Tamerlane's Hometown

Shakhrisabz Travel Blog

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Above it all in Shakhrisabz, atop the Ak Saray
Waking up before dawn to the sounds of rain hitting corrugated metal roofs did not bode well for my plans to visit Shakhrisabz, the city known as the birthplace of Tamerlane, better known here as Amir Timur. Having not visited the city when I was in the Peace Corps, this was one place I had intended to see and I was not going to let rain stop me. As fate would have it, the rain stopped as soon as I left the B&B towards the shared taxi stand. I got the last seat in a taxi bound for Kitob, the twin city adjoining Shakhrisabz. The 1 1/2 hour drive took us through mountains that were clouded by thick fog and a misty rain that let up when we reached Kitob. I caught a marshrutka to the end of the line in Shakhrisabz and walked up the muddy sidewalks to see the sights.

The first stop was Kok-Gumbaz mosque, built by Ulugbek (Tamerlane's son) and featuring the popular blue dome. Beyond that were ruins of Dorussadat, another former palace that contained the Tomb of Jehangir, supposed favorite son of Tamerlane. He also built a crypt for himself there, but being buried in Samarkand it's not clear who is buried here now. I walked along on the main street, past the busy bazaar and in the distance saw a looming statue of Tamerlane, beyond which were two large pillars marking all that remains of his Ak Saray or summer palace. I paid a couple hundred sums to climb the 124 stairs to the top of one of the towers for a spectacular view of the city and beyond. I tried to imagine the palace extending the full distance from where I stood to the city walls some 300 feet further. The palace must have been grand indeed.

I passed more throngs of wedding couples back down the street to a restaurant called the Kulolik Choyxona, where the chairs were covered in satiny turquoise with yellow trim similar to the Swedish flag. I had a very delicious bowl of laghman noodle soup, bread and tea. An old man sat down next to me, despite plenty of seating, and started talking. Of course I didn't mind and was happy to share tea with him, knowing full well I couldn't drink a whole pot of green tea. I did the best I could trying to understand his toothy accent and responded in Uzbek, occasionally reminding him that my Russian skills are not conversation worthy. He finally moved when his friend told him I wasn't interested, and while that wasn't exactly true I didn't mind. A boy came and said I should take a picture of the place, so I did and then he wanted to see my photos--all 500 of them!

Jumping on a crowded city bus, one of the few left in Uzbekistan, I was greeted by the bus driver and invited to sit on the 2x5 bench on the front panel, so I squatted hunchback-style with a perfect view out of the window. I was assured we would eventually make it back to Kitob, where I needed to catch a shared taxi back to Samarkand. The bus driver and a friend of his seated next to me were both very friendly. His pal gave me a 25-sum coin as a souvenir and at the end of the ride, the bus driver refused to let me pay for the ride telling me I was a guest in his country. I scored the front seat in the return taxi and while the ride was two hours, I saw beautiful mountain scenery this time on our journey over the Taxtakaracha Pass. The 90-kilometer taxi ride set me back 5000 sums, or about $3.75.
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Above it all in Shakhrisabz, atop …
Above it all in Shakhrisabz, atop…
photo by: Vlindeke