Mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum
Across the road from the car park stands one of the most impressive monuments in Turkmenistan. The Mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum has an imposing south-facing portal, some 25m high. Behind this is a domed lobby, with a spiral staircase (locked to visitors) to the right. The main chamber beyond is hexagonal in plan, with tall arched niches on each wall. The mosaic on the underside of the dome is stunning, its design apparently involving 365 interlocking geometric figures, one for each day of the year. The preponderance of dark blue in the design, and the fact that most of the figures are star shapes, give the viewer the impression of looking up at a stylised night sky. There are 24 arches running along the drum below the dome, one for each hour of the day. A line of 12 larger arches running around the chamber below suggests the number of months in the year. The overall message seems to be of the insignificance of humans when set against the great natural order.
The building has a 12-sided external plan, its outside walls enlivened by tall niches. Little remains of the exterior dome, which some researchers believe may have been conical in shape, save for a small corner of turquoise tiling, offering a tantalising hint of the beauty of the original roof.
Turabeg Khanum was the daughter of Uzbek Khan, under whose rule the Golden Horde converted to Islam, and the wife of Gutlug Timur, a governor of Urgench in the early 14th century. There is speculation among researchers as to whether the building had in fact anything to do with her. Some researchers believe that it was a mausoleum of the rulers of the Sufi dynasty, dating from the second half of the 14th century. Others point to the unusually well-illuminated interior, the presence of structures with a possible defence function (such as a small room opposite the staircase which has been described as a guard room), and the absence of cenotaphs to argue that the building may have been a palace, not a mausoleum.