Idea #634 – Visiting the Royal Necropolis Shah I Zinda in Samarkand
Shah-e-Zindeh (Persian: شاه زنده, meaning “living king”) is a necropolis northeast of Samarkand, made up of many mausoleums, the oldest of which date back to the 11th century. The necropolis Chah e Zindeh was built on the site of the tomb of Koussam Ibn Abbas, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Important personalities wanted to be buried near the tomb of this character in order to benefit from his blessing. A destruction of the site, with the exception of the tomb of Koussam Ibn Abbas, took place during the Mongol invasions. The Timurid aristocracy continued the tradition and built mausoleums on this site, often on ruins of ancient monuments. The facades of the portals of the mausoleums are generally richly decorated: glazed and carved ceramics, enamelled bricks, calligraphic inscriptions in Arabic and Persian, floral and geometric drawings.
Ulugh Beg built a large pishtak at the southern end of the necropolis; at this entrance there is also a mosque and medresa Davlet Kouchbegi (1813). We find further the vast mausoleum of Qadi-Zadeh Roumi (1420-1425), comprising two rooms, surmounted by tall blue cupolas. The name attributed to this mausoleum is related to the fact that it could be the tomb of Qadi-Zadeh Rumi, astronomer, although it was found, in fact, that the bones of two women. Two mausoleums are then arranged face to face: the mausoleum of Emir Hussein (1376), and the mausoleum of Emir Zadé (1386) before leaving room for two other mausoleums with particularly rich decoration: the mausoleum Chadi Moulk Aka, niece of Tamerlane, the first Timurid edifice of Samarkand, and the mausoleum Chirin Bika Aka, sister of Tamerlane. This mausoleum has a cupola whose base has 16 sides. The openings under the cupola are closed by a stucco assembly, completed by glasses of different colors. The interior walls are finely decorated. Behind this mausoleum is the octagonal mausoleum, dating from the 15th century, whose form refers to a tradition little used in the region. Further, after mausoleums remained anonymous, on the left, we can see the mausoleum Ali Nassafi (about 1385), named after his architect, with starred decorations on the outside decorations stalactites inside .
Next came the Mausoleum Ulug Sultan Begum (about 1385), then the mausoleum of Emir Bourondouk, General of Tamerlane. On the same side, we find the mosque and the mausoleum of Touman Aka (1404-1405), wife of Tamerlane, the mausoleum Khodja Ahmed (around 1350, so one of the oldest, which could serve as a model for the rest of the necropolis) and the mausoleum of Koutloug Aka (1361), another wife of Tamerlane. All these buildings are cubic in shape, bearing a sphero-conical dome resting on high drums, with facades with portals decorated with muqarnas, covered with finely decorated ceramics. Finally, the vault of a portico leads to the mosque Koussam Ibn Abbas, consisting of a rectangle with three cupolas. The mihrab is decorated with a mosaic of blue faience. The pilgrim’s room, decorated with glazed tiles, is surmounted by a cupola divided into eight different panels; the tomb of Koussam Ibn Abbas in the death chamber, is covered with colorful majolica. It is not directly accessible to the visit, still active for pilgrims.
Where is it ?
Nécropole Shah I Zinda, Samarcande, Ouzbekistan