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Zenghi-Ata Mausoleum

Zenghi-Ata Mausoleum is located 15 kilometers from Tashkent and ranks among the holiest sites in the province. The mausoleum is the burial place of the famous Muslim saint Sheikh Ali Khoja Allas Zenghi-Ata, who lived at the end of the 12th – early 13th centuries. His nickname – “ the Dark Father” originated from his dark complexion. He was a Sufic preacher and patron saint of shepherds. When American diplomat, Schuyler, attended the annual festival in 1873, crowds of pilgrims prayed and feasted while a native orchestra competed with a Russian military band:

Later on, to amuse the officers, the Russian prefect of the district had some women dance, much to the horror of the Mussulmans that a religious festival should be so profaned. It was one of those little things shocking to native feeling which not all Russian officials are careful enough to avoid. Such a dance was once before arranged on a public festivity when the governor- general was present, but he was deceived by the story that the women who danced were the wives of the chief natives, who did this in his honour, and he even presented them with some silver cups and souvenirs, which were found the next day in various brothels.

The post-Soviet religious climate permits veneration once more. Resident holy men are besieged for blessings by engaged couples and barren women. The latter come to the mausoleum of Zengi Ata's wife, Ambar Bibi, widow of his teacher-a disciple of Turkestan's Akhmed Yasawi - and patroness of women and mothers.

The Mausoleum was built when Temur was in power. According to the legend, Timur originally ordered to build the mausoleum in Turkestan (in nowadays Kazakhstan, 5 hours drive from Tashkent) in honour of another Muslem saint, Akhmad Yassaviy. But the idea failed to materialize as the wall was repeatedly collapsing. The constuction halted. One day Temur dreamed of Ahmad Yassaviy himself who said to him that the first honors to be given to Zangiata and Ambar-Bibi, his wife (who was worshipped as the goddess of fertility and motherhood) and that he has to build mausoleum for them in the first place. So Tamerlane had workers pass bricks along a great line from Turkestan to Tashkent. Only whaen works for Zangiata mausoleum finished he built Ahmad Yassaviy mausoleum in Turkestan.  The two mausoleums date from that time, when Tashkent was a Timurid fortress.

A madrassah courtyard was added in the 18th century, Namazgokh mosque in 1870 and a polygonal minaret in 1914. Recent renovation has smartened the ensemble and, most impressively, Zengi Ata's portal, bright in multi-coloured mosaic. Inside is the burial vault and marble tombstone, elegantly carved in Koranic inscription. Ambar Bibi lies in the cemetery beyond, where ostentatious Soviet tombs mingle with Muslim graves of traditional simplicity. To reach this green haven of quiet devotion, take bus from Sabir Rakhimov metro for a 30-minute ride in the country.