Day 38: Turki Jandi Mausoleum

10th Century Turki Jandi Mausoleum – photo credit Davide Mauro – wikipedia commons

Whenever we hear a monument or historic landmark described as “seldom visited,” “off the beaten path,” or “away from the core tourist area,” it acts like a magnet drawing our immediate interest.  Always in search of authentic, un-renovated, and huge fans of the anti-disneyfication movement, nothing makes us more excited than raw unadulterated history.  The Turki Jandi Mausoleum hidden deep within the maze of ancient streets in the old town of Bukhara is one of these places, and remains one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had traveling in Uzbekistan.

the tomb’s inner chamber is a surreal experience we’ll probably never forget

Away from the core of the historic tourist center, but still well within the UNESCO World Heritage protected zone, the Turki Jandi Mausoleum is located down a dusty road east of Lyabi-Hauz Square after passing through Toki Sarrafon trade dome.  Turn left at first fork in the road after the dome, and then walk 200m, and the mausoleum entrance, marked by a vaulted iwan gateway with ancient wooden doors, should be on your left.

The complex is ancient, dating from the 10th century, and survived the destruction unleashed by Genghis Khan.  The mysterious Turki Jandi is buried in the main mausoleum chamber accessed through a tiny portal and into a marble faced room located under the taller central dome.  The condition of the mausoleum is what you might expect if things are left to their own devices for hundreds of years without interference from preservation authorities.  No effort has been taken preserve any sense of authenticity, because authenticity isn’t what concerns the caretaker.  This is a pilgrimage site for the faithful, not a Kodak moment for tourists.  A hose-pipe across the floor, a plastic chair against the wall, metal bucket on the tombstone, and an armchair in the corner. After all, where else is the mullah supposed to sit?  It doesn’t get any better than this.
The knowledgeable and friendly caretaker is pleased to show visitors around.  Tajik or Russian are preferred here, so unless you bring a guide with you, be prepared to practice your language skills.  The guided tour will take you deep into the main tomb chamber, past the small mosque, where photos are fine as long as you ask permission.
crumbling vaulted iwan from street – photo credit Davide Mauro – wikipedia commons

The main attraction at Turki Jandi other than answered prayers for the faithful is a source of holy water served from a large stainless steel cooler at the entrance.  We aren’t sure what makes the water so special, but the spiritual significance of this place is clear.  As one of the oldest necropolis complexes left standing in Bukhara, thousands of graves are supposedly stacked on top of each other up to 30 meters deep.  Over the centuries pilgrims have come to pay their respects to Turki Jandi, so many also chose to be buried here.  Unlike the Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand, there are no ostentatious mausoleums for the elite, just a simple tomb, and ordinary graves.

Somehow, over the past thousand years, generations of caretakers have managed to keep this place standing.  According to the caretaker, UNESCO funds are set aside for even more robust preservation efforts, but that isn’t exactly how it works in the real world.  Although there seems to be lots of  work going on, the scaffolding and brickwork are just routine maintenance, which on a monument ten centuries old, always requires constant attention.  While located in the historic preservation zone, funds are scarce, so donations from visitors are always appreciated to keep this historic mausoleum from crumbling away forever.

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