Ak Saray, Samarkand

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.

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At the end of a long day (as per the previous four posts) we had some free time in the late afternoon so we decided to go for a walk near our hotel, which was also near Gur Emir (Timur’s mausoleum).

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In the park opposite the hotel, this is the Rukhabad Mausoleum, built by Timur in 1380 to house the grave of Islamic theologian Sheikh Burhaneddin Sagaradzhi.  The mausoleum is generally plain and unassuming, as is the interior.

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Here from a distance is the top of Gur Emir, Timur’s mausoleum, as we approach.

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(See earlier post for more on Gur Emir).

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Late in the afternoon, just before closing time, there were few people around, just a few locals passing by.

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Not far away is a mausoleum with a simple exterior.  I was not aware of this and an attendant called us inside as we passed by.

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The interior was spectacular and elegant and a great surprise.

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The exterior was supposed to include a turquoise dome but that was never finished.

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It has been very recently restored, in 2007.

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It is the mausoleum of Abdal-Latif Mirzu, sone of Ulugh Beg and geat grandson of Timur.

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Timur’s death lead to a civil war, which his son Shah Rukh won after several years.  He based himself in Herat and let his son Ulugh Beg rule Samarkand.  Ulugh Beg’s great achievements were as Crown Prince and ruler of Samarkand.

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Looking up….

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When Shah Rukh died, another series of civil wars broke out. Ulugh Beg spent his three years as Emperor fighting them.

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In 1449, he was defeated by his son Abdal-Latif Mirza.  He surrendered and then set off on a pilgrimage to Mecca but his son had him assassinated on the way.

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When Soviet scientist Gerasimov disinterred Timur in 1941, he also disinterred Ulugh Beg who lay with his head separated from his body.

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Abdal-Latif Mirza ruled for only six months before he too was executed.

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The magnificence of the mausoleum lives on….

We were very lucky to visit so late in the afternoon because we were the only visitors and it is quite small.

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This section said to represent the eyes and head of a bird.

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The steps to the undecorated funeral chamber below.  A body was discovered here with the head separated, presumably Abdal-Latif Mirza.

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Walking back to the hotel, we were able to enter Gur Emir (Timur’s mausoleum) in the last few minutes before it closed, free of the seething crowds.  This is the main chamber.

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I still have a few posts to go on Samarkand but they will have to wait as I am soon expecting to depart of a short trip to North Queensland, unless COVID lockdowns intervene.  More on that soon.

 

Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.

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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.

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This is the Ulugh Beg Pishtak, the entrance gate, built in 1434-35.

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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.

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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.

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The Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum has two domes and here they are, viewed from below.

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Here we are in the avenue of the mausolea.

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Looking back at the twin domes of the Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum.

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We are looking through a chortak, or a gateway on the avenue.

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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.

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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.

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There were evidently several people buried in this mausoleum.  The tilework here is original.

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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.

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The pishtak of Alim Nasafi Mausoleum, built c. 1385.

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Inside, the dome from below.

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We are looking through a chortak to the Khodja Akhmad Mausoleum, built c. 1350.

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A door inside the Kusam Ibn Abbas Mosque.

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We are inside the ziaratkhana, or prayer room (looking up).  It was rebuilt in 1334 on 11th century foundations.

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A closer view of the chandelier.

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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.

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A more vertical view of the ziaratkhana.

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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.

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The remaining four images are from the Tuman Aka Mausoleum, constructed in 1404-1405 for Timur’s favourite young wife Tuman Aka.

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Bibi Khanum Mosque, Samarkand

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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This is the pishtak (or portal) as viewed from the side.  It is 35 meters (115 feet) high, enclosing an arch 18 metres (60 feet high).  I don’t have an image of the pishtak from the front as we didn’t approach it from that direction.  Behind that entrance as you walk through it (i.e. off beyond the left side of this image) there is a large open space and then the Bibi Khanum Mosque.  There are two small mosques on each side and it is all enclosed by an outer wall. There was also a considerable enclosed area between the open space and the enclosing walls, though this is now gone.

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This is a seismically active area and here we may be looking at the handiwork of the earthquake of 1897.

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Pishtak, minaret and wall.

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Looking up at the top of that minaret.

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The top of another of the minarets.  I’m not sure which one.  There are four.

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This is the dome of one of the side mosques, seen from its rear. We must have entered to the left of here somewhere.  There were several periods of reconstruction though none in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.  You can see that much of the door is below ground level.  This is not the original wall; that presumably matched the door and the surrounding ground level has raised significantly, perhaps due to sand blowing in from the desert.

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Detail of Majolica tiles on a wall.

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A very elaborately carved panel or doorway.

