Travel to Uzbekistan: Samarkand: Gur Emir
The Gur Emir, or "king's tomb," was built at the order of Tamerlane not for himself but for his grandson Mohammed Sultan, who died in battle in 1403. Nonetheless, it became Tamerlane's tomb as well, as well as that of Ulug Beg, another grandson.
Photographs from 1900 show the dome intact but the pishtaq rising only to the arch; the right minaret is gone, and the left one is truncated at the muqarnas, those honeycomb brackets near the top. The pishtaq is surprisingly modest, given Tamerlane's taste for gigantism, but that's because it was added later, at the order of Ulug Beg in 1434. The dome, however, is structurally sophisticated. There's an inner dome, relatively flat. Then there's the envelope of the outer dome, so thinly walled that it cannot support itself. Instead, it is supported by a network of iron bars connecting it to the lower dome.
From the back, showing the characteristic banai tilework.
The masonry is nicely revealed when the facing is gone.
The inscription, in white, is a reminder that only God is immortal.
The interior, renovated, is of lapis and gold leaf.
Strictly, the stones are not tombs but cenotaphs; the tombs proper are in the basement.
The surrounding screen, or muqsura, is alabaster.
Tamerlane's is the dark one, an immense block of nephrite jade from Mongolia.
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