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After the death of Imam Reza, he was buried in one of the villages of Khorasan region which was later came to be called Mashhad or the martyrdom site. One of the spectacular constructs of Imam Reza shrine is the golden fence that immediately after the tomb itself encircles it and is called Zarrih or fence. In various eras, different fences were placed above and around the tomb.

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Since such fences are made with highly valuable metallic materials such as silver and gold, they have been exposed to theft twice in the course of their history. However, the present one, which is considered to be the fifth of its kind installed there, has been designed by one of the greatest miniaturists of Iran and made of walnut tree wood and steel.

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The golden dome of Imam Reza shrine has got two layers of coverage, the first of which is the very ceiling of the shrine itself and the second one the one seen from outside of the harem or shrine and is constructed with gold-made bricks. When you are within the shrine of Imam Reza, if you look up around the ceiling, surely the architecture and decorative arts of it, especially its mirror-work, will leave you perplexed for some time.

However, the beauty of the shrine of Imam Reza is not exclusive to its interior since the golden dome of it, with a height of about 31 meters, and exposed to the viewer from kilometers away, has endowned a unique sense of beauty to the atmosphere of the city. It is interesting to know that shah Abbas, the Safavid king, took the destination of the shrine on feet in A. An inscription seen around the dome indicates the date of the commencement and termination of this project.

The other inscription under the former refers to another renovation which took place after the first one. After beholding the shining golden dome, if you turn your head towards the horizon of the sky, you will see many sky-rising edifices attracting your attention to themselves.

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They include the minarets of the campuses, the ones belonging to Gohar'shah mosque, clock towers, and two old golden minarets. The two golden minarets that have endowed a unique beauty to Imam Reza shrine, one is located adjacent to the dome and the other one right in front of it in the antiquity or Atiq campus' northern part. All around the golden minarets are decorated with inscriptions. Another important edifice in Imam Reza shrine is the drinking fountain.

It is where the pilgrims drink water in search of and hope for remedy and cure and take some of its water back home as a blessed token for the people they know. This drinking fountain was established nearly in A. Playing tymbal is a ritual unique to Imam Reza shrine. Playing it has been long a tradition in the shrine.

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Even though the time of the commencement of this traditional ritual is not clear, one can infer from historical references that it was common since six centuries ago. As for why this ritual of tymbal playing was carried out in Imam Reza's shrine, there is unfortunately no irrefutable evidence at hand. Some say the tradition commenced due to the fact that this religious figure had the position of the crown prince in there.

According to another theory, for watching over Imam Reza shrine, there were specially assigned watchers who declared their readiness by playing tymbal.

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A group, however, believe that playing tymbal is a matter of sheer formality. Nevertheless, the question of the initial intent aside, today in the morning before sunrise and in the evenings before sunset, trumpet and tymbal are played warning the prayer-goers that the time to carry out the prayings is short. Of course, in feasts and ceremonies or when something unexpected comes up, too, the ritual is carried out. The ceremony aside, there is an edifice constructed there for this very purpose and is considered as one of the spectacular attractions of Imam Reza shrine.

The high-rising and turquoise tile-covered tymbal site is built in two floors. The baby-blue Beit Rachel synagogue is the largest in central Asia. With the threat of militant Islam on its southern border, healthy ecumenical relations are not just a communal nicety; they are a strategic necessity. Opened in , and named after Nazarbayev who else? Nazarbayev has made it possible for school graduates to study overseas, all expenses paid, provided they return to Kazakhstan to work for at least five years after graduation.

Many of this new breed of foreign-educated Kazakhstanis now make their careers in Astana. This flashy toy-city is locked in a fascinating negotiation between a Soviet command-and-control past and an aspirational, market-savvy present. But out on the edge of town, all the architecture stops abruptly. All the frantic energy comes to a halt, and the vast unremitting steppe suddenly begins. Which is why Astana feels like some great existentialist parable, an attempt to overcome the terror of endless emptiness with the frantic distraction of human endeavour.