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Looking up at the dome of the one of the minor mosques at the sides.

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The top of the dome of one of the minor mosques.  I don’t recall climbing up there for a closer view so my guess is that this was taken from the ground with a telephoto lens.  I will probably not recoil from this hypothesis even if someone can produce a photograph of me with my camera on top of the dome.

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This is the dome of Bibi Khanum Mosque, from a distance. 

The mosque is the largest in Central Asia and was easily the tallest building in Samarkand until the twentieth century.  Construction started in 1399, using plunder from the capture of Delhi in 1398.  In 1404 Timur decided the main pishtak was not high enough, ordered it torn down and rebuilt and executed those who had been overseeing the construction.  He took charge of the construction himself and directed it to proceed in all haste.  Construction stopped in 1405, the year he died.  By then, bricks were already falling from the ceiling onto the worshippers.  The structure slowly deteriorated due to some combination of construction haste, insecure foundations, poor materials and inadequate engineering.  Ineffectual efforts to maintain it were made until the seventeenth century. Then it was slowly stripped of marble and other valuable materials by locals for their buildings.

The Mosque is generally said to have been named in honour of Timur’s favourite wife, Saray Mulk Khanum though it is also possible it was named for her mother.

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A detail of the dome’s tiles.

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Details of majolica tiles and brickwork, probably from the vicinity of the main mosque.

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In the background is the rear of the pishtak or entrance arch for the Bibi Khanum Mosque (as distinct from the pishtak for the whole complex).  In the foreground is a Koran stand for a massive ancient Koran, donated by Ulugh Beg, that originally stood inside the mosque. That Koran was appropriated to St Petersburg by the Russians in the nineteenth century and restored by the Russians in the twentieth century, though not to the now-ruined mosque here.

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And here is a view of the pishtak from straight in front.

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We saw the spectacular magnificence of the mosque in the Ulugh Beg Madrassah in the Registan in the last post, and of Gur Emir (Timur’s Mausoleum) in the post before.  This is the interior of the Bibi Khanum Mosque which is not quite in such a high state or restoration and preservation.  More like a renovator’s delight.  There are some tile fragments stacked on the floor at left and centre.

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Here on the left is Bibi Khanum Mosque and its pishtak; one of the side mosques is in the background.

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This is an image taken by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in 1905, showing damage to Bibi Khanum Mosque, still unrepaired since the earthquake of 1897. This an early colour process, combining three images taken through red, blue and green filters, probably taken on glass plates.  This is why there are a few people in the foreground who have moved and appear as different coloured shapes.

The Soviets started the repair of the mosque but most was done by the independent Uzbek government since 1991.

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I wasn’t going to include this image but the lone figure gives a good sense of scale.

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Here is a side mosque from the archway of the main mosque.  You can see a corner of the central open area, large enough to hold ten thousand people, and originally paved in marble. 

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Jools is photographing that same side mosque from the other side.  You can see here the extent of the enclosed spaces that lay between the open courtyard and the wall.

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The Registan, Samarkand

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.

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As we turned up at the Registan, there was a wedding party having their photo taken.

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This is the Registan without a wedding event in front.  Ulugh Beg Madrassah is on the left, Tillya-Kari Madrassah in the centre and Shir Dor Madrassah on the right.  Samarkand was the capital of Timur’s empire.  The Registan was the ceremonial heart of Samarkand and was the place for markets, public announcements, military parades and public executions.  It was in a state of ruin at the end of the nineteenth century and restored primarily by the Soviets, who pieced together all the shattered debris lying on the ground.

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The dome of the mosque that is incorporated into the Ulugh Beg Madrassah.

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One of the domes of the Shir Dor Madrassah.

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Ulugh Beg Madrassah is on the left, Tillya-Kari Madrassah on the right.  Ulugh Beg Madrassah is the oldest of the three, built 1417 to 1420 when Ulugh Beg was Crown Prince, resident in Samarkand, while his father Shah Rukh ruled the empire from Herat (in what is now Afghanistan).  Other buildings in the square at the time fell into disrepair and were later replaced.

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Tillya-Kari Madrassah was the last of the three, built between 1646 and 1660.  The name means “gilded” and we will later see something of the interior of the mosque, featuring much gold leaf.

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Meanwhile, though, here are some images from the markets inside the courtyard of the Ulugh Beg Madrassah.

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The young woman’s backpack says “Golden Eagle/ Trans-Siberian Express”.

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Coming out of the Ulugh Beg Madrassah now, and looking across at the Shir Dor Madrassah, built between 1619 and 1636.  While public Islamic architectural art is usually abstract, we see here some of the more figurative elements that crept in in the seventeenth century.  Above the entrance arch are two tigers, each chasing a deer, and carrying anthropomorphic suns on their backs.

