samarkand at arm’s length
Samarkand, one of the legendary cities of the Silk Road, is a place of many marvels and mysteries. Intrepid’s Tara Kennaway takes us to Uzbekistan to uncover the unusual…
“Travellers are immediately drawn to the magnificent Registan – the immaculately decorated medressa and mosque complex that dominates the centre of the Old Town – and mesmerised by other glittering remnants of Samarkand’s golden past such as Guri Amir, Tamerlane’s gilt lined mausoleum. But on the dusty fringes of the town, surrounded by sloping hills and with a stream running by is perhaps the most curious site of all: the Tomb of the Prophet Daniel.
Known to the locals as the Mausoleum of Khodja Daniar, the tomb is considered a holy place by not only the local Islamic population, but for Christian and Jewish pilgrims alike. It is believed to contain the arm bone of the Prophet Daniel, a relic which according to the legends was stolen from Mecca and brought to Samarkand by Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane.
So if it is supposed to contain a mere arm bone, you’d expect the crypt to be small, right? Wrong! The length of the tomb is over 18 metres long! Ask the holy men praying and offering blessings to the pilgrims outside and one will tell you that the bone miraculously grows longer and longer each year. No, says another, the Prophet Daniel was a giant and so they had no choice but to make the tomb this big!
Whatever you believe, the mystery is complicated further by the fact that this is not the only Tomb of the Prophet Daniel in the world. There’s one within the Kirkuk Citadel in Iraq, another in Susa, Iran, while others believe that his final resting place is actually Alexandria in Egypt!”