Dr. Gesink's Image Gallery Page 5


Gur-i Mire Mausoleum, Samarqand, Uzbekistan (Art of Central Asia, 1965).  The Gur-Emir mausoleum, built by Timur in 1403-4, contains the cenotaphs of Timur, two of his sons, and his grandson Ulugh-beg.  This structure illustrates the brick construction and simple geometric tile designs that were characteristic of early Central Asian Timurid-Mongol architecture.  Unfortunately, brick does not last as long as stone or glazed tile, so few Mongol structures  still exist.    
Ulugh-beg Madrasah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan (Aga Khan MIT Visual Archive).  This is a madrasah school built by Timur's grandson Ulugh-beg in 1417.  The remains of a blue-glazed floral design on the facade and the pointed arches of this madrasah suggest that the artisans who built it were trained in Persianate traditions of architectural ornamentation. 

Bukhara was one of the first cities of central Asia to fall to the Mongols in the 1200s.  It was completely destroyed, its buildings razed to the ground and its people killed, save only the officials, scribes, merchants, and artisans.  The artisans were then shipped to different regions of the Mongol Khanates and put to work reconstructing the cities. Likewise, scribes were made to keep extensive records of the attacks and rebuilding efforts, officials were sent to administer regions far from their homes, and merchants of conquered cities helped maintain their conquerors' vast trade network. 

Note the sophistication of the decorative tile work, as compared to that of the Gur-i Mire (above). 


Jam' Minaret (Afghanistan Photo Gallery).  This 227-foot minaret is over 800 years old, which means it survived the Mongol invasions.

Mosque in Mazar-i-sharif, Afghanistan (Afghanistan Photo Gallery).   The most striking feature of the more recent Afghan mosques is the use of vibrantly-colored ceramic tiles, similar to the Persianate traditions of mosque ornamentation.  The low tapered domes in this mosque seem to recall those of some early Timurid structures, such as the Ulugh Beg Madrasah above. 
Panorama of Kabul (Afghanistan Photo Gallery).  Note the low dome of the mosque, the blue coloring (as opposed to the gilt or carved stone of the Dome of the Rock and the Mamluk monuments), and the rounded cap on the minaret.
Copyright 1999 Indira Falk Gesink

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