chapter  12
16 Pages

Two tales of one city

Herat under the early modern empires of the Timurids and Safavids
WithColin Mitchell

A recent surge in studies of the Khurasan region and the city of Herat reflect a wider effort by scholars to underscore the importance of the Islamic East in the medieval and early modern periods. Under the Timurids, Herat asserted its status as the most important city in the region and the leading dynastic religious centre in Khursan, but under the Safavids Herat was ultimately overshadowed by Mashhad, a more traditional pilgrimage city four hundred kilometers to the west that never became a princely dynastic seat. Arguably the most significant Sufi organization in Herat at the close of the fifteenth century — on the eve of the Timurid collapse and the advent of Safavid control — was the Naqshbandi order. Up to the late sixteenth century the Safavids continued to identify Herat as a model metropolis, even as its fortunes declined and its artists and writers abandoned the city.