Samarkand to spread Islam, for which he was beheaded. He is said to have disappeared with his head into a well, where he is said to still live to this day. The oldest of the 20 buildings belonging to Sha-i-Zinda date from the 11th and 12th centuries, but can only be recognized today as foundations or by their tombstones. The main part is the Kussam-ibn-Abbas complex in the northeast. Particularly noteworthy here are the 16-century mosque.