Shakhrisabz: Graduation Day
May 28, 2009,
Dear Family and Friends,
You never know what you're going to find…..
In Samarkand, Matt, Stephen and I hired a driver for the day to take us to see the sights in Shakhrisabz, the hometown of Timur. (It took me almost a week to learn the pronunciation of this place.) We expected to see the Ak-Saray Palace ruins, the Kok-Gumbaz Mosque & Dorut Tilyomat, and the Khazrati-Imam Complex. I also hoped for some mountain scenery along the way.
We got all of that, and more.
Ak-Saray, Timur's summer home must have been a grand palace. The original 14th Century entranceway stills stands at 40m high (131 ft). My younger companions climbed the 116 steps to the top. From the ground I took photos of the fine mosaic artwork. We walked along the remnants of the old city wall.
The Kok-Gumbaz Mosque (1437) was built by Timur's grandson, Ulugbek. The mosque is a dramatic ensemble of buildings with a cool niche or two to recover from the bright summer sun.
The Tomb of Jehangir, Timur's eldest and favorite son, who died at 22, is all that remains of the Khazrati-Imam Complex. The complex originally had a 3500sq meter (37,600 sq ft) mausoleum.
But the best part of our visit to Shakhrisabz was the "atmosphere." Today, May 25, is the traditional end of the school year. It's Graduation Day. Wherever we walked, we were surrounded by teeming streaming hoards of children and teenagers celebrating their day of liberation. The biggest celebration was at our first stop, the Ak-Saray Palace. Adjacent to the site was a fairground with rides and games and ice cream and cotton candy.
Our next adventure was to locate Feruza's father's restaurant here. He served us an alfresco lunch of soup, salad and lamb.
And finally, on our way out of town our driver took a wrong turn. Instead of heading north through our mountain pass in the Zeravshan Range, we headed northeast towards the much higher and snowcapped Fan Mountains of Tajikistan. We finally found our way, but I was thinking, "Is this wrong turn the prelude to another trip to Central Asia – a road trip and community home-stay to visit the high-altitude lakes and valleys of Tajikistan's Pamir Highway?"
As I said, "You never know what you're going to find…."