But who knows? Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook and join the discussion. Facebook Twitter Pinterest.

Topics Cities. Kazakhstan South and Central Asia Astana features. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. It has the petrodollar glitz of the Gulf and the monumental axial planning of Pyongyang , but each mirror-glass facade is drenched with a more explicit desire to hark back to an imagined past, searching for legitimacy in the forms of ancient civilisations and Kazakh folk motifs.

Newspapers are shut down, critics locked up and protesters tortured, but cor just look at that parametric blob. Nazarbayev decided to move the capital in the early s, soon after taking office. His reasoning has been the subject of considerable speculation ever since, particularly among the civil servants forced to move here.

Some say it was to shift the centre of gravity away from the border with China, while others argue that it was to cement Kazakh presence in an area that was predominantly ethnically Russian. Either way, it was primarily an opportunity to start from scratch, providing a blank slate on which the new leader could inscribe his new world, following in the footsteps of Darius the Great and Persepolis. The origin story of the city is told at some length in the Nazarbayev Centre , a gigantic stone bowl topped with a bulbous glass lens, tilted towards the presidential palace like an all-seeing eye and surrounded by a high-security perimeter fence patrolled by soldiers.

Gifts from adoring nations fill more vitrines on the cascading levels of the building — a silver model of an oil pipeline from China, a bejewelled train carriage from Turkmenistan — along with a 3D holographic presentation of medals that Nazarbayev has received from world leaders. The centrepiece of this eerie mausoleum is a display of architectural models, wrought in silver, gold and semiprecious stones, shown alongside some of the initial napkin sketches drawn by Nazarbayev himself. There is his scribble of the shuttlecock-shaped Bayterek Tower, designed to represent the magic tree of life where Samruk, the mythical Kazakh bird of happiness, laid its golden egg.

He proposed an organic model of development that would integrate the existing Soviet-era town on the right bank of the river with the new city on the left, surrounding the capital with a dense belt of trees to protect it from the icy winds. They have never been planted. The new city is an alienating place of six-lane roads punctuated by vast object buildings, conceived with a total absence of human scale, making the former Soviet centre across the river feel like a cosy village in comparison. If you look at the map, the watercourse shrinks back either side of Astana, only bulging out in the centre of the city, like a snake digesting its lunch.

It is too monumental and car-centric and has no sensitivity to the harsh climate. The buildings are so far apart that there can be no life on the streets. On a warm August evening, there is little sign of life in the city centre. Groups of teenagers are to be found wandering the promenade along the old right bank of the river, while across the water, a handful of families stroll down the central Nurzhol boulevard, admiring the illuminated buildings, which twinkle like the battery-operated toys being hawked by a few lonely street vendors.

All the money that is spent on heating these huge buildings in winter and cooling them in summer could be used to fund decent services and infrastructure for the rest of the country. The project was mired in scandal from the beginning, accused of diverting money from the national pension fund and subject to claims of public sector employees being forced to buy tickets to bolster visitor numbers. Three top Expo officials were arrested for embezzlement. I was welcomed into the Shell pavilion and invited to generate my own kinetic energy by running inside a Zorb. I was invited to ponder the effects of global warming in the French pavilion, with the Total oil logo looming above a glowing Earth.

The banners and mascots have now been swept away, and the hectare site is being converted into the new International Financial Centre , intended to lure foreign companies with the promise of English law, tax exemptions and an independent financial court. It is the usual free zone model favoured by dictatorships around the world, creating a thin bubble of democracy that evaporates as soon as you leave the compound.

The western-friendly mirage is something Nazarbayev has been at great pains to cultivate over the years, cementing his position as the best of a bad bunch of despots in charge of the former Soviet states of central Asia.

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Some of the PR is paying off. Yet, on the world press freedom index , it languishes at th out of countries and stands at st on the corruption perceptions index.