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Main / / / Shakhrisabz – The Green City

Many tour operators while making routes through Uzbekistan include in the program as a mandatory subject the town of Shahrisabz with 3000 thousand years of history. This ancient town is set in lush colors, vineyards, gardens and beautiful mountain slopes. Its name is translated as 'Green City' (Shahr 'city' Sabz 'green, fresh, young').

It is located in the northeast of Kashkadarya region in the foothills of the mountains in the Hissar-Kitab Shakhrisabz oasis, 80 km south of Samarkand. Once in it, you'll remember it for a long time, not only as the city with an ancient history, architecture and nature, but also a city of welcoming, hardworking people who work in different industries -  textiles, cotton-processing, silk weaving. This oasis is rich in grape plantations; vintage wines of Shakhrisabz are widely known in the whole Asian continent. Shakhrisabz is also famous for its talented artisans. Its splendid hand-made embroidery in "iroki" technique, carpets and ceramics are known throughout the world.

Ancient Kesh, as it was called in Medieval period, originated approximately in the second half of the first century BC in a fertile agricultural oasis. Archaeological study of the oasis confirmed the fact that the ancient human settlements in Shakhrisabz oasis emerged about the VIII-VII centuries BC (Fortress Uzunkyr). Antique and early medieval Kesh is localized in place of Kitab, with the fort area of 40 hectares. In the Chinese sources of the first century BC it was called "Sousse". From 2nd century BC Ki-shi (Kitab) was called Kesh. Now only remnants of mud-brick shaft, formerly surrounded the citadel were preserved.

Highway had passed through the city of the Great Silk Road. Caravans with countless treasures moved along it to India and Bactria, Sogdiana, Parthia and Assyria, Egypt and Byzantium.

The formidable warriors of Cyrus and Darius I traversed this road in the 6th century BC. The Greek historian Herodotus had left the description of the ancient caravan route and the people who inhabited these lands. Some written sources referred to as the capital of Sogd – one of the provinces of the Achaemenid Empire.

In 329 BC legions of Alexander the Great captured the city. Culture, art and beliefs of the ancient Greeks (Hellenes) had influenced the culture of the local population. Local residents worshipped the Greek gods - Athena, Hercules and Dionysus.

In the I-III centuries AD the city was under the influence of the Kushan Empire.

In the VI century it became part of the state of Eftalits. In 567-658 Sogdian rulers were subordinates of Turks.

History of this town is full of many important events, and is inextricably linked to the history of other cities of the ancient Sogdiana - Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent.

Growth and flourishing of the ancient city falls on the Middle Ages. From written sources and the inscriptions on the coins we know names of the three Kesh rulers of the period - Dichzhe (the end of the 6th - the beginning of the 7th centuries), Shishpir (until mid-7th c.) and Ahurpat (the second half of the 7th century). The ruler Shishpir established close diplomatic and trade relations with the neighboring countries of the East.

At different times the city was moved many times, destroyed and rebuilt again, the current Shahrisabz is situated approximately 20 km from the ancient settlement Kesh.

As an important socio-economic and administrative center of the region, the city was surrounded by many villages and gardens, it had defensive walls and consisted of separate residential areas, residents of which were engaged in handicraft production, construction business and trade.

Kesh Residents came up repeatedly in the fight against the foreign invasions and their constant search of riches.

In the 8th century the city became the center of nearly 25-year struggle against the Arab Caliphate, which was headed in 757-785 by the local leader Hashim ibn Hakim (Mukanna). After the uprising had been suppressed, Kesh was destroyed; it was ravaged and did not grow roots up to the 13th century. Arab geographer Makdisi noted that the old town and the fortress were devastated, though the Friday mosque and a prison were still functioning.

Great force and spirit of confrontation of Kesh population was also displayed during the conquest of the Central Asian lands by the Mongols in the 13th century.

Since the end of the 14th century Kesh had acquired its current name - Shakhrisabz. The period of greatest prosperity Shakhrisabz reached during the reign of the great Amir Temur and his descendants in the 14th -15th centuries. Temur was born in 1336 in the village of Hoja Ilgor, near Shakhrisabz where he spent his childhood and youth. Having become the ruler at the age of 25, he had invested heavily in building the city, adorning it with beautiful architectural buildings, to glorify him in the East.

