Formerly known as Kesh (i.e., "heart-pleasing") and tentatively identified with the ancient Nautaca, Shahrisabz is one of Central Asia’s most ancient cities. It was founded more than 2700 years ago. its name was officially changed to Shahrisabz in the modern era. From the 6th to 4th centuries BC it was a part of Akhemenid empire. Alexander the Great's general Ptolemy captured the satrap of Bactria and pretender to the Persian throne, Bessus, at Nautaca thus ending the once great Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great chose to spend his winters and met his wife Roxanna in the area in 328-327 BC. From 4th to 8th century Kesh was one of urban centers of Sogdiana. Between 567 and 658 rulers of Kesh paid taxes to caghans of Turkic and Western Turkic caghanates. In 710 city was conqured by Arabs. Shahrisabz was the birthplace of Timur on April 9, 1336, to the family of a minor local chief, and during the early years of the Timurid Dynasty, enjoyed its considerable patronage. Timur regarded Shahrisabz as his “home town” and planned it eventually to be the location of his tomb. However, during the Timurid period, the center of activity shifted to Samarkand instead.
Aq-Saray Palace. Timur’s Summer Palace, the “White Palace” was planned as the most grandiose of all Timur’s constructions. It was started in 1380 by artisans deported by Timur from the recently conquered Khwarezm. Unfortunately, only traces of its gigantic 65 m gate-towers survive, with blue, white and gold mosaics. Above the entry of the Ak-Saray are big letters saying: “If you challenge our power – look at our buildings!”.
Kok Gumbaz Mosque / Dorut Tilovat (Dorut Tilavat) Complex. A Friday mosque built in 1437 by Ulugh Beg in honor of his father Shah Rukh, its name meaning “Blue Dome”. Located immediately behind the Kok Gumbaz Mosque is the so-called “House of Meditation”, a mausoleum built by Ulugh Beg in 1438 but apparently never used for burials.
Hazrat-i Imam Complex. East of the Kok Gumbaz is another mausoleum complex called Dorus-Saodat (Seat of Power and Might), which contains the Tomb of Jehangir, Timur’s eldest and favorite son. The adjacent mosque is said to house the tomb of a revered 8th century imam Amir Kulal.
Kitob is translated into Uzbek as ‘a book’. But it is most likely that the name of the town is derived from modification of an ancient name of this settlement and implies different characteristics, namely “Kifti-Ob”, which in Farsi literally means “Shoulder –Water”. This can be explained by the location of the settlement between two rivers- Ok-suv-darya and Kashka Darya which originate in the mountains and overflow during spring thaw and rainy seasons.