Morning sightseeing in Samarkand, where we will visit the Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum, Gur Emir and the Bibi Khanum Mosque. The afternoon and evening will be free at leisure.
Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner
The Shah i Zinda mausoleum contains some of the most spectacular tilework in the world. Here you can find the tombs of several female relatives of Timur. It is also believed that Qusam ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed who brought Islam to the area, was also buried here. For this reason the site draws many pilgrims. The site has been heavily, and controversially, restored. The Shodi Mulk Oko Mausoleum, a niece of Timur, is a sublime exception.
Gur Emir is the mausoleum of Timur (a.k.a. Tamarlane) and his male ancestors. The tomb was built in 1403 for Timur’s favorite grandson, Mohammad Sultan, but also became his own, after he died suddenly of pneumonia on his way to conquer China at the age of 69. The grand entrance to the mausoleum features ornately carved bricks and mosaics, whilst the interior displays a high-domed chamber decorated with hand-painted niches and archways. Stalin dug up Timur’s bones in 1941 to prove it was indeed him, despite Timur’s warnings to those who would disturb him. The next day Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union!
Built in 1399 by Timur to commemorate his conquest of India and named after his favourite wife, the Bibi Khanum mosque was the largest mosque in the world until the Blue Mosque in Constantinople eclipsed it in the early 15th century. Earthquakes and weathering caused it to fall to ruins, but it has undergone extensive reconstruction efforts, which are still ongoing. The restored main chamber and minarets feature beautifully ornate details and decorative mosaics, whilst just outside visitors can see the symbolic statue of a Koran stand.