Valentina picked me up at 9 and we headed out into the city, I know some about the city’s history and its place both on the Silk Road and as the capital of the Timurid Empire and I had walked around plenty last night amoung buildings that I am familiar with but having time with a local is so much better.
Tamerlane – The Conqueror
First stop was the Tomb Of Amir Timur (Tamerlane in the western world) the last of the great Mongol warlords.
Yup, real gold, about 2kg of gold leaf.
A century after the time of Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khan in the Ridley world) Tamerlane carved an enormous empire in a very short time, reaching from Turkey to China and down into India and Persia, all ruled from his capital, Samarkand.
I saw a letter today in the museum written by Charles V of France to Tamerlane basically saying “You sure are doing great over there, good for you… is there uh anything we could do to convince you to maybe stop coming this direction”
After the death of Tamerland the control of the empire eventually fell to his grandson…
Ulugh Bek – The Scientist
Tamerlane’s grandson was one of the great renaissance men of history, he was painted and remembered by Davinci, he took the title Mirzo (Professor) instead of Amir (Khan). Militarily he expanded the empire to it’s greatest size but his main focus was science. Ulugh built Islamic madrasas where almost all the subject matter was the sciences, in particular astronomy and math.
Ulugh Bek’s Madrasa – 1417AD (the Arabic over the door says Learn & Learn & Learn & Learn)
Ulugh made major strides in geometry and trigonometry and built the premier astronomical instrument of its day: his observatory (pre-telescope) was a huge building with a series of shafts for light and what was basically a giant marble and sunlight sextant that he used to publish the movements of 1018 stars and to calculate the lengths of solar rotation of the planets more accurately than anyone had before and the length of the year more accurately than Copernicus or Tycho Brahe did a century after Ulugh (he was less than 30 seconds off of the exact length of a year and had the Martian year within 10 seconds of exact). Spain and Algeria are both known to have sent their learned men to Samarkand to learn trigonometry and astronomy from Ulugh. I love the idea of your emperor also being your Stephen Hawking.
Less than 20 years after being built the observatory was destroyed by religious zealots, Ulugh waas murdered and all that is left is a small piece of the underground trackway for the light.