Photographer's Note

Samarkand, the center of a region that has the same name, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is of the same age as Babylon, Rome and Athens. The earliest mention of Samarkand was in the 4th century BC. At that time the city was known as Marakand, and it was protected by powerful defensive walls, 10 km long. Historically Samarkand has faced many periods of upheaval and decay, it has taken a difficult historical path. Every period in the life of Samarkand has its characteristics, embodying the spirit of the times. Throughout the years of its existence, Samarkand has played a great role in the historical, political, economic and cultural life of Central Asia. Its favorable geographical location was very important. The city is situated in a fertile and well developed part of the Zarafshan Valley, along the Great Silk Road from China to Byzantium. It was conquered by the troops of Alexander the Great, the Arab Khaliph and Genghiz Khan. It was of Tamerlane's great empire who was the one who cared about the beauty of the city and its strength as a major capital city in the region.

Tamerlane vowed to create a mosque without parallel in grandeur or decor throughout the Muslim world at that time. Bibi-Khanym mosque - The gigantic mosque built in 1398, claimed to be the largest mosque then was finished shortly before his death in 1405 and must have been the jewel of his empire. Its gigantic size and tiny details of mosaic were impressive. Despite the ravages of time, the remains are still captivating by their fantastic scale and romantic legend.

The dimensions of this immense mosque are in keeping with the capital of an Empire that stretched from the coastal of the Agean to Delhi. The complex soared over 40m around an arch 18m in diameter with flanking minarets, 50m high. it led to a rectangular court 167 by 110m paved with marbles, cornered by minarets and fringed by gallery of 400 cupolas supported by 400 marble coloumns. East and west were mosques with fluted domes and to the north, the portal of main sanctuary topped 40m high.

This majestic ruins give an idea about the building techniques and architecture of their time, leaving an indelible impression. Once described as the most beautiful ruin in the whole world, it is amazing to think that this architectural wonder was built out of nothing more than desert mud - without the use of steel or wood. Even in ruins, the great mosque - the only one in the world ever to possess eight minarets - still dwarfs the rest of Samarkand today. All that is left is one great arch, the base of two minarets studded in white and blue tiles and a vast shattered fluted turquoise domes - pierced by Commie Soviet cannon shells during the battle of Samarkand in 1868. This complex was severely damaged by the earthquake of 1897. The Tsarists subsequently used the mosque as a stable and cotton market before preservation became reconstruction in 1974.

Picture of west fluted dome. Image polarized, cropped and resized.

Additional picture:
General view of Bibi-Khanym Mosque complex seen from the central courtyard. The portal of main building is partially hidden on the left. When this picture was taken (seven years ago) restoration perhaps rebuilding works was still in progress.

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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6577 W: 150 N: 14393] (63455)
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