Ak Saray palace is the main attraction and the pearl of Shakhrisabz. Its incredible ruins can be seen from afar and they make a deep impression with their size. Amir Timur expected to make Shakhrisabz the second capital of his empire, no less impressive than Samarkand. The construction of the palace was started in 1380 and lasted more than 25 years. Like all the Tamerlane’s most grand projects, this structure has only survived partly. Since Shahrizabz is the hometown of Tamerlane, he decided to build his greatest palace here in the similar way as the Samarkand’s Bibi Khanum Mosque.
The name Ak-Sarai means White Palace and expresses the noble origin of the building, not the dominant colors of blue, green and gold patterned vast mosaics. Timur wanted the biggest and the very best in the world and hired architects and handicraftsmen from Khorezm to have his kingly scale palace and to make sure that all recognized his power. There was an inscription on the portal saying that : “Those who doubt my power and munificence should look at my buildings”. As a result, the inside courtyard alone was 250 meters in length and 125 meters in width. The height of the main portal crowned with an arched battlement was 70 metres in height meaning the size of a modern 20-story building. Corner towers were no less than 80 metres high whereas the entrance arch span exceeded 22 metres. Small parts of the current structures that can be seen are rebuilt based on the evidence of descriptions made by Timur’s archeological research materials and archaelogic materials.
According to the writings of Ruy Gonsalez de Clavijo the ambassador of Spain, the representative of the King of Castile who visited Shahrizabz in 1404 on the way to the court of Timur, they entered the palace “by a very broad and lofty door way, ornamented with gold and blue patterns on glazed tiles, richly and beautifully worked. On the top of this doorway there was the figure of a lion and a sun, which are the arms of the lord of Shakhrisabz…” The door led to the grand reception hall. The luxury of decoration of the palace was supplemented with floors finely wrought in tiles, some of which was found during the excavation works.
Ak Sarai is located at the northern end of a large park area at the center of Shahrisabz. Today only two separated columns remain of this majestic structure and their height currently reaches 38 meters. Unlike many of Uzbekistan’s other historic sites, to date, very little restoration work has been done here and UNESCO’s current project appears to focus, quite rightly, more on shoring up the building than touching up its magnificent (albeit time-ravaged) tile work. Locals have taken the place as their own and it is the place for wedding photos in Shahrisabz.
The palace was made for several purposes, it was the place for recreation and entertainment of the royal family, as well as the administration building for running state affairs. On the axis of the courtyard, there were domed quarters for holding sessions of divan – council of state. The smaller halls on both sides were used for sessions of royal advisers – tavajibeks and divanbeks.
The Ak Saray palace also served lavishly decorated and sumptuously finished premises for a harem. In front of the harem premises, there was a shady garden with pools with patterned tiles. One of the pools was intended for holy fish. The pools were fed by the water flowing by the channel coming from the nearby mountains.
Sights & Destinations near Ak Saray
Page updated 11.12.2021