We went to Shahrisabz today, a small town located about an hour south of Samarkand. It is known as the birthplace of Timur (or Tamerlan), and apparently he had initially planned to turn it into the capital of his empire instead of Samarkand.
Well, plans change sometimes.
He did build a large palace for himself though. It is called Ak-Saray (White Palace), and only ruins are left of it today:
Still, it was pretty impressive:
Even if we could only guess at what the tile work must have looked like when it was still complete:
Shahrisabz turned out to be a strange place, though. People from Samarkand had warned us about it, saying that the government had carried out some renovations that had taken away a lot of its original charm.
Today, the historical part of Shahrisabz was a giant park with small trees (which will probably look pretty nice in a few decades, when they are bigger):
And all around the park, there were buildings with little shops and restaurants in them:
It felt a bit like being in Disneyland. A Timuride version of Disneyland. Timurland – when dreams come true?
Even the city wall looked like someone had taken a good idea (a repaired wall) a bit too far and turned it into something not quite that good (a new wall):
Anyway, we walked around in the scorching heat and looked at the Dorut Tilovat ensemble, which featured another Kök Gumbaz (Blue Dome) a bit like the one we had seen two weeks earlier in Istaravshan:
It was all very pretty:
And very empty:
The interiors were beautifully decorated:
And also very empty:
Then we went to the Hazrat-i Imam Complex, and I have to say I liked what the government did with this one:
They didn’t renovate the hell out of it:
Instead they made it clear which parts were new and which were old:
(Sadly, some of the new parts seemed to be of inferior building quality though.)
There was a little mosque behind the Hazrat-i Imam Complex:
And next to the mosque, some big old trees:
We were hanging out in the shade of the trees when an elderly gentleman appeared and asked us if we wanted to see Timur’s tomb. Timur’s tomb? we asked. Wasn’t that the one in Samarkand?
Well, yes, he answered. Timur was buried in Guri Amir in Samarkand. But he had built a tomb for himself here in Shahrisabz. Did we want to see it?
Of course we did.
The tomb was in a small crypt:
There was nothing fancy about it, just a simple stone sarcophagus with some inscriptions from the Qur’an on the sides…
…and an emblem on top:
Maybe the tomb had been robbed clean? Maybe it had never been decorated because it was never used? Or maybe Timur had wanted it this way – a simple tomb for a man who had both destroyed cities and built them?
There was an arcane feeling to the place, and the only thing that wasn’t so awesome about it was the fact that some of the inscriptions on the walls were apparently suffering from moisture:
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to allow sweating, breathing tourists down here in the heart of Timurland.