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Fatal kiss

As Tamerlane devastated northern India, his favourite wife, Chinese princess Bibi Khanum, ordered the construction of a giant mosque to surprise the conqueror on his return to Samarkand. Its towering minarets and vast dome soon challenged the heavens, with just a single arch remaining unfinished. When she questioned the chief architect, a young captive from Persia, she found him so enraptured with her beauty he refused to continue until she granted him a kiss.

"But all women are the same," she replied, "take one of my slave girls. Look at this dish of coloured eggs, every shade of the rainbow, yet break open the shell and all difference disappears." Her suitor brought forth two piala bowls, filling one with spring water, the other with white wine. "Their colour and shape are the same," he reasoned, "but one leaves me cold and the other is intoxicating."

Fearful of Tamerlane's imminent return, she finally agreed to a kiss through her hand. Alas! The ardour of his passion burnt an imprint on her cheek. The arch was finished, but her master's joy at the spectacular present turned quickly to rage at this mark of infidelity. The luckless princess was cast to her death from the top of a minaret, while the architect fled up another with a squadron at his heels, sprouted wings and flew off to Mecca. From that day forward, Tamerlane commanded all the women in his empire cover their faces with veils, lest they tempt men to covet their neighbours' property.