The Samanids Mausoleum is the oldest Bukhara’s structure, which remained intact to the present day. It was built in the late 9th – early 10th centuries for Ahmed ibn Asad by order of his son Amir Ismail Samani, the founder of the first centralized state in Central Asia. Later he himself was interred in the mausoleum. In 943 the body of Ismail’s grandson Nasr was also committed to the ground in this burial-vault.
The mausoleum is not large, which allows viewing the whole of this unique structure instantly. It is built in the form of a cube with each side being about 10 meters in length. But the designers of the building made its walls slightly leaning inward, thus giving this architectural ‘miniature’ a monumental look. The walls and corners inside the mausoleum have little arches that support an octahedral base of the cupola above. To lessen the weight of the big cupola at the corners of the building there were built smaller domes. Along the upper part of the building runs a reach-through gallery; it has 40 openings to give “lightness” to the structure. All four facades of the mausoleum are identical; each of them has a lancet-arch entrance with corners being decorated with strong attached semi-columns.
The Samanids Mausoleum was the first Central Asian building to be made of baked bricks, which were used both as construction and decorative material. The interior and exterior of the mausoleum have patterned decorative brickwork; specialists distinguish over 20 configurations of the bricks. Twenty-first-century man, accustomed to industrial construction technologies, can hardly believe that each brick of the mausoleum was separately modeled out of the best clay, baked and polished carefully, and only then highly skilled bricklayers got down to work. The ancient masters made the decorative brickwork patterns in such a way that during the day the ornament changes depending on the light. No architectural monuments in the world can boast such a wall decoration effect. Connoisseurs say that the light and shadow effect on the walls of the mausoleum is best viewed in the moonlight.
The relief surface of the bricks, besides decorative effect, allows great cohesion between the bricks and the alabaster mortar. This quality and 1.8-metre-thick walls ensured the amazing durability of the monument.
The appearance of the Samanids Mausoleum is inseparably linked with Sogdian traditions and heralds the transition to the new Central Asian architectural style. Experts believe that the source of its architectural forms should be sought in Zoroastrian burial structures and fire temples, many of which remained intact on the territory of Uzbekistan. In pre-Islamic architecture a cube symbolized the earth, a dome symbolized the sky, and in combination they symbolized the universe. The charm of the mausoleum is explained by the harmonious proportions of the building, next to being in the golden ratio.
The Samanids Mausoleum is a true masterpiece, one of the world’s best architectural monuments.