The Bibi-Khanym Mosque - History and Facts | History Hit

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque

Samarkand, Samarqand Region, Uzbekistan

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque was built by a great Mongol leader for his wife.

Peta Stamper

11 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Bibi-Khanym Mosque

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand in Uzbekistan was originally constructed by Timur (1369-1405), a warrior and Mongol leader who ruled the important city along the Silk Road.

Timur, who is also known as Tamerlane, built many beautiful monuments and structures in Samarkand using traditional glazed ceramic tiles in ornate geometric shapes: the Bibi-Khanym Mosque was no exception.

A vast structure crowned by a blue dome and overlooking a courtyard, the Bibi-Khanym Mosque was built by Timur for his wife Saray Mulk Khanym (Bibi Khanym was her nickname meaning ‘senior princess’) between 1399 and 1405. While much of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in the 19th century, the building has since been reconstructed.

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque history

After his campaign in India, in 1399 the Mongol leader Timur undertook the construction of a huge mosque in the new capital of Samarkand. The mosque was almost finished when Timur returned from further military ventures in 1404. Timur immediately made alterations to the design. However, his grand visions would ultimately compromise the structure of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, and bricks soon began falling from the main dome.

In the late 16th century, Abdullah Khan II – the last ruler of the Bukhara Khan dynasty – called a halt to restoration works of the mosque. Following his decision the mosque slowly deteriorated and became a weather-beaten ruin. The inner portal finally collapsed during an earthquake in 1897, and Samarkand inhabitants plundered the building, taking the marble columns and intricate masonry.

The Soviets were first to investigate the ruins and made plans to restore the 3 domes and central portal. By 1974, the USSR had begun reconstructing the mosque, supplementing the facades and revealing inscriptions from the Quran. Restoration work has continued ever since.

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque today

Today, the beautiful mosque provides a portal into Muslim medieval architecture. The Bibi-Khanym Mosque follows the pattern of other courtyard mosques from the era and boasts a monumental dome rising 40 metres high.

In the middle of the courtyard you will find a large stone pedestal for holding the Quran, crafted from marble blocks. Local legend has it that any woman who crawls beneath the stand will have lots of children.

In the courtyard you will also find 2 smaller mosques, the one on the left decorated inside with stunning Arabic calligraphy. Be aware the mosque is still a religious site and visitors will be expected to dress and act with modesty and respect.

Getting to The Bibi-Khanym Mosque

Located minutes from the Shah-i-Zinda sacred complex, the Bibi-Khanym Mosque is found within Samarkand’s historic centre on Tashkent Road. Just off the M39 and M37 that connect the city to the rest of Uzbekistan, the mosque is a 20 minute drive from the Samarkand Airport.

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