Prophet Daniel Mausoleum (Khoja Daniyar Mausoleum), Samarkand

Locals sitting at the entrance of Prophet Daniel Mausoleum

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Revered by all three major monotheistic religions, Prophet Daniel was a pivotal figure during Biblical times, with his eerily accurate prophecies echoing across ancient empires. While the prophet’s exact burial site was never really verified, several places around the world claim to be his final resting place. Among them is a rather odd contender, Uzbekistan’s ancient city of Samarkand, where a sacred tomb on the banks of the Siab River is regarded by ardent believers to hold the remains of the biblical seer.

In the increasingly polarized world of today, it seems as if there aren’t many things which Jews, Muslims and Christians can agree upon. Nevertheless, the veneration of Prophet Daniel, the titular protagonist of the Book of Daniel, transcends religions, ethnicities and time.


Following the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BCE, Daniel, a member of the city’s Jewish elite, was forcefully exiled and subsequently served as the private advisor of King Nebuchadnezzar II, and later the Persian emperors, Darius and Cyrus. During his lifetime, the prophet was regarded as a prodigy, whose supernatural powers were associated with a series of prophecies and miracles.


It is for this reason that six cities across the world pride themselves as having the prophet’s place of burial within their confines. 5 out of the 6 cities are located in either modern-day Iraq or Iran, and thus considered as plausible contenders given Daniel’s presumed whereabouts during biblical times. On the other hand, the sixth city – Samarkand in Uzbekistan, is somewhat a controversy as its faraway location is deemed by many as farfetched.

As it turns out, though, locals in Uzbekistan have a deus ex machina for this seemingly unsolvable predicament. Legend has it that Timur (aka Tamerlane), a medieval emperor who ruled over much of Central Asia, was embroiled in a long and bloody military campaign across the Middle East. Despite his massive army, Tamerlane failed to conquer a small town in Iran by the name of Susa.


As he tried to shed a light as to why the empire’s almighty powers aren’t enough to subdue this small Persian city, there were claims that a tomb, where the remains of Prophet Daniel are encased, protects Susa from being conquered. Bewildered by this revelation, Timur negotiated the relocation of the coveted relics to Samarkand, a major trade and political center along the Silk Route at that time. Soon thereafter, an ample natural spring popped into existence a mere short distance away of the newly relocated tomb, and better yet, Tamerlane’s empire gained control over large swathes of previously unconquerable lands.


Tucked away in the outskirts of Samarkand, within the ancient Afrasiyab Settlement, the Mausoleum of Prophet Daniel (Khoja Daniyar Mausoleum) is home to a five-domed edifice, where a bulky sarcophagus purportedly serves as the prophet’s current grave. According to a local lore, the coffin’s oversized length of 18 meters is the result of the body miraculously growing at a steady pace since its reburial. A more plausible explanation, though, is that the unusual size acted as an impediment against grave robbers.


Whatever the reason might be, one thing is utterly clear, the limousine-sized tomb attracts pilgrims from all over the country and the world, for whom there are no question marks regarding the identity and the spooky wonders associated with whoever is interred inside.