Bibi Khanum — Asia Travel

Bibi Khanum («senior wife»)
bibi_khanum_mosqueOne of the most beautiful legends in the history of Samarkand surrounds the mosque of Bibi Khanum (Bibi Khanim).

It says that the beloved wife of the emperor — Bibi Khanum decided to please her husband (Tamerlane) returning from a victorious campaign preparing expensive gift ordered to build a mosque; that had been done. But the architect of building, to his misfortune fall in love with the Empress, and, realizing that after construction finish he would never see her again hold up the work how he could. The emperor was close, but the gift had not been ready yet, an angry queen called the architect, and he put an ultimatum: queen’s kiss in exchange for construction completion. Nothing to do and Bibi Khanum agreed. Returning Emperor was proud and happy wife pleased with the gift, but a treacherous trail of kiss on the cheek of favorite wife made kept the king on the trot, and he commanded to capture the architect. But forewarned architect hided from the pursuers on the minaret of built mosque, and the pursuers caught just his pupil who declared: “the teacher made the wings and flew away to Mashhad”.

Very beautiful fairy tale, but unfortunately, there is no a word of truth in except the nickname «Bibi-Khanum,» by the way the elder wife of the emperor by the time of events mentioned above was about sixty, and the venerable matron, hardly could to enchant a young architect.

In fact, the mosque of Bibi Khanum (Bibi Khanim Mosque) was built in 1399-1404 by order of Tamerlane after his triumphant return from the Indian campaign. Architecture of the building was craze of the time for grandiose monumental style, which very accurately reflected in the famous utterance of Timur: «if you doubt our greatness, look at our buildings.» The mosque was built in record time — 5 years and really dedicated to the beloved wife of Timur Sarap-Mulk Khanum.

Unfortunately, time and the devastating earthquakes do not allow us today to enjoy the grand structure of Bibi Khanum Mosque. Only 5 buildings of the once majestic mosques have survived the portal, the big mosques in the courtyard, smallones on the sides and the minaret.

Decoration of Bibi Khanum Mosque — the quintessence is the best of all what decorator masters have achieved by the beginning of the XV century. These are colorful majolica, and a carved composing mosaic, carved wood and marble, decorative ornaments made of papier-m?ch? and paintings on the plaster.

A bit on the east of the mosque, there is another monument of the same name — the mausoleum of Bibi Khanum, with a crypt, where two sarcophagi lie. The building has no fa?ade that indicates that initially it was an extension to the mosque, but the style and richness of decoration suggest that it was a single set and built simultaneously. During the sarcophagi opening in 1941 remains of two women were discovered by scientific expedition. Rich clothes suggests that one of them was Sarap-Mulk Khanum.