The Memorial ensemble Shah-e Zinda is considered and architectural jewel in regards to the mastery of Mausoleum architecture but equally so in decorative techniques and applied Arts in Central Asia. It comprises three groups of structures - the lower, the middle and the upper, the earliest of which date back to the 11th and 12th centuries, though the main group dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries.
According to a legend Koussam-ibn Abbas, a first cousin of the prophet Mohammad acknowledged as having introduce the Islamic influence in the region upon having reached a certain old age descended into a well, believed to be an entrance to an underground palace where he is still expected to live nowadays. The name of the site - "the living king" bears reference to this rather unbelievable episode.
In the centuries following this tombs are said to have started being built around that of Koussam. Timur himself buried many of his female family members there.
The moment I crossed the gigantic portal, whose construction was carried out in 1434-35 under Oulough Begh's order, I was almost instantaneously impressed, particularly by the outside façades of the mausoleums, entirely covered with tiles with reliefs and carved glazed terracotta, majolica mosaics and even inscriptions (which I couldn't understand, but which nevertheless had a strong impact on me in terms of calligraphy) that I didn't realise but much later that many of the mausoleums could actually be visited.
But if the the whole ensemble, as we walked up and down some of the narrow passages, did impress me what seems to have thrown me into a speechless type of mood were the variegated tones of blue used in the rather intricate designs.
By the end of the visit, which took approximately one hour, I was tired of having photographed almost everything I set my eyes onto, as if wanting to take it all back home with me ...
Entrance to the Shah-e Zinda ensemble dedicated to his son Abdulaziz by Oulough Begh in 1434-1435
Chadi Moulk Aka - 1372 (built for Timur's niece)
The Octogonal Mausoleum
View of the central part of the Necropolis
Alim Nasafi Mausoleum -1385
Usto Ali Nesefi Mausoleum - XIV century
Amir Buruduk Mausoleum XIV century
Many of the local women kept on calling me, so as to show them the elastic "methodology" I used on my side braid and despite the fact that we didn't speak the same language smiling was always exchanged between us.
Tuman-Oko Complex - XV century
Kutlug-Oko (one of Timur's wives) Mausoleum - XIV century
Hodja Ahamad Mausoleum
Shirin-Beka-Oto Mausoleum -XIV century
Detail of the Emir Zoda Mausoleum
As we were getting ready to walk out we started hearing an incredibly powerful voice calling out for prayer at the mosque located right at the entrance
(To be continued)