Silk Road 27: More Samarkand, Oct 2019

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road Uzbekistan Oct 2019
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More Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Oct 2019

Oct 16, 2019

After the nice time at the Samarkand Restaurant on the first night of our visit to Uzbekistan, we spent the next few days checking out the amazing places of historical importance in Samarkand.

But first, a little bit about Samarkand; to put things into perspective. From Wikipedia; Samarkand, is a city in southeastern Uzbekistan and among the oldest continuously inhabited area in Central Asia from since the Old Stone Age. It is believed that Samarkand was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BC. After being ruled by the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE, and classic Greek culture was introduced. The city was ruled by a succession of Iranian and Turkic rulers before/during/after the Islamic Era; when after the Arab conquest of Iran,  the armies of the Umayyad Caliphate under Qutayba ibn Muslim captured the city from the Turks c. 710 CE. During this period, Samarkand was a diverse religious community and was home to a number of religions, including ZoroastrianismBuddhismHinduismManichaeismJudaism, and Nestorian Christianity, with most of the population following Zoroastrianism. Qutayba established an Arab garrison and Arab governmental administration in the city, its Zoroastrian fire temples were razed, and a mosque was built. Much of the city’s population converted to Islam. Throughout the reigns of many Muslim governing powers, numerous mosques, madrasahs, and mausoleums were built in the city. As a long-term result, Samarkand became a center of Islamic scholarly study.

The Abbasid/Samanids were overthrown by the Karakhanids around 1000. Over the next 200 years, Samarkand were ruled by a succession of Turkic tribes and held it until the Turkic Khaganate collapsed due to wars with the Chinese Tang Dynasty  after which, the city became a protectorate of the ruling Tang dynasty.

The Mongols under Genghis Khan captured Samarkand in 1220 and held it until 1370; when it was ruled by Timur (Tamerlane), the founder and ruler of the Timurid Empire, who made Samarkand his capital. Over the next 35 years, he rebuilt most of the city and populated it with great artisans and craftsmen from across the empire. Timur gained a reputation as a patron of the arts, in contrast with the ruthlessness he showed his enemies, he demonstrated mercy toward towards those with special artistic abilities. The lives of artists, craftsmen, and architects were spared so that they could improve and beautify Timur’s capital.

During the Silk Road times, Marco Polo recorded his journey along the Silk Road in the late 13th century (The Travels of Marco Polo), described Samarkand as “a very large and splendid city…”The strategic location of Samarkand along the Silk Road was instrumental in its growth and contributed to its excellence in science, arts etc. Ibn Battuta, a renowned Muslim Berber-Moroccan scholar who visited in 1333, called Samarkand “one of the greatest and finest of cities, and most perfect of them in beauty.”

From the 1500’s, Samarkand was ruled by the Khanate of Bukhara, where the sciences, arts, architecture and astronomy continued to flourish. Then Uzbekistan and Samarkand came under Russian/Soviet rule until Uzbekistan gained independence in Aug, 1991.

Today, Samarkand is the capital of Samarqand Region and one of the largest cities of Uzbekistan. In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.

We started exploring Samarkand first by getting a taxi (called by hotel) to visit the Registan, which is what Samarkand is most famous for

More Samarkand, The Magnificent Registan in the center of Samarkand
The Magnificent Registan in the center of Samarkand

The Registan was the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand. The name means “sandy place” or “desert” in Persian. It was a public square of commerce, where people gathered to hear royal proclamations, and a place of public executions. It is framed by three madrases (Islamic schools) of distinctive Islamic architecture, built in the mid 1400’s. One of the madrassas was also a mosque. The square was regarded as the hub of the Timurid Renaissance, where the Timurid empire revived the arts and sciences after the gradual downturn of the Islamic Golden Age in the Middle East. Today, the square and a lot of historical sites of Samarkand and other places in Uzbekistan have been carefully revived by the Uzbek government so tourism is a huge attraction and great source of income.
The place is simply magnificent and breathtakingly beautiful; we spent some time sitting here and admiring the architecture and people watching, before going inside for an entrance fee which was not cheap.