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This is the entrance steps of the Ulugh Beg Madrassah, which we are now heading into.

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Through into the interior courtyard, we are now heading into the mosque.

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First we have some details of the decorations…

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This is a closer view of the previous image.

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And now we get to wider views of the interior of the mosque, in all its gilded magnificence.

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This is not a tourist walking by, rather an official or attendant.

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On the left is the entrance to the mosque and on the right the minbar, where the imam climbs up to give an address.

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Painted rather than gilded, not sure if this is in the mosque or on the way out.

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Out in the open again, looking across at the Ulugh Beg Madrassah with the Tillya-Kari Madrassah on the right.

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Ulugh Beg Madrassah.

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One of the small corner turrets of the Tillya-Kari Madrassah.

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A detail of one of the domes of the Shir Dor Madrassah.

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A wider view.

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Now inside the Shir Dor Madrassah,  looking up inside one of those domes.

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Carpet weavers.

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Top of a portal in the interior courtyard of the the Shir Dor Madrassah.

. Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Registan, Samarkand, Shir Dor Madrassah, Street photography, Tillya-Kari Madrassah, Travel, Ulugh Beg Madrassah, Uzbekistan

Markets in the interior courtyard of the Shir Dor Madrassah.

. Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Registan, Samarkand, Shir Dor Madrassah, Street photography, Tillya-Kari Madrassah, Travel, Ulugh Beg Madrassah, Uzbekistan .

. Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Registan, Samarkand, Shir Dor Madrassah, Street photography, Tillya-Kari Madrassah, Travel, Ulugh Beg Madrassah, Uzbekistan

Final image, out in the open again.

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Gur Emir (Timur’s Mausoleum in Samarkand)

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

This is Gur Emir, Timur’s (Tamerlane’s) mausoleum in Samarkand.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

People are walking in through the massive entrance gate at left in the previous image.

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Looking up.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

Another view looking through the gateway, with massive perspective distortion and strange cropping from a “corrected” view through an ultrawide lens.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

The old doors are always impressive.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

We have walked through the entrance arch, then through the entrance of the building, and are now in the internal courtyard.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking up at an archway, maybe facing back the way we came.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

This is Timur’s empire at the time of his death in 1405.  He was also known as Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) because of a limp caused by fused leg bones due to an early arrow wound and he lost a couple of fingers of his right hand at the same time due to another arrow.  He was undefeated in battle but his empire did not long outlast him.  This is because his aim was conquest and the glorification of himself, Samarkand and Kesh, rather than establishing viable administrations in the conquered territories.

He was highly intelligent and cultured and devoted to the arts and science.  Conversely, he ruthlessly wiped out cities and peoples who opposed him and is said to be responsible for the deaths of seventeen million people.  Consequently, he is seen in retrospect as a hero in Central Asia, but in the further reaches of his empire and beyond as a tyrant.  The devastation he wrought made it difficult for successor states to recover and it also compromised the operation of Silk Road.

The Ming Dynasty had overthrown the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in 1368.  Timur saw himself as a successor of Genghis Khan.  He died in 1405 at the age of sixty-nine, just north of Samarkand, heading towards China with an invasion army of 200,000, intending to also meet up with the remnants of Yuan forces.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

We are inside the mausoleum now, looking up.

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Many of the surfaces are covered in gold leaf.

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These are details, picked out with a long telephoto lens.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

The next series of images are looking up or across with ultrawide lenses, mostly a fisheye (and may be partly corrected).

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

They are all exposure bracketed, each combining four to six images at different exposures, with an extreme contrast range.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

It was also very difficult getting a clear overall view, as the mausoleum was filled with people.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

At last the crowd cleared a little.  There are seven marble tombs encircling a jade one, once the largest piece of jade in the world.  They are place holders for the actual tombs in a chamber below.  As well as for Timur, they are for his grandson Mohammed Sultan, Timur’s heir who pre-deceased him, another distinguished successor and grandson, Ulugh Beg, and several of his sons.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

One last detail of the interior….

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

Now outside, out the back.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

You can see that there are parts of the mausoleum that have not been restored.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking up at the top of a tower.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

This merchandise area was out the back somewhere.

. Architecture, Ceramics, Gur Emir, History, Landscape, Mausoleum, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Timur, Travel, Uzbekistan

A last view from the front, but the other side to the first image.  At the left you can see the foundations of the madrassah and khanagha (dervish hostel) that were built here prior to the mausoleum.

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Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Bukhara

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

(This post is out of sequence.  It should have been the second last post for Bukhara).

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Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

The first thing that struck me when arriving at Sitorai Mohkli-Khosa Palace were the near perfect reflections in a pool. 

