Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.
(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)
Shah-i-Zinda is a necropolis in Samarkand, with two dozen mausolea housing the tombs of Timurid nobles and royalty, dating mainly from the 14th and 15th centuries. The mausolea are on each side of an avenue leading up a hill. As well as being a spectacular location, it is a sacred place and a place of pilgrimage.
This is the Ulugh Beg Pishtak, the entrance gate, built in 1434-35.
This image was taken by Russian photographer N.V. Bogaevski in 1870, no doubt on a 5×4 or 10×8 glass plate camera.
Like most other historical monuments in Samarkand, Shah-i-Zinda had slowly fallen into ruin over the centuries. Timur’s successors had quickly exhausted the gains of conquest with civil wars and were no longer able to upkeep and repair. Consequently, much of the ceramic facings here are not original but are impressive nonetheless.
We are now inside the Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum, built in 1420-1425. It is the dome on the left not far past the pishtak in the historic photograph.
Qazi Zadeh Rumi was a celebrated mathematician and astronomer who formed a scientific partnership with Ulugh Beg in the early fifteenth century. His name means “Roman son of a judge” so he was presumably the son of a judge and he came from Turkey, which had been Roman. He was not buried here though because the skeleton discovered in the tomb was a woman, possibly Timur’s nurse.
Following images show interior details of the mausoleum.
The Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum has two domes and here they are, viewed from below.
Here we are in the avenue of the mausolea.
Looking back at the twin domes of the Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum.
We are looking through a chortak, or a gateway on the avenue.
The Shadi Mulk Adi Mausoleum is on the left, where the woman is leaning against a wall, probably taking a photograph on her phone of the Uzbek couple opposite.
And here we are inside the Shadi Mulk Adi Mausoleum, built in 1372, looking up at the inside of the dome. This is the tomb of Timur’s beautiful niece, later joined by his sister Turkhan Aka.
There were evidently several people buried in this mausoleum. The tilework here is original.
Alim Nasafi Mausoleum is at the front on the left and the avenue leads up through another chortak in the distance.
Ustad Alim Nasafi was a Timurid architect. I’m not sure whether he was buried here or just designed the mausoleum.
The pishtak of Alim Nasafi Mausoleum, built c. 1385.
Inside, the dome from below.
We are looking through a chortak to the Khodja Akhmad Mausoleum, built c. 1350.
A door inside the Kusam Ibn Abbas Mosque.
We are inside the ziaratkhana, or prayer room (looking up). It was rebuilt in 1334 on 11th century foundations.
A closer view of the chandelier.
A wider view of the ziaratkhana.
The gurkhana (or funeral chamber) of Kusam Ibn Abbas, dating from the 11th century, is behind a wooden door at the left but this was not open at the time of our visit.
This gurkhana is the most sacred part of Shah-i-Zinda. Kusam Ibn Abbas was a cousin of Mohammed. He is said to have come to preach at Samarkand in 640 and spent thirteen years there, then was killed by Zoroastrians while at prayer. Shah-i-Zinda means “the living king” which refers to Kusam Ibn Abbas, who is said to have lived on after he was executed.
A more vertical view of the ziaratkhana.
A view looking back through the last chortak. The Octagonal Mausoleum is on the left and the blue pishtaks of Emir Zade Mausoleum and Shadi Mulk Aka Mausoleum are behind it.
The remaining four images are from the Tuman Aka Mausoleum, constructed in 1404-1405 for Timur’s favourite young wife Tuman Aka.