Antiquities of Samarkand. Madrasah of Ulugh Beg. Main Facade (Eastern). Beginning


This photograph of a detail of the east facade of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors. In the center of Samarkand is the Registan ensemble, composed of three major examples of a madrasah (religious school). The oldest extant component on Registan Square is the Ulugh Beg Madrasah, a leading center of Islamic education, built in 1417-20 by the scholar-king and grandson of Timur, Ulugh Beg (1393?-1449). Shown here is a detail from the wall within the niche of the great iwan (vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open) arch at the entrance to the madrasah. Despite damage to the facade, this fragment displays rich polychrome ceramic ornamentation, including faience work. Of particular interest is the ornate cursive Perso-Arabic inscription band, which is bordered with decorative strips and set within panels composed of intricate geometric and botanical motifs. The lower geometric figures contain block Kufic script that forms words from the Kalima, the basis of the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia


Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Медрессэ Улуг-Бек. Главный фасад (восточный). Начало

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 2, plate 109.

Last updated: September 30, 2016