About Guri Amir
Guri Amir, in the former Silk Road city of Samarkand in modern Uzbekistan, is the mausoleum of the Mongol leader Timur (1369-1405), also known as Tamerlane. Timur was responsible for building many of Samarkand’s most impressive sites, including the Registan trio of madrassahs.
A blue-domed, building encrusted with Samarkand’s trademark clay tiles, Guri Amir is the final resting place not only of this famous leader, but of his two sons and his two grandsons.
In 2001, Samarkand was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Guri Amir history
The mausoleum erection began in 1403 and was completed by Tamerlane’s grandson Ulugbek. During the reign of Ulugbek the mausoleum had become a family crypt of Timurids. Completed in 1404, it was originally intended to be the tomb of Timur’s grandson Muhammad Shah, but after Timur’s death in 1405 he was interred there as well, along with other members of his family.
The building is surprisingly modest, as Timur died unexpectedly of pneumonia in Kazakhstan in the winter of 1405. At this time the passes to Shakhrisabz were unusable so he was interred here instead. The crypt itself is in a chamber beneath the mausoleum.
Timur was laid to rest alongside his grandson Muhammad Sultan in the shrine’s central chamber. In time, Timur’s own tomb was boxed in by three more graves—those of his spiritual adviser, Sayyid Baraka; his grandson Ulugh Beg, the famous astronomer king; and one of his sons, Shah Rukh Mirza, the second ruler of the Timurid empire. With these additions, along with the graves of several more relatives, the tomb became part of the dynastic mausoleum of the Timur dynasty.
The mausoleum is a fine example of medieval architectural craftsmanship and was built in the traditional style. The ribbed dome and vault walls are completely covered with a mosaic of light and dark blue glazed bricks, gilding and painting. The relief rosettes on the dome imitate a starry sky. The interior is enriched with bar tracery grids in the windows, marble and onyx panels covered with paintings, carvings and inlaid with semiprecious stones.
Soviet anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov opened the crypts in 1941 and, among other things, confirmed Timur’s height and injuries that he sustained during his life and that Ulugbek died from being beheaded. According to every tour guide’s favourite anecdote, he found on Timur’s grave an inscription of the sentiment that ‘whoever opens this will be defeated by an enemy more fearsome than I’. The next day Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.
Guri Amir today
Restoration works began on the mausoleum in 1951. During the works onyx panelling, guildies and ornaments were reconstructed and completed. The Gur Amir Mausoleum and its entrance portal are beautifully renovated by the restorers, but only the foundations of the khanaka and madrasah remain.
Getting to Guri Amir
Guri Amir is about 25 minutes drive from Samarkand International Airport.