The Historic Centre of Shakhrisabz was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000. The Old Town — which has been recently restored — contains a collection of exceptional monuments and ancient quarters which bear witness to the city’s secular development. Shakhrisabz was the birthplace of Amir Timur, founder of the Timurid Empire, and it was here that he had his extraordinary palace, Ak-Serai.
The Historic Centre of Shakhrisabz, located on the Silk Roads in southern Uzbekistan, is over 2,000 years old and was the cultural and political centre of the Kesh region in the 14th and 15th century.
A collection of exceptional monuments and ancient quarters can be found within the medieval walls, parts of which still remain. The Historic Centre of Shakhrisabz bears witness to the city’s secular development and to centuries of its history, and particularly to the period of its apogee, under the empire of Timur, in the 15th century. Construction of elements continued in Shakhrisabz throughout different time periods, lending a unique character to the place by the succession of different architectural styles. Despite the inroads of time, the remaining vestiges are still impressive in the harmony and strength of styles, an enriching addition to the architectural heritage of Central Asia and the Islamic world.
The Ak-Serai Palace construction began in 1380, the year following Timur’s conquest of Khorezm, whose artisans were deported to work on the palace and provide its rich decoration. Although Samarkand may boast a great many Timurid monuments, not one can rival the Ak-Sarai Palace in Shakhrisabz. The foundations of its immense gate have been preserved: this architectural masterpiece is outstanding in its dimensions and bold design.
The Dorus Saodat is a vast complex which was destined as a place of burial for the ruling family and contained, in addition to the tombs themselves, a prayer hall, a mosque, and accommodation for the religious community and pilgrims. The main façade was faced with white marble. The tomb of Temur, also of white marble, is a masterpiece of the architecture of this period and it is also one of the finest memorials to be found in Central Asia.
The covered Chorsu Bazaar was built at the cross-roads of two main streets, in the form of an octagon with a central cupola, with no particular decoration but with an eye to the exterior effect of bold architecture. The baths, rebuilt on the site of the 15th century baths and still in use today, are heated by an elaborate network of underground conduits.
Shakhrisabz contains not only outstanding monuments dating from the period of the Temurids, but also mosques, mausoleums, and entire quarters of ancient houses.
In addition to these monuments, the town also offers a variety of interesting constructions of a more modern period, including the Mirhamid, Chubin, Kunduzar, and Kunchibar mosques. Period houses reflect a more popular architectural style, with rooms typically laid out around a courtyard with veranda.
Criterion (iii): Shakhrisabz contains many fine monuments, and in particular those from the Timurid period, which was of great cultural and political significance in medieval Central Asia.
Criterion (iv): The buildings of Shakhrisabz, notably the Ak-Serai Palace and the Tomb of Timur, are outstanding examples of a style which had a profound influence on the architecture of this region.