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Shakhi Zinda Complex

Shahi zinda 2

   The holiest site of Samarkand is a necropolis of mausoleums climbing back in time from the northeast fringe of Tamerlane’s capital over the old city wall and onto the southern slope of ancient Afrosiyob. Legend traces its history back to 676, when Kussam-ibn-Abbas of the prophet of Mohammed, arrived to convert Zoroastrian Sogdiana to Islam. The success of his preaching provoked a gang of fire-worshippers to behead him whilst he was at prayer. It appears the Arabs established Kussam, who probably never saw Samarkand, into the cult of Shahi-Zinda (the Living King) by adapting a pre –Islamic mythical ruler, maybe Afrosiyob himself, reigning beyond death beneath the earth. The Mongol conquest flattened the surrounding complex but left Kussam’s grave alone, as Moroccan traveler ibn-Battuta reported in 1333: “The inhabitants of Samarkand come out to visit it every Sunday and Thursday night. The Tartars also come to visit it, pay vows to it and bring cows, sheep, dirhams  and dinars; all this used for the benefit of the hospital and the blessed tomb. The Timurid aristocracy continued the tradition of building mausoleums near the sacred site. These works display the creative wealth of the empire in surprising harmony, for no mausoleum repeats another.

 

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