Its shiny restoration in 2005 has been called an abomination by some, but the Shah-i-Zinda remains Samarkand's most moving sight. The name, which means 'Tomb of the Living King', refers to its original, innermost and holiest shrine - a complex of cool, quiet rooms around what is probably the grave of Qusam ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed who is said to have brought Islam to this area in the 7th century.
A shrine to Qusam existed here on the edge of Afrosiab long before the Mongols ransacked it in the 13th century. Shah-i-Zinda began to assume its current form in the 14th century as Timur and later Ulugbek buried their family and favourites near the Living King.
These tombs featured the finest unrenovated glazed tilework in Central Asia until they were controversially restored as part of the Karimov administration's drive to 'beautify' Uzbekistan's architectural monuments. While still stunning, the tombs have undeniably lost some of their power.