Mausoleum of Khoja Abdi Darunee, Samarkand

The Mausoleum of Khoja Abdi Darunee in Samarkand was one of the most revered shrines in all Central Asia. Found in the Old Cemetery of Samarkand, this religious-memorial ensemble centers around the grave of Abd-al Mazeddin, a 9th century Arab lawyer and judge.

The Islamic judge Abd-al Mazeddin, also known as Khoja Abdi, Abdi-Darun or Abdu-Daru, was an expert in Sharia law who became one of the most respected kadis, or judges, in the city. He died around 861 and was buried according to Islamic custom in the garden of his vast estate in southeastern Samarkand, near the city’s outer fortress wall.

Between the 12th-20th centuries, numerous other graves and religious structures were constructed near Abdi Darunee’s grave, creating the ensemble seen by visitors today.

The pearl of the complex is the mausoleum created for Khoja Abdi Darunee in the 12th century, next to which were later built a mosque, madrasah and a khaniqah, a room for spiritual retreat common among Sufi Muslims. In the 15th century, the ensemble was refurbished and a one-room prayer and memorial room known as a ziyorat hona was built near the mausoleum, although some historians believe it was intended as another khaniqah.

In the 19th century, a mosque with a winter prayer hall, a small minaret and a raised, covered platform known as an aivan were erected. The platform stands before a pond and is decorated with carved wooden columns with stacked stalactite capitals and bright, colorful shades painted between the beams.

Over the centuries, numerous reconstructions of the ensemble have significantly altered its appearance, and unfortunately the original edifices have not survived to this day. The current mausoleum is a small, square structure with a pyramidal dome on an octagonal base. The interior of the mausoleum is very modest, lacking the ceramics and gold trimmings typical for such prominent graves. Instead, the walls and dome of the mausoleum are finished with white stucco, while a large tombstone engulfs nearly all of the inner mausoleum.

Few travelers manage to visit the Mausoleum of Khoja Abdi Darunee in Samarkand, which lies outside of the city center, making it all the more authentic a site for those wishing to step outside of the touristic ring to see a noteworthy historical memento.