In 1370 Samarkand was proclaimed the capital of the Temur’s Empire. Shakhrisabz was the unofficial capital of the empire, and the ruler had paid special attention to it. The city received ambassadors and guests of the major countries of Europe and Asia. The outstanding scholars, theologians, calligraphers and skilled craftsmen and merchants were eager to arrive there, thereby stimulating the development of science, art, commerce and crafts.

It was a walled city; its territory was enclosed in 1378 with mud walls and a moat with a drawbridge at the gate. The width of the walls at the bottom reached up to 5 meters, the height was more than 11 meters, and the city walls were decorated with towers.

Castilian ambassador Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, who visited Shakhrisabz in 1404, wrote in admiration, that the city was located on a plain surrounded by gardens and houses on all sides which made a lot of streams and canals. The defensive wall with a deep moat and a drawbridge made a great impression on him.

For the beauty, grandeur and status of a cultural center in the Middle Ages Shakhrisabz was endowed with sonorous epithets - "Dilkesh" ("heartwarming" city), "al-Kubbat ilm wa al-Adab" ("The dome of science and learning").

Spiritual advisor of Amir Temur - Shamsuddin Kula lived in Shahrisabz, as well as the three of the six recognized in the Muslim world scientists and commentators of hadithes (deeds of Prophet Muhammad) - Abu Muhammad Al-Keshy (Hazrat Imam), Muhammad al Abdullo Samarkandiy and famous Imam Abu al-Abdullo Bukhoriy lived and worked here for a while.

From 1574 during the reign of Abdullakhan II, Shakhrisabz had become a member of the state of Sheibanids.

During the period of feudal fragmentation in the 17th -18th centuries Shakhrisabz was a provincial town and only in the mid 18th century began a new rise of the city during the reign of the ruler Nazarbek. During this period, work was implemented on the improvement of the city and the restoration of the famous architectural ensembles. The rulers had repeatedly declared themselves to be independent and resisted the onslaught of the Bukhara Emirate. In 1856 the province was defeated by Bukhara Emir Nasrullah and finally was attached to Bukhara in 1870.

Till the collapse of the Emir of Bukhara in 1920 Shakhrisabz remained the center of landowners.

Today Shakhrisabz is a dynamic large administrative, cultural and tourist center of Uzbekistan with developed infrastructure, agriculture, processing industry and crafts.


Shakhrisabz architecture is extremely attractive. In a small-sized city with population of just over 100,000 people, there are 19 cultural heritage sites testifying to the past greatness and beauty of the city.

In 2000 the historic center of Shakhrisabz was declared a UNESCO World Heritage masterpiece. Every year the city receives tens of thousands of tourists.

Most of the attractions were built in Shakhrisabz by Temur, his grandson Ulugbek, great scientist, made a significant contribution to architecture of the city.

Prominent architects, skilled builders and creative people from around the world came here (as it considered being the cultural center of the East) and artfully decorated it.

The most famous attraction of Shakhrisabz is Ak-Saray - summer palace of Temur (White Palace, 1380-1404). The palace has not been preserved to us in its original form, the arch of the entrance portal collapsed 200 years ago. The surviving palace pylons reach a height of almost 38 meters. The palace was being built for over 20 years by the best master architects of Shakhrisabz, Iran, India and Khorezm. Its chambers and halls were exquisitely decorated with gold frosting, facades of buildings are covered with colored tiles, and courtyards are paved with white slabs. In a palace on one of the roofs on the 40-meter height there was built a unique pool, the fruit of architectural thought. Water was fed back into the pipes from the surrounding mountains and a waterfall was running down, creating a cool and special microclimate. Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo wrote in admiration of the palace chambers, its courtyards, gardens and swimming pools, wondered its rich patterns with symbols of decorating master - a lion lying in the sun.

"If you doubt our power, take a look at our buildings!” . This inscription adorned portal of Ak-Saray Palace, the special pride of architecture.

Particularly noteworthy are religious ensembles of Shakhrisabz, the most famous of which Dorus Tilovat and Dorus Siodat are the burial places of famous people of the 14th -15th centuries.

Memorial complex Dorut-Tilovat ("House of reflection, contemplation") was built in 1370-1371 over the grave of a famous cleric, Sufi Shamsiddin Kula, spiritual teacher of Temur’s father - Emir Taragay and of Amir Temur himself. Tomb of a Sufi has been a significant place of pilgrimage for many followers.

