Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

Bibi-Khanym Mosque was constructed according to the order of AmirTemurasa cathedral mosque of Samarkand. It was intended to outrival everything he had ever seen in the other countries. Architects, artists and craftsmen from conquered countries were involved in the construction of this grandiose complex. Elephants were used for heavy loads lifting and transporting. The mosque was being constructed during five years. When Temur returned after his western campaign he got much disappointed by construction and ordered to reconstruct the portal which seemed not high enough.

 Finally, the cathedral mosque was supplied with one of the greatest portals of that time. Its arch was flanked with powerful pylons with minarets up to 50 m in height. The front entrance had bronze doors with inscription: "The sound of these huge doors, made from the alloy of seven metals, calls prayers of seven climates in the house of Islam".

The gates were taken away from Samarkand by Iranian shah Nadir in 1740. Above the portal there was an inscription: "Dwelling of creatures is everything-hypocrisy, falsehood and passions. Everything is concentrated at a threshold of the World Lord's hall-and only..."

 Today the marble lectern for tremendous Koran made at Ulugbeg stands in the center of the courtyard.

The cathedral mosque of Samarkand was named after the oldest wife of Amir Temur, Bibi-Khanym. She was Sarai Mulk-Khanym, a daughter of Kazan-khan (1343-1346). In the 1340s, Kazan-khan and his brother Halil-suitan subordinated Maverannahrand southeastern Khurasan.

However soon, they suffered defeat from Chagataid amir Kazagan (1346-1358). Sarai Mulk-Khanym became a wife of Emir Hussein, the grandson of amir Kazagan, who was a supreme Chagataid governor in 1364-1370. Amir Temur made Sarai Mulk-Khanym his wife when he dethroned Hussein. That gave him the honoured title of Guragan - "khan's son-in-law".

 Big madrassah had been located opposite to the cathedral mosque till the middle of the 18th century. It had the name of Bibi-Khanym too. Originally the madras-sah's portal was so large that competed to the cathedral mosque. It made Amir Temur angry and he ordered to reconstruct it. Madrassah was destroyed at invasion of Nadir-shah.

There is a mausoleum at the central axis of madrassah. It is a tomb of Sarai Mulk-Khanym's mother and two other women from her family. This is a high octahedral structure with a cylindrical drum bearing Kufi inscription. The interior is decorated with mosaics and vegetative ornaments including landscapes of the paradise garden.


After his Indian campaign, Tamerlane in 1399 decided to undertake the construction of a gigantic cathedral mosque in his new capital, Samarkand. To this day the mosque known as the Bibi-Khanym still overawes in its size and magnificence.

The cupola of the main chamber is raised up to 40 m. The length of the outer walls  is to 167 m. (182.63 yds.) longways and 109 m (119.20 yds.) in width. The cupola of the main chamber is raised up to 40 m. (131.23 ft.).

When construction was completed in 1404 it gripped minds of many poets. The Bibi-Khanym was compared to the beauty and brilliance of the Milky Way. However, contemporaries of Tamerlane soon noticed that not long after the mosque became a place of worship, the building began to collapse and fall into ruin

The original impulse of its creator was perhaps too impertinent, as he attempted to realise what was at the time an almost unreal architectural idea. But perhaps there was a more deep reason of its collapse. It is commonly known that rulers often build temples in an attempt to please God.

The Bibi-Khanym might have been intended as a huge thank-offering by the Emperor Timur after his successful Indian campaign. Or was it perhaps built in atonement for his many sins? The capture of Delhi was remarkable for its excessive cruelty. When Tamerlane over-ran India, he left a trail of carnage all the way to Delhi, where he reduced the city to rubble and massacred 100,000 inhabitants. The truth will always remain a mystery. At least it looks as if God rejected the bloody offering, whatever kind it was. More plausibly the mosque almost certainly began to collapse because it was built of mud-brick in the middle of an earthquake zone, and its dome was too high to remain stable.

Until the end of 20 c. the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym was remained as a very good illustration of what the Prophet said: "Pride leads to destruction and arrogance to downfall". It has recently been rebuilt, but there is no reason to be proud in any way, because History will never tire of repeating its lessons. The reconstruction by the Government of Uzbekistan has also obliterated what little original work was left, and the Bibi Khanym you see today is effectively a brand-new building.

As time has gone by, the reality of the mosque's construction has become embroiled with a legend of the Architect's love for Timur's Chinese queen, Bibi-Khanym. Alas, romantic hopes are doomed to disappointment. There is no trustworthy source for the tale that Tamerlane had a wife that was known by the name Bibi-Khanym (which just means 'woman-woman' in Persian). Tamerlane's senior wife, the powerful old woman Saray mulk Khanym, in honour of whom the mosque was named, does not bring to mind the beautiful heroine of this charming fairy tale. It is said that Saray mulk Khanym managed the construction of another building opposite the Bibi-Khanym, which by tradition is identified as the Mausoleum of Bibi-Khanym.

The bazaar at the foot of the Bibi-Khanym has changed little since 600 years ago.