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Tamerlane's mausoleum by Ella Maillart

The Gur Emir, or Mausoleum of Timur, completed in 1404, stands in another part of the city, shaded by diaphanous acacia-trees. He himself had wished to be buried at Kerk, his own city. This superb edifice had been raised by him for his grandson on the site of an ancient tomb in proximity to the tombs of two holy men. But his successors decided otherwise.

Seen suddenly at the end of some tortuous alley-way, in the shade of which some 'cloistered' woman passes, it is exceedingly impressive, with its dome glittering over the low windowless earthen walls of the city, looking like an enormous melon raised on a cylindrical drum of the same diameter. Approaching closer, one sees shining in the sun on the walls of the twenty-toot drum, enormous Kufi characters decora-tively inlaid with white bricks set in dark blue borders.

Approaching closer, one perceives the lofty, octagonal-shaped structure which supports the whole edifice. In the court of entry an isolated arch stands, surrounded by trees. It is covered with arabesques and geometric motifs executed with the utmost delicacy in blue and dark green. In close proximity to the mausoleum, when one raises one's head towards the cupola, appeal- huge melon slices in relief, that seem to belong to some strange spheroid balloon caught in the foliage.

One enters through a vaulted winding corridor. The chamber of the tombs is dark, and white spots of sunlight enter in through a small fretted window. Behind an alabaster balustrade Timur's sarcophagus appears, a simple rectangular block of dark green nephrite, a rare jade brought from India. About him sleep some of his ministers and children, Ulug Beg among them. Standing by the gravestone of the Sheikh Said Bereke rises a rough 'buntchuk,' the mast which always indicates the tomb of a saint. Above a wainscot of marble and alabaster encrusted with jasper, traces of gilt and painting may still be seen on the walls.

In a crypt beneath this chamber lie Timur's remains, with his teacher at his side.

Though the ruin sowed by Tamerlane, the 'Iron Limper,' stretched from India as far as Egypt, yet in Samarkand he created monuments that still astonish the beholder...

At the exit from the mausoleum a holy man stands mute, waiting to sell his copies of the inscription carved in the nephrite of Timur's sarcophagus. "This is the tomb of the mighty Sultan, the benevolent, the Khan Amir Timur... Gurkhan (Khan's son-in-law) Jenghiz Khan is of the lineage of the ancestors of this worthy Sultan buried in this holy and magnificent crypt. The mother of the Emir Buzandshara was named Alankuwa and was unique among women for her honesty and irreproachable uprightness. She was impregnated by a beam of light which entered her open door, and which, assuming the form of a man, announced that he was the descendant of the believer Elijah, the Son of Talib, 'whose true descendants would reign for ever on the earth."

"Turkestan Solo" by Dervla Murphy