Gur-e Amir is Tajik for "Tomb of the King". This architectural complex with its
azure dome contains the tombs of Tamerlane, his sons
and Miran Shah
Ulugh Beg and Muhammad Sultan. Also honoured with places in the tomb are
Timur's teacher Mir Said Baraka.
The earliest part of the complex was built at the end of the 14th century by the
orders of Muhammad Sultan. Now only the foundations of the
khanaka, the entrance portal and a part of one of four
The construction of mausoleum itself began in 1403 after the sudden death of
Muhammad Sultan, Tamerlane's heir apparent and his beloved grandson. But
actually Ulugh Beg, another grandson of Tamerlane, completed the work. During
his reign the mausoleum became the family crypt of the
The entrance portal to the Muhammad Sultan ensemble (see
picture) is richly decorated with carved bricks and various mosaics. The
decoration of the portal was accomplished by the skilled craftsman (ustad)
Muhammad bin Mahmud Isfahani.
Outwardly the Gur Emir (Gur-e Amir) Mausoleum is a one-cupola building. It is
famous for its simplicity of construction and for its solemn monumentality of
the appearance. It is an octahedral building crowned by an azure fluted dome (see
picture). The exterior decoration of the walls consists of the blue,
light-blue and white tiles organized into geometrical and epigraphic ornaments
against a background of terracotta bricks. The dome (diameter - 15 m (49.21 ft),
height - 12.5 m (41.01 ft)) is of a bright blue color with deep rosettes and
white spots. Heavy ribbed fluting gives an amazing expressiveness to the cupola.
During the reign of Ulugh Beg a doorway (see
picture) was made to provide an entrance into the mausoleum.
Inwardly mausoleum appears as a high and large chamber with deep niches at the
sides and diverse decoration. The lower part of the walls covered by onyx slabs
composed as one panel. Each of these slabs is decorated with refined paintings.
Above the panel there is a marble stalactite cornice. Large expanses of the
walls are decorated with painted plaster; the arches and the internal dome are
ornamented by high-relief papier-mache cartouches, gilded and painted (see
picture). The ornate carved headstones in the inner room of mausoleum merely
indicate the location of the actual tombs in a crypt directly underneath the
Timur also built a tomb in
for himself. However, when Timur died in 1405 on campaign on his way to conquer
China, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in, so he was buried here instead.
Under Ulugh Beg's government a solid block of dark green jade was placed over
the grave of Tamerlane (see
picture). Formerly this stone had been used at a place of worship in Chinese
emperor's palace, then as the throne of Kabek Khan (a descendant of Genghis
Khan) in Karshi.
In 1740, the
Shah stole the stone, but it broke in two and he started to have a run of
extremely bad luck. His advisors urged that he return the stone to its rightful
place immediately. The second time the stone was disturbed was in
archaeologists opened the crypt. The sculptor I. Gerasimov was able to
reconstruct Tamerlane's facial features from his skull, and it was also
confirmed that he was a giant for his day, well over six feet tall, and would
have walked with a pronounced limp. Further historical information about the
assassination of Ulugh Beg and the authenticity of the other graves was also
confirmed. However, the Soviet archaeologist involved also invoked the curse, as
a short time later, the Nazis invaded Russia. The tomb inscription reads:
"Anyone who violates my stillness in this life or in the next one, will be
subjected to inevitable punishment and misery".
Next to Tamerlane's grave lie the marble tombstones of his sons Miran Shah and
Shah Rukh and also of grandsons - Muhammad Sultan and Ulugh Beg. Tamerlane's
spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, also rests here.
Some consider the Gur Emir (Gur-e Amir), Ruhabad (Rukhobod) mausoleum and
Aksaray mausoleum as a combined ensemble because of their closeness.
Rukhobod (Ruhabad) (14th c.) is a small mausoleum (see
picture) and is said to contain a hair of Prophet
The one storey madrasah now accommodates craftsmens' shops. There is a
functioning mosque next door to the madrasah. All three combine into one
good-looking shape (see
The Aksaray mausoleum (15th c.), unrestored, located on a quiet street behind
Gur Emir (Gur-e Amir) (see