The complex also includes a mosque Kok Gumbaz (Blue Dome) built in 1435 on the foundations of an earlier building of pre-Mongol period. Summer galleries once flanked to the mosque; the bases of square piers supporting arches have survived. There remained a central part of the dome with a diameter of up to 46 meters, which is much larger than the majestic dome of Bibi Khanum mosque in Samarkand. The inscription on the portal indicates that the mosque was built by Ulugbek, grandson of Timur. On the outside of the dome there remained inscriptions from the Koran laid with brick mosaic in majolica frame.

Elegant mausoleum Gumbazi-Seidon (Dome of Seyids) of this architectural this ensemble was built in 1437-1438 by order of Ulugbek for posterity of Temurid dynasty. Among the marble tombstones of the 15th -16th centuries, carried to the tomb at different times from a nearby cemetery, there are some that contain the names of Termez Seyids.

Another well-known complex in Shakhrisabz - Ensemble Dorus Siodat ("Storage of Power") was intended to bury the representatives of Temurid dynasty. In 1376 in Samarkand the eldest son of Tamerlane - Jehangir Mirzo died at the age of 20. By the decision of the grieving ruler there was erected a beautiful mausoleum for his son topped with 27 meter high dome. This mausoleum was located in the homeland of his ancestors. On the southern side of the complex there is the tomb of another son of Amir Temur - Omarsheyh Mirzo, who was killed in 1394 at the age of 29, during the siege of the Kurd fortress in Iran.

On the east side of this ensemble is the mausoleum built for Amir Temur which could become his family tomb, but it remained empty, and the great king was buried in the mausoleum of Gur- Emir in Samarkand.

Sepulchers will amaze you with its elegance and strict forms, their walls decorated with arched niches, kept thin alabaster carvings, fragments of majolica and mosaic decorations with inscriptions from the Koran about the transience of earthly life and the triumph of eternity.

The complex includes a mosque Hazrat Imam (early XIX century) with the centuries-old plane trees in the courtyard. Imam Muhammad Shaybani, or as he was called Hazrat Imam, lived at the end of the 8th century in Iraq. After the death in 802, he was buried in Ray (Iran), according to legend his sacred remains were taken by Tamerlane from Rey to Shakhrisabz. In the 18th century the relics of Hazrat Imam were transferred to mausoleum of Temur’ son – Jehangir. Due to this fact the whole complex was called "Hazrat Imam."

Complex constructions of Dorus Saodat were destroyed during the reign of Sheibanid Abdullakhan II in the second half of the 16th century. According to legend that khan wanted to destroy the memory of the great predecessor. Of all the buildings in the complex only the mausoleum of Jakhongir and crypt of Amir Temur are preserved today.

In addition to the majestic religious buildings Shahrisabz contains a number of public structures - bathhouses, caravanserais, bridges and commercial domes; their characteristic feature is original architecture and ingenious decorations.

In the center of Shakhrisabz remained covered market Chorsu (XV c.), a five-domed brick building, and a traditional covered market with numerous stalls, built at the intersection of the two main shopping streets. Medieval Bukhara and Samarkand were also known for similar commercial buildings.

Bath house is interesting architecture of the city. Built in the 15th  century, it is still in operation today. Structure with marble floors and shelves was built of baked tiled bricks and blocked with ring domes. Heating is a whole system of underground pipelines laid under the floor.

In Shahrisabz there are interesting buildings of later times, the XVII-XIX centuries; among them are Khonako Malik Ajdar with a majestic dome, neighborhood mosque Kazi- Gusar having beautiful aiwan on wooden columns.

One of the centers of gravity of the ancient city is Shakhrisabz museum of history named after Amir Temur.

On the territory of Kitab district one can find unique paleontological museum telling visitors about the Kitab-Shahrisabz Valley from ancient times inhabited by the agricultural population. This is a unique place in the world where you can trace the origin of life on earth, its improvement and development. Near Dzhaus village you will see the fabulous mountain ranges, where you can trace the birth and development of plant and animal life on the Earth from Cambridge to the Jurassic period (450-250 million years ago).

Tashkurgan area is famous for "Dinosaur Trail", with sandstone prints of 23 half-meter traces of the giant reptiles.

From Shahrisabz you can make fascinating excursions into the town of Kitab and Latitude Station, with ongoing research in the physics of the Earth and in the Hissar Mountains where you can see the holy Muslim top of the Hazrat Sultan.

Traveling to Shahrisabz you will get a lot of pleasant impressions and make wonderful discoveries.