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Mausoleum of Mohammed Ibn Zayd

Retrace your route as far as the road heading westwards from the Firuz Gate. Turn left onto it to reach again the main entrance to the Merv site. But before you leave Merv, turn right in front of the concrete obelisks. You will pass on your right the administrative buildings of the Merv Archaeological Park, before reaching, at the end of this side road, the Mausoleum of Mohammed Ibn Zayd. This is one of the most atmospheric shrine complexes in Turkmenistan. Ibn Zayd was a Shia leader, killed in 740 while leading an uprising against the Umayyads in the city of Kufa in present-day Iraq. The mausoleum at Merv is probably simply a symbolic construction, built by his followers.

The mausoleum at the core of the complex dates from the Seljuk period. It has a square, domed chamber, the dome supported by four squinches, separated by niches. An inscription running around the top of the walls records the date of construction of the mausoleum as 1112. The cenotaph in the centre of the chamber is carved with inscriptions. Unusually, the chamber contains a mihrab, a niche in the west wall with a scalloped design. Around the Seljuk mausoleum, two more recent rooms have been added. To the east of the mausoleum, and providing access to it, is a square-domed anteroom. Access to this in turn is through a mosque, which runs along the whole north side of the complex. One of the walls of the mosque comprises what was originally the external north wall of the mausoleum, revealing fine decorated Seljuk brickwork. The complex was much restored in the early part of the 20th century.

Around the mausoleum are several large saxaul trees, considered sacred, from which hang hundreds of strips of material, representing prayers.