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan .

.Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

And here is a wider view of the source of the reflections.

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Sitorai Mohkli-Khosa Palace is the Summer Palace for the Emir, originally outside Bukhara but now on the outskirts.  It was built three times by the last three Emirs and the surviving version dates from 1912 to 1918.  It was built using Russian engineers and traditional Bukharan craftsmen, in a sometimes strange mix of traditional Bukhara and early 20th century architecture.

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Courtyard ceiling decoration.

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The small “minaret” has a very realistic depiction of a pigeon on top.  It even moves and flies away.

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Eurasian magpie (unrelated to Australian magpie).

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan . Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

The Russian engineers and architects were from St Petersberg.  The last Emir used to frequently visit there on his own private train.  He had attended military school there and sent his son to the same school.  The is the White Hall.  I would presume it was inspired by the Winter Palace of Peter the Great, in turn inspired by Louis XIV’s Versailles (including the Hall of Mirrors) which was in turn inspired by Vaux-le-Vicomte of Nicolas Focquet (and this last one possibly more impressive than the other two).

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

The last two Emirs of Bukhara.  Said ‘Abd al-Ahad Khan (1885-1911) on the left and Said Mir Muhammad Alim Khan (1911-1920) on the right.

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

Stepping back a bit…

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The Emir’s collection of Chinese Vases.

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan … and the ceiling above…

.Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

Outside in the courtyard.

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Historical costumes on Bukhara on the nineteenth century.

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Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

There were some impressive wall niches.

.Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

(I tried to have these appear on this page side by side by was defeated by WordPress formatting).

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Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

Maybe an earthquake; maybe just the building shifting…

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Architecture,

Outfits of the Emir.

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Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

This is the building for the Harem.  Mind you, there were 400 in the Harem, so they can’t all have lived here.  When the Bolsheviks turned up in 1920 and the Emir fled to Afghanistan, the women of the harem were paired off with soldiers.

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

Nowadays the building is a textile museum for suzanis from Urgut and Shahrisabz.

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan . Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan . Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan . Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan . Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan . Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan .Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Embroidery, Harem, History, Landscape, Photography, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Street photography, Suzani, Textiles, Travel, Uzbekistan

A curiously ornate drainpipe at the harem.

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Next, Samarkand….

 

Ak Seray Palace

Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan, 2 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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In the distance, about a kilometre away, is what is left of Timur’s Ak Saray Palace. 

In the middle is a statue of Timur (Tamerlane), who was born here and was local governor at the age of 25.  Behind Timur you can see what appears to be two tall buildings.  They are the remains of the monumental entrance arch and reach only about half of the original height (!).  Beyond that is the top of a section of the city wall.  

I used a very long telephoto, the full-frame equivalent of 525mm and also cropped a little.  Perspective compression means Timur’s statue appears much closer to the background structures than it really is.  The city wall is also further away from the remains of the arch than it seems.

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In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
 
(from Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

There is now little to see of Kublai Khan’s summer capital of Shangdu (Xanadu) in Inner Mongolia, visited by Marco Polo in 1275 and described by him in 1300, because remaining materials were pillaged for buildings in a nearby town. The “pleasure dome” Coleridge refers to was a portable bamboo construction and there was also a richly decorated marble palace. This was all on a grand scale but it is an open question how well Shangdu in its prime would have compared with Timur’s Ak Saray Palace in Shakhrisabz in its prime.

Come to think of it, Timur claimed kinship to Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan.  (To be precise, he claimed his great x8 grandfather was Genghis’s great x3 grandfather and Kublai’s great x5 grandfather).  Timur had quite conceivably read about Shangdu which was sacked by the Ming Army only a year before the start of his reign.  He may therefore have had a specific aim to outdo Shangdu.  He did want Ak Seray to be the greatest palace of all time and it was on a much grander scale than anything he created in his capital city, Samarkand.

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We didn’t actually walk that kilometre down to the remnants of the arch; instead we drove down and are now walking towards it from the other side.  This is taken with a wide angle lens, the full-frame equivalent of 21mm, and I’m much closer than the previous image, so the perspective is quite different.  You may need to click on the image to see it larger, but the statue of Timur is still in view though now appears much smaller and further away, and in the distant middle right is the blue dome of the Kok-Gumbaz Mosque, near where I took the previous image.

The surviving towers are 38 metres high and you can just see the start of the curve of the inner arch.  That’s impressive enough, but the original interior arch was 70 metres high and the towers were 80 metres high.  That’s equivalent to a 25-story building.  Beyond that, just the inner courtyard was 125 metres wide and 250 metres long. The buildings on each side were two stories high and faced with blue, gold and green tiles and at the end was the grand reception hall.  The palace is likely to have included “a mosque, a courtyard for public audiences, a courtyard for private audiences, Amir Temur’s private quarters, a courtyard and a garden of Harem, a sauna, a courtyard with a library and a school, a farmyard with stables, buildings for guards and a kitchen“.