More Samarkand, View of one of the 3 madrassas in the Registan, beautiful Tilya-Kori Madrasah, which was a place of student residences as well as a Grand Mosque
View of one of the 3 madrassas in the Registan, beautiful Tilya-Kori Madrasah, which was a place of student residences as well as a Grand Mosque

Below are other views inside the Madrassas and the Registan square; we came here a couple of times as it was so beautiful

More Samarkand, Obligatory photo in front of the UlughBeg Madrassa
Obligatory photo in front of the UlughBeg Madrassa
More Samarkand, Beautiful design and décor inside one of the madrassah’s
Beautiful design and décor inside one of the madrassah’s
More Samarkand, Friendly local tourists who had come to the Registan to take pre-wedding photos for the lady on the left
Friendly local tourists who had come to the Registan to take pre-wedding photos for the lady on the left
More Samarkand, The 3rd Madrassah, Sher-Dor Madrasah
The 3rd Madrassah, Sher-Dor Madrasah
More Samarkand, Picture of original Sher-Dor Madrasah
Picture of original Sher-Dor Madrasah

Video of the Registan square

More Samarkand, Lattice work view of the inside of one of the Madrassah’s
Lattice work view of the inside of one of the Madrassah’s
More Samarkand, View of the dome in the grand mosque inside the Tilya-Kori Madrasah
View of the dome in the grand mosque inside the Tilya-Kori Madrasah
More Samarkand, Inside view of Sher-Dor Madrasah
Inside view of Sher-Dor Madrasah

Video of the inside of the Sher-Dor Madrasah

Multiple young couples were also here to take wedding photos

More Samarkand, Check out the rings on her fingers
Check out the rings on her fingers
More Samarkand, Beautiful bride
Beautiful bride
More Samarkand, Local tourists
Local tourists
More Samarkand, Cutie pictures
Cutie pictures
More Samarkand, Bridesmaids?
Bridesmaids?
More Samarkand, People watching
People watching
More Samarkand, Friendly local tourist on the grounds outside the Registan
Friendly local tourist on the grounds outside the Registan
More Samarkand, Those prams come in very handy for sandwiches-on-the-go trade
Those prams come in very handy for sandwiches-on-the-go trade

The only thing I did not like about the Registan was that inside each Madrassah, they had multiple shops selling local goods, handicrafts and trinkets to tourists; which kind of took the charm away from these magnificent historical structures so well restored. But I guess they need to make money from the tourists.
One day, we went to nearby Siyob Bazaar to check it out.

More Samarkand, Siyob Bazaar
Siyob Bazaar

This turned out to be a place for mostly tourists; but in the back, we could see a busier market so we headed that way, where we found a great local place to eat. Some scenes along the way

More Samarkand, Mobile tandoor, where samsa’s were being baked. What a great idea
Mobile tandoor, where samsa’s were being baked. What a great idea
More Samarkand, Locals were all very friendly. Wonder what she was feeding her baby; look at the size of those cheeks :)
Locals were all very friendly. Wonder what she was feeding her baby; look at the size of those cheeks 🙂
More Samarkand, Great local restaurant at the back of the Bazaar, near Shodiyona market, where we had a most delicious Plov
Great local restaurant at the back of the Bazaar, near Shodiyona market, where we had a most delicious Plov
More Samarkand, Delicious Plov and accompaniments with chai of course :)
Delicious Plov and accompaniments with chai of course 🙂

The art of serving Plov

At the back of the Siyob Bazaar was the local market; the kind we like. So we went there to check it out; scenes below from the market

More Samarkand, Breads and prams
Breads and prams
More Samarkand, All kind of pickles
All kind of pickles
More Samarkand, Busy market extended indoors
Busy market extended indoors
More Samarkand, Melons galore
Melons galore
More Samarkand, Those pomegranates look delicious
Those pomegranates look delicious
More Samarkand, Reds & Greens
Reds & Greens

We withdrew some $200 from the ATM; the exchange rate was about 10,000 Uzbek Som to 1 US$. The $200 got me Uzbek 2,108,000 Som; and for the second time in my life, I was once again a millionaire (First time was when we visited Vietnam). Did we feel any different? 🙂
By this time, we had figured out that we could simply flag down a taxi on the road and hop in and get off along the main road anywhere for 5,000 Uzbek Som (US$0.50); these were shared taxi’s, and we started taking these and they were very good and useful and much faster than calling for a taxi; in addition to having conversations with local regulars.
One evening, we were recommended by Farkhad, the hotel manager, to try Karimbek’s restaurant, for dinner. We went there and it was a nice place, but not nearly as busy or as nice as the Samarkand restaurant from the 1st night.

