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Notes on the Geography of Uzbekistan: Samarkand: Shah-e Zende: Photo 5

world pictures Uzbekistan: Samarkand: Shah-e Zende




Emerging from the trees at the upper left, we've circled behind the buildings and climbed a low hill.  Qutham's mosque can be seen on the right.  Everything around it was destroyed by the Mongols after 1200. Chatagay, a son of Genghis Khan, then ruled the country, and his descendants were in power for nearly two centuries, until the rise of Timur, or Tamerlane.  Qutham's tomb was one of the few things to survive the Mongols.  Perhaps that's because, as Ibn Battuta says, the Tartars made it an object of their own pilgrimage.  The cluster of surrounding tombs, however, dates from the rise of Tamerlane.  He himself is not buried here, but many of his family members are. Hence the date of most of the tombs, which were built during Tamerlane's reign, from 1370 to 1405. 

Why was Tamerlane so taken with Qutham?  According to a chronicle (quoted by Soustiel and Porter, p. 63), Tamerlane searched for Qutham's well and, in the process, found a subterranean golden palace.  The young explorer who found it reported: "I saw an ornate throne and on it sat a handsome man from whom emanated an infinite light.."  Who was it?  The young explorer says he was told: "My boy, know that the eminent man seated on the throne is Qutham ibn Abbas... and he is His Majesty the Living King (Hazrat Shah-e Zende)."

This is the northern cluster of tombs, including the octagonal drum of the mausoleum called that of Amir Burunduq (1390), one of Tamerlane's generals.  Its decoration has vanished.  In the middle is the blue dome over the mausoleum of Tuman Aqa (1404), one of Tamerlane's wives.  They're both clustering close to Qutham, but note the avenue that stretches to the left.  Mostly bare ground now, it was formerly lined with tombs, all seeking the beneficence of proximity.  Note the building on the far left, with the vertical bands of turquoise.

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