Gur-I Amir (Tomb of the Amir), Samarkand

The Gur-I Amir complex (1400-1404) was built in Samarkand by Timur (1336-1405) as the mausoleum for his grandson Muhammad Sultan, who died in battle in 1403. Originally, the complex also had an octagonal tomb in the southern portion of the complex in which Timur was interred after his death in 1405. On the east end of the complex was a two-story madrasa with two iwans, and on the west end there was a sufi khanaqah that followed a cruciform shape. However, the khanaqah and madrasa did not survive (Paskaleva 86). One of Timur’s other grandsons, Ulugh Beg (1394-1449) established the tomb as the Timurid dynastic mausoleum, although he was the last member of the family interred in the crypt (“Mosques” 96).

The exterior plan of the mausoleum is in the shape of an octagon that is 29 feet across (Hoag 264). The interior contains a square chamber with a bay on each wall. In the southeastern corner of the chamber is a stairway that leads to the crypt. The interior is sumptuously decorated with onyx, marble muqarnas, jasper, and a gold inscription encircling the interior of the mausoleum. The dome of the mausoleum is a two shelled dome; the inner dome is 74 feet tall and supports the exterior dome which is 108 feet (Hoag 264). Between the inner and outer dome are vertical flanges linked with timber that provide structure for the outer dome and allow the inner dome to support the outer dome. The outer dome uses hazarbaf brickwork in two blue tones. Around the drum of the dome is a tiled kufic inscription that repeats the phrase “God is eternal” (“Gur-I Amir”).

The Spanish ambassador to Timur’s court, Ruy González de Clavijo (d. 1412), wrote that Timur was unsatisfied with the height of the dome of the building, so he had the entire structure rebuilt. According to Clavijo, the structure was rebuilt in ten days under the supervision of the architect Muhammad ibn Mahmud of Isfahan (Hoag 264).

Contributor: Marina Schneider


“Gur-I Amir.” Archnet,

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning. Edinburgh: 1994.

Hoag, John D. Islamic Architecture. NY: Harry B. Abrams, Inc., 1977.

“The Mosques of Samarkand “Gour-i-Amir”” Indian Art and etters. Vol. 11 (1937): 95-101.

Paskaleva, Elena. “The Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarqand: Its Mongol and Timurid Architecture.” The Silk Road, 10 (2012): 81-98.