At the foot of the Zarafshan ridge 160 km from Samarkand in the valley of the Kashkadarya river, another ancient city of Central Asia Shakhrisabz or ancient Kesh stands. Shakhrisabz, “green city” in local language, is a home town of Amir Temur, the founder of the great medieval eastern empire. The name really describes its beauty, location and climate – green fields, nice orchards, villages along the riverside of Kashkadarya.
Shahrisabz is, above all, associated with the Ak-Saray palace. Many amazing legends are linked with the history of the palace’s construction.
Of all these majestic social buildings of that time only two disconnected pylons which were part of the entrance portal remain till our days. The height is of pylons is 38 m. It of course impresses and gives us some imagination about the sizes and décor of Ak-Saray Palace. The beauty and grandeur of monumental buildings meant greatness of empire. That is why the inscription of the portal of Ak-Saray read: “If you are in doubt of our might look at our buildings”.
Following the capture of Kunya-Urgench in 1379, Temur dispatched its craftsmen to his home town to build his greatest palace. The name Ak-Saray (White Palace) symbolizes his noble descent, not the dominant colour, for blue, green and gold patterned the vast mosaics.
The slave artisans of Khorezm and Azerbaijan were still at work in 1404 when Spanish ambassador Clavijo passed, wide-eyed, between 65-metre high towers, flanking a portal arch 40 metres high and 22 metres wide, into a marble-paved courtyard 100 metres wide, enclosed by two-storied arcades. Beyond another ornate gateway was Temur’s domed reception hall, “where the walls are paneled with gold and blue tiles, and the ceiling is entirely of gold work” – this how it was described by Clavijo.
In the late of XVI century this wonderful architectural monument was destroyed by order of Abdullakhan II. The huge portal bases of the palace together with entrance towers, vaults and arches that survived testify to the striking beauty and endless variety of ornaments of the majestic edifice.
The Dorut Tilavat memorial complex was formed after the death in 1370 – 1371 of the eminent religious leader Shamsiddin Kulal, the founder of Sufism, the spiritual mentor of Emir Taragay and of Timur himself, and the teacher of Bahauddin Naqshbandi.
Sheikh Shamsuddin Kulyal, the descendant of Prophet Muhammad was a Sufic leader and spiritual advisor of Temur. Later, around the mausoleum of the respected sheikh there were buried the Timur’s father Emir Taragay, relatives, Shakhrisabz elite and many dervishes.
Kok Gumbaz Mosque (1435-1436) takes its name from its blue dome. It was built by Amir Timur’s grandson Ulughbek in honor of his father Shakhrukh, who was Timur’s son. Just below the dome, transcripts from Koran cover the big portion of the Kok Gumbaz. Dome from inside has been restored to show the original decorations.
Down to the east side of Dorut-Tilovat there is another ensemble which is called Dorous-Saodat, Seat of Power and Might. The original complex, stretches 50 by 70 metres. It arose after the death of his eldest and favorite son Jehangir, killed in 1375, aged only 22. When another son, Umar Sheikh, joined Jehangir in 1394, Temur even built himself a crypt. Jehangir’s mausoleum, crumbling yet impressive, is all that remains above ground. A tiled corner tower reveals the mausoleum as left pylon of a grand entrance facing the street, while the unusual conical dome 27 metres high shows the hand of captured Khorezmian craftsmen.
Amir Timur’s Crypt
Behind the Dorus Siadat is a bunker with a wooden door lading to the crypt of Tamerlane , discovered in 1943, when a child playing football fell through the ground. The room, plain except for Koranic quotations on the arches, is nearly filled by a single stone casket. One the stone were found encryptions related to the life of Amir Timur, which is why that it is believed that the crypt was intended for him.