The Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum is the foremost attraction of Samarkand. It includes majestic and amazing buildings of the 14th and the 15th centuries, foundations and gravestones dating back to the 11th and the 12th centuries, and its history goes back to even more distant times, to the 7th century.
The Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum became a secular historical and architectural monument not long ago. Historically, this place is a pilgrimage destination sacred for Muslims along with Mecca. In Soviet times, the mausoleum complex was administered by the Muslim Spiritual Directorate. People had been buried on its territory until 1977; then that practice was ceased, and most of the ancient tombs were opened for scientific purposes.
The history of the Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum, like the history of entire Samarkand, was dramatic. The city was located by the Great Silk Road: it was rich, prosperous and densely populated. Periods of economic growth were followed by decline several times due to external conquests and depredations.
If we could get at least 100 years back, on the site of the present-day Shah-i-Zinda, we would see buildings, half-destroyed by time and in some places gone underground. Thanks to a large-scale reconstruction that has been carried out during the past 50 years, today we have the opportunity to see these architectural monuments in an even better state than they were immediately after the construction.
Its well-preserved mausoleums are especially interesting. They form 4 groups: the central one, the upper one and the lower one.
The central element of the architectural ensemble is the complex of buildings with the mausoleum of Kussam ibn Abass, who, according to a legend, was a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. In the mausoleum, there is the tomb of this legendary personality traditionally decorated in blue and turquoise colours, with ornaments made of pure gold. Although it was built in 1334 (six and a half centuries after the death of the hero), the legend says that his remains were buried in it.
The mausoleum complex of Kussam ibn Abass is surrounded by densely located mausoleums of other respected people and relatives of the rulers. Such positioning is explained by the fact that, according to a popular belief, the closer a person is buried to the grave of a saint, the more their sins will be forgiven in the afterlife.
Tamerlane’s wife Tuman-Aka, the niece of Shadi-Mulk-Aka (Turkan-Aka) and the sister of Shirin-Bika-Aka were buried in the Shah-i-Zinda. Their mausoleums are interesting places to visit. The first of the above mausoleums is externally decorated in rich purple colour and is one of the tallest buildings of the complex.
The tomb of Tamerlane’s niece is exquisitely decorated with ornamental patterns and stands out for its intricate shapes. The mausoleum of Timur’s sister has special panels that let light through, this is why this building is the lightest one among the others.
In addition to the mausoleums of Kussam ibn Abass and the relatives of Tamerlane, other noble and respected people of that time were buried in the Shah-i-Zinda. Among them, there is Kazy-zade-Rumi, the scientist and mentor of Ulugbek, the grandson of Tamerlane.
There are no words to describe the beauty of the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum ensemble. One thing is certain: it is the brightest example of medieval architecture that is worth seeing. This is why Canaan Travel recommends this place to everyone goings to Uzbekistan on vacation.