Sunday, April 12, 2015

More of Ancient Merv. Two Mausoleums.

At the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar.

After spending time with the Turkmen family at the pilgrimage site, we were off to see two mausoleums. We started with the most famous one in the area and the landmark that is considered to be the best preserve of all the structures in Merv - the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar.


The mausoleum was built in 1157, following the death of Ahmad Sanjar, sultan of the Great Seljuk Empire.

Іt іs the largest оf Seljuk mausoleums. The mausoleum іs square shaped - 27 meters on each side, wіth twо entrances оn opposite sides and а large central dome supported by аn octagonal system оf ribs. The dome's exterior wаs turquoise, аnd іts height made іt quite imposing; making it easy to see the mausoleum from far distances away.

Supposedly, the mausoleum was spared from destruction by the invading Mongols because of their tradition of leaving the tallest monument standing.



Indeed, we had seen the mausoleum looming over the landscape from miles away.  It is flat, arid desert here.

Looking back at Big Kyz.

Dots of green will fade to brown as the hotter summer months approach.  It is perfect grazing ground for herds of domesticated camels.


Just as we were about to enter the mausoleum, we crossed paths with yet another group of young people who wanted nothing more from us than to appear in a photo.  As always, we gladly obliged, posing for one photo after another.  How the smartphone camera has changed the world. It wasn't so long ago that curious locals would have been able to do nothing more than look at you as you passed them by.  Now, our images are on I don't know how many smartphones.  I have learned to turn the tables on them as well and surprisingly, they are always happy to flash me a smile.  The Turkmen are very friendly!



The mausoleum's decoration, іn typical early Seljuk style, wаs conservative, wіth interior stucco wоrk аnd geometric brick decoration, nоw mainly lost, оn the outside .


Wіth the exception оf the recently "reconstructed" exterior decoration, the mausoleum іs largely intact, аnd remains, јust аs іs іn the 12th century.  The interior decoration was conservative as well, a drastic departure from the interiors of the mausoleums we had been to in Samarkand and even Bukhara.


Looking up at the dome.


The mausoleum is a popular pilgrimage site.  There were a few people circumambulating the tomb when we stepped inside.  I stood to the side, to stay out of their way - it seemed like the respectful thing to do.




Back outside, we walked around to see one of the mausoleum's ancillary structures.


Hmm....a wishing drain cover??  A creative solution when there are no trees around to tie the ribbons on.

Looking up towards the mausoleum's do me.  The brick work is the result of heaving restoration.

In a pit, there were the ruins of what archeologists believe might have been a library.  At tleast that's what Jabbar said.  Supposedly, the arched niches would have had shelves for holding the books. I thought it a bit odd that they would keep things like manuscripts, which could be very valuable, beneath ground where water could seep through and destroy them.



Next, we were off to the Mausoleum of Mohammed Ibn Zayd. Mohammed Ibn Zayd was a Shia leader, killed in 740 AD while leading an uprising against the Umayyads in the city of Kufa in present-day Iraq. The mausoleum at Merv is probably simply a symbolic construction, built by his followers.

The mausoleum dates from the Seljuk period.  It wasn't much to look at from the outside though it was interesting to see the remains of an ancient Merv city wall nearby.

Iskander Kul
Use the scroll bar to pan to see the entire photo.

More ribbons hanging on branches, propped up by some wooden poles.  Each ribbon represents a prayer.

They just tie whatever they can tie around the branch.


We passed through a small anteroom to get to the mausoleum.  If I remember correctly, the anteroom leads to a small mosque.



It has a square, domed chamber, the dome supported by four squinches, separated by niches. An inscription running around the top of the walls records the date of construction of the mausoleum as 1112. The cenotaph in the centre of the chamber is carved with inscriptions.


One of the more interesting aspects of the interior decoration was the Seljuk brickwork.  It was typical of the Seljuks to decorate their buildings in this manner.



Back outside, we took a few minutes to walk around the area.

Mausoleum on the right.  Remains of ancient walls in the background.  Caretaker's home on the left.

The very unusual adobe building caught my eye.  According to Jabbar, this was the caretaker's house.  Indeed, there was an old man sitting outside.  I wished I had taken his photo because he was fully dressed in traditional Turkmen garb.  His home would have made for a perfect backdrop for a portrait of him.

The caretaker is sitting, against the wall, just obscured from view by the shrubbery.

There was also a sardoba on the grounds.  I'm guessing this is where the caretaker goes to get his water.


View of the surrounding neighborhood.

Now, it was time to do something fun - head to the Sunday market in Mary!