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Discovery Uzbekistan Travel Guide #14/2010

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Shakhrisabz: epoch of Amir Temur
Always an important stop on the branch of the Great Silk Road that led south to the sea, Shakhrisabz is today a popular one or two day trip from Samarkand or a detour on the way to Bukhara. Situated in a fertile plain, with the Gissar mountains as a spectacular backdrop, Shakhrisabz looks back over one thousand years of history.

Shakhrisabz means Green City and indeed, as you look down from the pass over the plains, green and lush are words that spring to mind. The drive there takes you through a wealth of orchards, fertile fields and vineyards.

The architectural landmarks of Shakhrisabz are at least 500 years old with the famous Ak Saray Palace and the Jahangir Mausoleum built in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Among the most important historical monuments are the Shamsiddin Kilab Mazar, the Kok Gumbaz Grand Mosque, and the Gumbazi Saidan Mausoleum. They all date back to Timurid times.

The local bazaar and the city's ancient bathhouse, both from the 15th century are also stopovers on the grand tour.

Shakhrisabz is a traditional centre of folk art and is renowned for its distinctive embroidery style, a very complex flat stitch that covers the base fabric entirely. The embroidering ladies from Shakhrisabz and their purses and pillows are famous not only throughout Uzbekistan where they are a fixture at every craft fair; their embroidered waist coats are proudly worn in places as far afield as Canada and Japan. The imposing Ak Saray, the White Palace, was Tamerlane's favourite and most ambitious undertaking in this his home town. As Clavijo, the Spanish envoy to Samarkand, reported back, it was a colossal structure with a pool on its roof, an unbelievable 40 metres above the ground. Beautiful filigree-like blue, white and gold mosaics remain and it is awe-inspiring to imagine the splendour and size of the original construction.

Kok Gumbaz Mosque and Doru Tilovat
The mosque was built by Ulug Bek near the original mausoleums of Sheikh Shamsuddin Kulal, teacher and spiritual mentor of Timur, and Timur's father Amir Taragay. The tombstone of the Sheikh is said to have curative effects and it is decorated with opulent marble ornaments. The Blue Dome mosque was designed as a Friday Mosque and, like almost everything Ulug Bek commissioned, the shape of the inner dome was executed with incredible geometrical accuracy and complicated mathematical computations which resulted in its outstanding acoustic effects. The Imam, upon your request, will recite a sura of the Koran and a prayer, which will not fail to touch your heart, whatever your religion may be. These are holy sites famous throughout the entire Islamic world.

Doru Saodat (Seat of the Mighty)
Amir Timur had this complex built for his son Jahanghir, who died at the age of 22. Later Omar Sheikh, another of Timur's sons, was buried here. The powerful ruler wanted this very site to be his own resting place and had the design ready and orders given for its construction but for many reasons his last will was not respected. Some believe that this complex may once have overshadowed Ak Saray but it is hard to guess from the crumbling remnants.

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