Seized Delhi in December 1398, Tamerlane vowed to create a mosque without parallel in décor throughout the Muslim world. The best slave-artisans in the realm laboured to realize the emperor’s plan. The enormous congregational Bibi Khanum’s Mosque soared over 35 meters around an arch 18 meters in diameter with flanking minarets 50 meters high. It led to a rectangular courtyard paved with marble, cornered by minarets and fringed by a gallery of 400 cupolas supported by 400 marble columns. North and south were side mosques with fluted domes and to the east the portal of main sanctuary topped 40 meters. Ornamentation was suitably magnificent - carved marble and terracotta, glazed mosaic in multiple form, blue gold frescoes and gilt papier-mâché. The court historian declared; “The dome would have been unique but for the sky being its copy; the arch would have been singular but for the Milky Way matching it”. All three mosque domes have crudely reappeared, tiled again in turquoise-blue on yellow-brown brick, the classical Samarkand contrast of sky and earth. At the centre of the courtyard stands a great lectern of grey Mongolian marble donated by Ulug Bek. Once it held the one-meter-square Osman Koran, a 7th century treasure brought here by Tamerlane. Opposite the entrance to Bibi Khanum is the blue-domed Bibi Khanum Mausoleum (1397). Three female burials were discovered in the crypt beneath the mausoleum’s octagonal chamber.
Other Historical sights
Tours round Samarkand