Construction started in 1380 using 50,000 involuntary workers.  The arch was finished in 1395 but the palace wasn’t entirely finished in 1404 when Castillian ambassador Ruy Clavijo visited.  If the decorations were as sublime as in the mausoleum of Shamsidden Kulol that we saw in the previous post, built by Timur from 1373 to 1374,  then it would have been impressive indeed.

The space between the two pillars looks wide and open, for anyone to walk through, but that’s not how it would have been.  Obviously, it would have been possible to restrict entry though events on a massive scale would also have occurred.  There was a wall around the palace as well as another around the city, and there would have been a gate under the arch and much of that space would have been enclosed.  Apart from what remains, the palace was destroyed by Abdullah Khan, ruler of Bukhara, at the end of the sixteenth century.  

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With a very long telephoto lens, I took photographs of details of the tiling on the pillars as I was walking in.  These decorations are unreconstructed, as efforts so far have focused on ensuring structural integrity.

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There are even some residents….

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Here we have Timur, in the middle of his largely vanished palace, staring out and contemplating how little remains.  It reminds me perhaps of this image of Lenin at Pyramiden from this post, or perhaps this image of a moai contemplating the environmental costs of mankind at Easter Island as described in this post.

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Perhaps this is the image where we may really get a feel for the monumental scale of what remains of the entrance arch and by inference of the palace that once lay beyond.

There is an inscription on the remains of the arch “If you challenge our power – look at our buildings!”.   Though there is no mighty head lying around, this is in turn somewhat reminiscent of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias:

…”And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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There’s not much left of some of the tiles.

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One last look at the remains of the lower half of the entrance arch from a different angle.

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And here is a glimpse of the city walls, very little of which remains, unlike Khiva.

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We continue on our journey to Samarkand, 80 kilometres to the north.

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There is a spring beside the road.

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I don’t remember the details but I recall there’s something sacred or legendary about the water here.

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And a small market at roadside in a mountain pass….

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… and from here we travelled on further towards Samarkand….

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In the next post I was about to segue seamlessly to Timur’s mausoleum in Samarkand but I have discovered a post from Bukhara I forgot to publish, so that will come first.

Kesh, Sogdia, Timur and a Sufi

Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan, 2 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Architecture, Ceramics, Dor-us Siyodat, Dor-ut Tilovat, History, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Shakhrisabz, Street photography, Travel

Walking past the twin domes of the mausolea at Dor-ut Tilovat.

Shakhrisabz is one of the oldest cities of Central Asia, at more than 2,700 years old.  It was called Kesh and was one of the capital cities of Sogdia (or Sugd), and Kesh was the capital city of all Sogdia at some times.   Sogdia, though, was more a loose confederation of cities than a centralised state.  In terms of current borders, it was in Eastern Uzbekistan and Western Tajikistan, with some encroachment into Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.   Other Sogdian Capitals were Buhkara, Afraysiab (now Samarkand, which we will visit next) and Khujand in Tajikistan.

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Walking towards Dor-us Siyodat.

Sogdia was independent during the first half of the first millennium BC until it was conquered by the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great around 540BC.  It was then independent again from about 400BC, when it freed itself from the weaker reign of Ataxerxes II.  This was at the time of the unsuccessful rebellion of his brother Cyrus the Younger, who died in a battle that he otherwise would have won.  Greek historian Xenophon, one of the leaders of the ten thousand Greeks that supported Cyrus, wrote Anabasis, an account of the battle and the subsequent story of the Greeks fighting their way back to Greece.  Egypt revolted at the same time and the last native dynasties retained independence for nearly 60 years (Persia had occupied Egypt since 525BC).  Ataxerxes was probably too busy unsuccessfully trying to retake Egypt, dealing with the later Satrap’s Revolt, and interfering in the conflicts of Greek city-states to focus on retaking Sogdia.

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Walking through the gardens, no doubt to an ancient plan but recently planted.  Gardens are always an essential part of Islamic public architecture.

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Alexander the Great then conquered Sogdia in 327 BC.  At this time, the last Archmaenid Emperor, Darius III is said to have been murdered near Kesh, retreating to the edge of his empire after military defeat.   Alexander’s famous paramour Roxane was also a Sogdian princess.  Sogdia became part of a succession of various empires, including Selucid, Greco-Bactrian, Kushan, Hephalite and Sasanian.  It still retained its identity and culture. 

