Dominating the skyline, Iran's magnificent 'Taj Mahal' rises dramatically 48m above the surrounding dusty archaeological digs and crumbling city walls. The eight-towered octagonal building, built for a Mongol sultan and now a Unesco site, supports a brilliant turquoise-brick dome, one of the world's largest. The interior is full of scaffolding, but spiral stairs lead up through thick walls to airy terraces with exceptional views, beautiful vaulted ceilings and fine mosaics.
Oljeitu was a Mongol ruler who, after dabbling in various religions, adopted the Shia name Mohammed Khodabandeh. He had planned to rehouse in his mausoleum the remains of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. That would have made the mausoleum Shiite Islam’s holiest pilgrimage site outside Mecca (instead of Najaf, Iraq). However, Oljeitu couldn’t persuade the Najaf ulema (religious leaders) to give him Ali’s relics, and eventually he was buried here himself in 1317.