Meana-Baba mausoleum, usually referred to as Meana Baba, is one of the most unjustly neglected sites of Turkmenistan, as it lies an inconvenient distance from the main Ashgabat to Mary road to make for a straightforward stop.
It is nonetheless well worth the detour. Abu Said was born in 967 in the town of Meikhene, which lay on the trade route between Abiverd and Serakhs. His father was a herbalist and spice trader, who was able to give his son a fine education. Abu Said was known for his asceticism, reportedly reciting verses from the Koran while suspended head-first in a well. After spells in various cities, including Merv, Serakhs and Nishapur, Abu Said was to return to Meikhene, where he died in 1049. By the time of his death, he had become a widely respected Sufi authority, who played an important role in the political and spiritual life of the region. The Seljuk leaders Chagry Beg and Togrul Beg reportedly sought his blessing for their bid to overturn the Ghaznavids. Some criticized the use of elements of poetry, music and dance in his teachings, but he was a highly popular figure, such that it is said that a piece of watermelon, accidentally dropped by him, changed hands for the sum of 20 gold dinars. It is thus no surprise that a great mausoleum should have been built at the place of his death.
The mausoleum dates from the 11th century. It has a square base, with sides a little more than 10m in length, above which is a double dome, a feature typical of the buildings constructed in this period by the craftsmen of Serakhs. The transition between walls and dome is marked with four squinches, separated by four niches, each containing a small window. The entrance to the mausoleum is framed by a tall, arched portal. A major reconstruction in the 14th century added much colour to the building, including beautiful blue, turquoise and white mosaic tile work around the portal, based around geometric designs and Arabic inscriptions. The interior painting features geometric and stylized floral designs on a white background, plus a repeated water-jug motif. The decoration on the interior of the dome is based around a central eight-pointed star.