. Architecture, Ceramics, Dor-us Siyodat, Dor-ut Tilovat, History, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Shakhrisabz, Street photography, Travel

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The birth of Sogdia was also associated with the formation of the Zoroastrian religion but Sogdia came to be an area of religious tolerance, also allowing Buddhism, Manichaeism, Judaism and Nestorian Christianity until Islam slowly took over from the eighth century AD.

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Loquats.

The Sogdians were also great traders, travelling the Silk Road from China to Byzantium and becoming prosperous as a consequence.  In 128BC, in the declining days of the Greco-Bactrian Empire, the Chinese succeeding in pushing through to Sogdia and successfully besieged the capital Alexandria Eschate (Fergana Valley, present-day Uzbekistan). They were after larger more robust horses so they could successfully combat and defeat the Xiongnu Khanate, a massive Mongolian empire of the ancestors of the Huns. This helped to open up the Silk Road, including for Sogdian participation.

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Architecture, Ceramics, Dor-us Siyodat, Dor-ut Tilovat, History, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Shakhrisabz, Street photography, Travel

Eurasian magpie.

The Han dynasty did not remain in the area for long but in the first half of the eighth century AD, the Tang dynasty had expanded so it was bordering on Sogdia.  However in 751 they were defeated by the Abbasid Caliphate (Persian-based Moslems).  Then in 755 came the An Lushan Rebellion which ultimately failed but hugely weakened Tang China. There had been a significant Sogdian community in China for many years, including some in influential positions.  But because An Lushan was part Sogdian, a Sogdian identity became less politic and they blended into the general population.

.Architecture, Ceramics, Dor-us Siyodat, Dor-ut Tilovat, History, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Shakhrisabz, Street photography, Travel

A corner of Dor-us Siyodat.

While Sogdians were of Iranian origin, the Uzbeks are Turkic, so Sogdia gradually faded away after the Islamic takeover and the current inhabitants of Shakhrisabz are not Sogdian and do not speak a Sogdian language.  However, over the border in Tajikistan, Sogdians survive in the form of the Yaghnobi people in the Sugh Province, who also speak a language descended from Sogdian.

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Khazret Imam Mosque on the right (a working mosque we did not visit).

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Dor-us Siyodat, or the mausoleum of Timur’s eldest son Jakhongir.

All the buildings we will see are from much later than Sogdian times.   Shakhrisabz was the birthplace of Timur the Great (Tamerlane).  He had magnificent building projects here and for a while considered making it his capital.  So the buildings are from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. 

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Looking up inside the mausoleum.

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This image and the next are probably details of the same door.

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This was to be Timur’s tomb.  He wanted something small and simple but his successors gave him instead the magnificence of Gur-Emir in Samarkand (coming up, in a while).  He was never interred in this sarcophagus.

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Architecture, Ceramics, Dor-us Siyodat, Dor-ut Tilovat, History, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Shakhrisabz, Street photography, Travel

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Dor-us Siyodat was to be the burial place of Timur’s family.  Construction started in 1379 and two of his sons were buried here but most of the complex was destroyed by Bukharan ruler Abdullah Khan II in probably the 1570s and only Jakhongir’s mausoleum survived.

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Here we see the nearby Dor-ut Tilovat ensemble which includes Kok-Gumbaz Mosque (the large dome), the Gumbazi-Sayidon Mausoleum (the two smaller domes) and a Madrassah.  The mosque and one mausoleum was built by his Timur’s grandson Ulugbek, the left hand mausoleum was built by Timur.

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We are now inside the mausoleum of Shamsidden Kulol.   He was a potter, philosopher, theologian and scholar and the founder of Sufism.  He was also the primary spiritual and intellectual influence on Timur.  This is Timur’s testimony to him and and its elegance is breathtaking.

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The tombs of both Shamseddin Kulol and Timur’s father Taraghay are underneath the mausoleum.

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This is underneath the other cupola, built by Ulugbek for his descendants, though it is not clear whether any were ever buried here. 

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This image and the next two are details painted on the interior walls of the mosque.

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These palm trees are the calling cards of the original Indian and Iranian designers..

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There is a large courtyard between the mausolea and the mosque.  We are looking across that courtyard, either to the madrassah or back to the mausolea.

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Arches in a corridor inside the mosque.

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The three final images are inside the Kok-Gumbaz (Blue Dome) Mosque built between 1435 and 1436 by Ulugbek in honour of his father (and Timur’s son) Shah Rukh.

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The recess in the white rectangle is the mihrab which indicates the quibla, or the direction to face in order to pray towards Mecca.  The minbar, or the imam’s pulpit, is just to the right of the mihrab.

