Timur’s scholarly grandson, Ulugh Beg, was more interested in the stars above then following in his grandfathers footsteps in the battlefields below. His life’s ambition was to make his city of Samarkand the center of Islamic education and did this by inviting many other scholars to teach, study and conduct research inside the Registan.
Kazu-Zade Rumi, a Turkish mathematician and astronomer, was one of the most famous. He researched and calculated the stars alongside Ulugh Beg, and helped develop a more accurate catalogue of the stars above them. He now lays to under two Cupolas and the stars here in Samarkand.
History, largely written by conquerors, depends on what side of it you’re on. How are you remembered Timur? A military genius who was fluent in Persian, Mongolian, and Turkic? A blood thirsty butcher responsible for the death of 5% (at the time) of the world’s population? Or fondly as pictured here in Shakhrisabz as ‘Amir’ for your commissioning of many architectural wonders and patron to the arts? If one could only peak into your diary and wonder how you saw the world.
Ambitious warlord, patron of the arts and or just a bloodthirsty and vengeful tyrant? Timur the Great or Timur the Terrible. His reign centered here in Samarkand where many still revere him. He now lays to rest under a tombstone made of jade whose inscription reads: “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble.”
I’ve always been entranced by the vibrate tile work exteriors on historic buildings across much of Central Asia and Iran. But why so much blue? Isn’t green the color of Islam? Turns out that in many cultures and languages, there is little to no distinction between the two. Ask a Japanese person what the colors of a stop light are and they’ll more than likely respond “Red, Yellow, and Blue”. In Persian based languages (the Lingua Franca of this part of the Silk Road), the color seen here in the tiles is ‘Kok’ (as in the ‘Kok Gumbaz Mosque’ or ‘Blue Dome Mosque’ in Shakhrisabz). The same could be said for green tea (‘Kok Chai’) as well. Perhaps my eyes are deceiving me and it’s St. Patrick’s Day in disguise.
Konye-Urgench (“Old Urgench”), once one of the greatest cities on the Silk Road, was the architectural inspiration for much of the region until it was finally laid waste by Timur in the fourteenth century. The hypnotically elaborate facades of this style exude a deep perception of geometry, proportion, and color that is utterly captivating. Perhaps the desert night sky brought about this imagination?