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Uzbekistan: Guri Amir Mausoleum

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Guri Amir Mausoleum | Uzbekistan | Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

When we got off a city bus after a crazy drive from Bukhara, and walked to the area where we hoped to find a place to stay for a couple of days, we immediately noticed that Samarkand was different from the other places we had seen thus far in Uzbekistan. The atmosphere was different, more relaxed somehow, there was more space, people seemed prouder. One of the very first things to see, was the Guri Amir, or Gur-e Amir, mausoleum. We had seen our share of Central Asian Islamic architecture, but this building, too, was different. At the moment, we were not aware of the importance of the building, but were just struck by its beauty. We put down our bags, and stood outside to just soak in the modesty of it, noting the different design, the ribbed cupola on the main building that was half hiding behind a portal that seemed bigger than the building it was the entrance to.

Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Side view of the Guri Amir mausoleum complex

After installing ourselves in a nearby guesthouse, we explored other parts of Samarkand, the sheer name of which does not fail to work on the imagination of many people. That same evening, we passed the Guri Amir mausoleum again; it looked completely different. While some parts were totally absorbed by the night, others - the arched facade, were brightly lit. The notable dome was now shining blue, and the two pillars framed the scene. It looked different, it looked exciting. Moreover, we promised ourselves to pay it a visit the next day. When we approached the Guri Amir mausoleum the next afternoon, we first walked around the cute building to see it from different angles. We realized we could enter from the backside as well, and after visiting a few subterranean rooms that were turned into souvenir shops, we entered the main building and went to the central hall directly.

Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Central hall of the Guri Amir mausoleum with the marker stones of Timur and others

This is, after all, the most interesting place of the mausoleum. The hall is lavishly decorated with fine golden calligraphy, arched windows, purple and gold honeycombed corners, a ceiling with beautiful geometrical patterns, a chandelier, and even a pole with a horsetail on one side, while in the middle, several tombs are placed. Here, the great Timur, or Tamerlane, has a green jade coffin that was accidentally broken in two by a Persian warlord who took it to his home country before returning it to Samarkand. Like in most other mausolea in the region, Timur's body is buried in a crypt beneath the building. Surrounding him, you can see other markers of his sons and grandsons, and important teachers of the founder of the Timurid Empire he established in the 14th and early 15th century. In June 1941, Soviet anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov opened the crypts to establish the features of Tamerlane and the others. He confirmed that Timur was, for his time, a tall man: 1m72, and that Ulugbek, his grandson, had indeed been beheaded. On the grave of Timur, he found the words "Whoever opens this grave, will unleash an invader more terrible than I". The next day, the Soviet Union (to which Samarkand belonged at the time) was invaded by Hitler.

Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Brilliantly decorated wall with window inside the Guri Amir mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Pole with horsetail next to a tomb inside the Guri Amir mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Richly decorated ceiling of the Guri Amir mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Detail of finely decorated honeycombed wall of Guri Amir mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Ribbed dome of the Guri Amir mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Basking in the late afternoon light: Guri Amir mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Guri Amir mausoleum seen at night
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Golden ceiling with chandelier
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Ceiling of the Guri Amir mausoleum with rich decorations
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Honeycombed wall of the mausoleum
Picture of Guri Amir Mausoleum (Uzbekistan): Exquisite calligraphy inside the mausoleum

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