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It was built on the foundations of an older mosque from the Karakhanid era (900 to 1200) and originally had a much larger dome.  That collapsed in the late eighteenth century and was rebuilt two hundred years later.  Judging by the apparent imperfections of the interior of the dome, they must have used original materials where possible.

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Last Night in Bukhara

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Chor Minor Madrassah, History, Landscape, Photography, Street photography, Trading Domes, Travel, Uzbekistan

This is one of the four towers of the Chor Minor Madrassah though the nest and storks are not real.

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A bit further back, here are the four towers.

. Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Chor Minor Madrassah, History, Landscape, Photography, Street photography, Trading Domes, Travel, Uzbekistan … And the whole madrassah.  Not sure what the mats and reeds on a platform in the foreground are for.  Merchandise? Camels?

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Despite the name, it’s actually a gatehouse for a madrassah, built in 1807, but the madrassah no longer exists.  The four towers apparantly contain symbols to represent the four main religions but I wasn’t aware of that at the time and did not look for them.

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There was not much inside (though good acoustics) but we did climb up to get a view from the roof.

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Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, Chor Minor Madrassah, History, Landscape, Photography, Street photography, Trading Domes, Travel, Uzbekistan 

In 1925, before the domes were restored, there was a stork nest on each of the domes.

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Stopping at one of the many remarkable ancient doors on the street in Bukhara.

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On our way back to the hotel, we are passing through one of the bazaars, probably Tok-i-Sarraton (“The Moneychangers’ Bazaar”).

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This and the next two images are from Abdulazizkhan Madrassah, from under the archways rather than in the interior.

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Back out on the street, another ancient door.

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From this point on we were on a rooftop restaurant for dinner, also hoping to take some photographs of the Poi-Kalyan Ensemble as the sun went down.  I’d guess that this is the roof of a trading dome.

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It’s getting late but there is still a restoration workman on the roof of the Kalan Mosque.

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While it looks similar, this is not Kalan Minaret.  Not sure exactly where and what it is.  interesting back view of Bukhara, though.

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The two domes of the Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah.  You don’t see the restoration debris from ground level.  There are a couple of workers in the shadows too.

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Part of an interior gateway of the Kalan Mosque.

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There were some friendly locals on our rooftop restaurant and one of them asked to pose for me to take a photo….

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The dome of Kalan Mosque.

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We’re not in ancient Egypt but clearly Ra is fighting against against being swallowed by Nut and having to travel through the World of the Dead for twelve hours before being reborn the following morning….

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There’s an electric version of Ra inside this building though.

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Madrassah? Caravanserai? (Don’t know).

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Kalan Minaret, just after sunset.

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Closer view.

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The dome of Kalan Mosque.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah again, in much lower light.  No more workers in the shadows.

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It’s now dark. I perhaps remember that building but don’t know its function.  Probably a madrassah or a hotel built in the style of a madrassah.

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The Ark, Bukhara

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 30 September 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Ark is the Persian word for fortress, so this is the Ark of Bukhara.

The area in the foreground and out to the left is part of what was the Registan, an open area bustling with life and functioning as a market place, public square and execution ground.

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We have nine images of the outside walls.  The first six are taken with a Fuji 10-24mm lens (equivalent to 15-36mm in full frame) and they show perspective distortion.  Say you take a photograph of someone holding their fist out to the camera, you are very close to the fist and everything is in focus.  The fist would appear huge and the rest of the person very small.  So that is perspective distortion and it’s what we logically see, though our brain processes it to make more sense.  The the last three images are taken with a 12mm Samyang fisheye lens, so they go beyond that to also have fisheye distortion, though the last two are partially corrected.

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There has been a town here since maybe 500BC, though people were here before then and not much is known about that.  At that time it was part of the Persian Empire and was taken by Alexander the Great in 329BC. Over the years there was a succession of different invaders, often with devastating results for Bukhara.  It was part of the (Greek) Selucid Empire, the Kushan Empire, then the (Mongol) Hephalite Empire.  From 650 to 750AD, the Arabs slowly and intermittently took control, displacing Zoroastrianism and other religions with the Islam.  

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Then the Samanids took power in Bukhara in 892 and brought a restoration of Persian culture and language.  During the tenth century Bukhara was the capital of their empire, that at its peak (in modern terms) included Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and north-east Iran.  It also during that period became a world centre of learning, far surpassing anywhere in the decadent post-Roman West.  

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After that was a period of decline.  Bukhara fell to the Karakhanids in 999, the Karakhitai in 1141 and Koresemshah in 1206.  Genghis Khan took and razed the city in 1220, declaring himself the Scourge of God.  “If you had not committed great sins, God would have not sent a punishment like me.”

