At the foot of the Zarafshan ridge 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.
The future founder of great medieval eastern empire, Amir Timur was born in 1336 and showed his exceptional skills while being quite young. When he was twenty five years old, he was already the governor of Kesh. They say, that once upon a time Timur looked how ant was creeping on a stem of a blade. Ant was sliding, falling down, but continued emphatically climbing up and ultimately reached the top. And young man had thought: if ant could succeed why I can not? And he had succeeded in all his deals. He defeated and captured the Turkish sultan Bayazed, had beaten the Golden Horde. He made triumphant campaigns to Iran and Caucasus , India and Asia Minor .
Having created the vast state of Mavaraunnakhr and having become an absolute Emir, Timur made Samarkand his capital. But he always remembered and paid all his possible attention to his small hometown. In essence, Shakhrisabz was the second capital of his empire. At the end of XIV c. he ordered to bring here the best architects, engineers, builders, and craftsmen of architecture décor. Many wonderful edifices were built here at that period of time. These historic and architectural monuments of Temur and Temurids’ epoch were of great political and cultural importance for Central Asia.
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, similar in structure to Samarkand’s Bibi-Khanum Mosque. 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 religious and memorial complex Dor-ut-Tilovat (late XIV c. – first half XV c.) comprises three intact buildings erected on the former necropolis of Barlas noblemen: Shamsiddin Kulyal and Gumbazi-Seidon mausoleums and Kok-Gumbaz Cathedral Mosque.
The earliest structure is Shamsuddin Kulyal mausoleum. Sheikh Shamsuddin Kulyal, the descendant of Prophet Muhammad was a Sufic leader and spiritual advisor of Temur. He foretold the great future to Temur to be a ruler of “Allah’s World”. The prediction of the dervish became true and Kulyal was announced the holly father of Timur. After the death in 1370 he was buried here in Shakhrisabz. 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 Dor-ut-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 on a 16-sided drum, shows the hand of captured Khorezmian craftsmen.
Temur’s crypt was rediscovered in 1943 when a child playing football fell through the ground 35 metres behind mausoleum. Entry to Jehongir’s mosque is through the adjacent Khazrati Imam Mosque, marked by a wide silver-coloured dome. It was attached to Dorous-Saodat in the XVI century. It is still active mosque of the city.