Photographer's Note

Silk Road excentrics: Shir Dor

Before leaving Samarqand I want to show you the unusual Shir Dor madrassah (early 17th cent.). Look at the ornaments in the upper part: Tigers, Stags and human faces are not at all typical of iconoclast Islamic art. What is the signifcance of the sun on the back of the tiger, why are the faces done in Chinese style? There are to my knowledge no clear answers to the questions.

It was a local khan, Yalangtush, that gave the order to build this madrassah, part of the Registan ensemble. At that time, the Timurid empire had crumbled and the Silk Road was no longer important for trade, it had become quite unsafe. The rich Central Asian oases like Samarqand became more and more isolated. So my uneducated guess (don't take it seriously) is that the ruler wanted to boast with his local hunting game (at that time tigers and Bukhara stags were indeed inhabiting the Amu Darya, Zerafshan and Syr Daria valleys). After the last wild tiger of Uzbekistan was shot in 1952, the Bukhara stag population was saved from extinction in extremis. With the (Zoroastrian?) sun and the Chinese faces Yalangtush may have wanted to remind us of the Silk Road. But you may have better ideas on this. Enjoy anyway!

The pic was reduced in size and slightly sharpened in PS, but remained otherwise unchanged.

silvia_zenova, marjan, Buin, nata, daddo has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Dietrich Meyer (meyerd) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 106 W: 54 N: 651] (1628)
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