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In 1500, an Uzbek Shaybanid dynasty took over.  The Timurids had a brief comeback under Babur in 1511 but he was defeated in 1512 and left, instead to conquer India.  The Shaybanids for a while brought a new period of prosperity and artistic accomplishment.  The Ark has been created and destroyed many times over the years but the present for dates from the Shaybanids and the buildings are all from within the last three centureies.  An Astakhanid dynasty took over in 1552 and slowly Bukhara declined from a major force to a regional power.

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In 1840, most of the brickwork in the walls you see here did not exist.  There was instead an artificial hill with a much smaller wall at the top.  The brickwork was added later in the nineteenth century.  In 1868, Russia defeated Bukhara and it became a Russian protectorate, though the Emir retained arbitrary and absolute power within the city of Bukhara.

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In 1918, a Bolshevik army from Samarkand arrived to take the city but the locals preferred to stay with the Devil they knew (or Islamic Emir as the case might be) and the army was defeated.  So Bukhara remained as a relic Mediæval enclave for a couple of years.

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In 1920, a more competent Soviet army appeared at the city gates, the city was taken and in the fighting the wooden buildings inside the Ark were destroyed by bombing and fire.  Most of what lay within the walls of the Ark remains destroyed.  From 1920 to 1924 there was the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic and then it became part of Uzbekistan (which itself became independent in 1991).

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So here we are at the gate to the Ark.

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I think this is the former living quarters of the Emir’s kushbegi (Prime Minister), now housing an archaeological museum.

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An ancient petrograph from the museum.  Perhaps a leopard and a pair of ibex.  The label only said it came from Uchtut, which is a location about 150 kilometres south east of Bukhara.  They are probably from something like 3,000 to 4,000 BC.

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The Reception and Coronation Court, a large open-air iwan, where the Emir could meet or address people en masse.

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And here he is, the Emir, terror of the population, from a nineteenth century photograph using a digital camera smuggled in by a European.

In 1838, Colonel Charles Stoddart arrived in Bukhara, seeking to reassure the Emir about British troop movements beyond the border.  However, he was not acquainted with local custom and rode into the Ark rather than leaving his horse behind and later prostrating himself before the Emir.  He was cast into a caged hole that he shared with rats.  When the British occupied Kabul and might later have had designs on Bukhara,  he was taken out to the custody of the Chief of Police and allowed proper food and clothing.  Then when the British were defeated in Afghanistan, he was cast beck in the hole again.  In 1840, Captain Arthur Connelly turned up to try to persuade the Emire of the benefits of closer association with Britain and after a while he was thrown in the hole as well.  In 1842 they were executed.

Nineteenth century Bukhara was a somewhat polygot city including Jews, Afghans, Armenians, Russians, Persians, Chinese and Hindus.  It was also a health disaster, with fetid water for long periods producing epidemics and reshta, a vile parasitic worm.  It was also cruelly despotic and a strange mixture between licentious depravity and ruthless enforcement of minor religious norms.

Ah, that’s right, I remember now.  I actually took that photograph.  It’s not from the nineteenth century.  The boy’s father paid a small amount for him to dress up and pose on the throne.  Unaccompanied in nineteenth century Bukhara though, the boy would have been in severe danger from the Emir.

Nowadays though, Bukhara and Uzbekistan generally is very friendly and welcoming.

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A tourist being led around the Ark on a camel ride, in a faint echo of a now distant past.

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We are now inside the Bolo-Khauz Mosque, part of the few surviving structures on the Registan.  It was built in 1712 by the Emir’s wife.  I do not seem to have photographed the outside.

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This is the main prayer hall.

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This time, with the fisheye lens.

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This is the Chasma-Ayub Mausoleum.  I don’t seem to have photographed inside so perhaps it was closed or photography not permitted.  It has four domes from different periods and with different architecture.  The earliest, the conical one, is from the time of Timur in 1380.

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This is the Israel Samani Mausoleum.  It dates from the tenth century, the period of the great cultural flowering of Bukhara and is named after the founder of the Samanid Dynasty.  It incorporates elements of earlier Sogdian and Sassanian/ Zoroastrian architecture.  It escaped the depredations of Genghis Khan because it had become buried under sand and earth and was rediscovered in 1934 by a Soviet archæologist.  The tombs were then removed by the Soviets.  This Samanid mausoleum was a model for many of the fourteenth to seventeenth century mausolea of India.

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A view of the symmetrical interior.

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Looking up at the dome (with some fisheye distortion)…

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… and a closer (rectilinear) view.

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I’m not sure what structure this is; I presume it was visible from the rooftop restaurant we attended that night.

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And this is the top of the Kalan Minaret from a distance.  we saw it more close-up in daylight in the previous post.

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