Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum

The Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum was built in the ancient Silk Road oasis city of Merv in the 12th century. The mausoleum was built by Sanjar’s successor Muhammad ibn Aziz. Believed to be the largest city in the world, Merv boasted a population of over one million in medieval times.

Initially, the Sultan’s tomb was connected to a complex of buildings that included a mosque, a palace and others. However, only the mausoleum itself has survived to the present time. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the mausoleum building was restored by Soviet, Turkmen and Turkish architects. Now it is part of the State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv”, which is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The mausoleum of Ahmed Sanjar on the 100 manat banknote from Turkmenistan
The mausoleum of Ahmed Sanjar on the 100 manat banknote from Turkmenistan

The legend about Sultan Sanjar

According to local legend, Sultan Sanjar fell in love with a peri (fairy) who agreed to marry him on three conditions: he could never look at her feet when she walked, never gaze at her while she combed her hair, and never touch her waist. Violating her request, Sanjar discovered that she walked without touching the ground, removed her head to comb her hair and had no bones in her waist. Infuriated, the beautiful peri flew away. Sanjar begged to see her again. The peri promised to come if he would build a beautiful building with a hole in the roof to look through. After he died, he was buried there so that the peri would look inside and see his grave until the end of time.


The mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar has the shape of a cube with a dome on top, the height of which is 27 meters. The height of the walls is 14 meters. The width of the entire dome is 17 by 17 meters. Despite the restoration, the mausoleum still lacks such original features as the second floor and the outer dome covered with turquoise. The tomb is one of the few surviving examples of Seljuk funerary architecture in Turkmenistan. Its squat proportions and hexagonal surround of the outer dome influenced later works of Islamic architecture in Central Asia.

The Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum before and after restoration
The Mausoleum before and after restoration

The top floor of the structure, consisting of a squat cube topped by a large round dome, is surrounded by turrets that have been damaged over time. In general, we can say that the interior of this building is much more important than the exterior. The mausoleum building is constructed from several different types of building materials, which include brick, terracotta, plaster and stucco.

Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum

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