A despatch from creator of your new Southbank website-slash-Indiana Jones, Max Newton, who has gone haring off on the 2016 Mongol rally. He tells me it involves taking a beaten-up car and seeing how far you get…
He’s made it to Kyrgyztan! Here’s his latest update – a bit like a sailing report, but with more culture:
Samarkand, Pearl of the East and perhaps the only place on Earth where all three World Conquerors have definitely stood. Oh yes, the history geek in me would be strong this day.
The Registan at night was breathtaking – three huge madrasahs surrounding a square, relics of the Temurid dynasty whose founder had lifted Samarkand into the ranks of cities like Babylon and Rome.
In any case, we’d caught sight of a far more prodigious prize, the mausoleum of Temur himself. Temur, destroyer of Damascus, who piled up the heads of 100,000 Bagdhadis who’d opposed him, annihilator of Delhi, seven-time conqueror of Georgia and victor over both the Golden Horde and Ottoman Empire (itself at this point running through Europe like a knife through hot butter). His black coffin was small and modest. His mausoleum was not! A huge blue dome decorated with golden tile work to show the heavens beaming down on him for all time illustrated just what you can achieve when you have enslaved all the artists and craftsmen from 3 different cultures.
After this we went searching for Bibi-khanym mosque, it’s going on 40m tall and built in the 15th century it was one of the worlds largest mosques. It was built by Temur himself (I think) and, perhaps as a warning against rushing your work/hubris) had immediately started collapsing upon his death. That did not take away from it at all and we were lucky enough to take it in during sunset, when huge flocks of swallows emerged to hunt.
This was by far my favourite day so far, and the decade I’ve spent waiting for it has been well-delivered on!!
Bridge, Amateur 15th c. Central Asian historian, Tour Guide Extraordinaire, and Chief Navigator of this Spirit Ship