More Samarkand, Karimbek restaurant
Karimbek restaurant

Friendly locals got Dilshad up to Dance at Karimbek restaurant

Samarkand has many historically restored sites; we checked out a few of them below; what we believed were the most impressive

More Samarkand, Friendly locals; the building behind them is the Hazrati Hizr mosque and mausoleum of Islom Karmiov, the first president of Uzbekistan
Friendly locals; the building behind them is the Hazrati Hizr mosque and mausoleum of Islom Karmiov, the first president of Uzbekistan
More Samarkand, Intricate wall and ceiling work in area around the Islom Karimov mausoleum
Intricate wall and ceiling work in area around the Islom Karimov mausoleum
More Samarkand, Interesting graveyard near the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis (in background)
Interesting graveyard near the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis (in background)

The Shah-i-Zinda (meaning the living king) necropolis is an ancient burial site from the 11th to 19th centuries; with very elaborate structures housing the remains of the elite class of the time; some images below

More Samarkand, Elaborate entrance to the Shah-i-zinda complex
Elaborate entrance to the Shah-i-zinda complex
More Samarkand, Interesting instructions at Shah-i-zinda; I assume some of the nobility were holy people
Interesting instructions at Shah-i-zinda; I assume some of the nobility were holy people
More Samarkand, The multiple structures on either side (mausoleums) housed the remains of the nobles from 11th century on
The multiple structures on either side (mausoleums) housed the remains of the nobles from 11th century on
More Samarkand, More tombs and mausoleums inside the Shah-i-zinda, each one is unique and interesting
More tombs and mausoleums inside the Shah-i-zinda, each one is unique and interesting
More Samarkand, Locals enjoying and exploring the Shah-i-zinda
Locals enjoying and exploring the Shah-i-zinda
More Samarkand, They adopted Dilshad while checking out the Shah-i-zinda necropolis
They adopted Dilshad while checking out the Shah-i-zinda necropolis
More Samarkand, Nice park with statues of learned men
Nice park with statues of learned men
More Samarkand, Bibi Khanym mausoleum
Bibi Khanym mausoleum
More Samarkand, Families visiting the huge Bibi Khanym mosque complex that was still in the process of restoration
Families visiting the huge Bibi Khanym mosque complex that was still in the process of restoration
More Samarkand, Inside an elaborate mosque
Inside an elaborate mosque
More Samarkand, The Magnificent Registan by night
The Magnificent Registan by night

We had an excellent time in Samarkand; but after 3 great days here, it was time to move to Bukhara next

Our journey so far

More Samarkand, Krygyz travel
Krygyz travel
More Samarkand, Tajikistan map till Dushanbe
Tajikistan map till Dushanbe
More Samarkand, Dushanbe to Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Dushanbe to Samarkand, Uzbekistan
This entry was posted in Asia, Silk Road Uzbekistan Sept-Oct 2019, Uzbekistan

35 thoughts on “Silk Road 27: More Samarkand, Oct 2019

  • Nailla Devraj March 7, 2021 at 10:54 pm Reply

    Beautiful and very colourful post. Loved it, Nailla

    • Ali Karim March 7, 2021 at 11:05 pm Reply

      Thanks so much for the feedback Nailla; so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Ken Davey March 9, 2021 at 11:02 pm Reply

    Beautiful Ali!!! I enjoy seeing the wonderful places and people that you have experienced during your travels.

    • Ali Karim March 10, 2021 at 11:41 am Reply

      Thanks Ken; appreciate the feedback.

  • Clay March 16, 2021 at 11:24 pm Reply

    Beautiful architecture! Is it mosaic tiles?

    • Ali Karim March 16, 2021 at 11:47 pm Reply

      Hi Clay, yes it is mostly Mosaic Tiles, though there are larger tiles present as well. But majority was mosaic.

  • Amir & Roshan Mulji March 18, 2021 at 10:38 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Very lucky couple.

    • Ali Karim March 25, 2021 at 12:29 am Reply

      Thanks Amir & Roshan; yes, we are indeed blessed

  • Shamshudin Visram March 18, 2021 at 10:38 pm Reply

    Very nice!

  • Badru Walji March 30, 2021 at 9:53 pm Reply

    Dear Ali. Thank you very much. You really did it. Pictures are so beautiful. City seems to be so picturesque.
    Very friendly people.

    • Ali Karim March 30, 2021 at 9:55 pm Reply

      Thank you Mr Walji; appreciate the feedback, and so happy that you enjoyed the journey with us.

  • Mahamud Jinnah April 5, 2021 at 9:36 pm Reply

    What a beautiful place. Love the Registan. The local market sounds great. Love the use of prams.
    Very friendly people that let you take pictures with them-try that here!!!

    • Ali Karim April 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm Reply

      Yes, indeed, it was a beautiful place; with many friendly people.
      Thanks for the feedback

  • Muslim Harji April 5, 2021 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Great pictures.
    Love to Dilshad.
    Love, Light & Cheers
    Muslim Harji

    • Ali Karim April 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Muslim.

  • Rajab Ali April 6, 2021 at 9:40 am Reply

    Wonderful; enjoyed the journey with you!!!

    • Ali Karim April 6, 2021 at 11:12 am Reply

      Thanks for joining us in this journey 🙂

  • Shams Premji April 12, 2021 at 9:35 pm Reply

    Very colourful pictures and videos, people seems to be very friendly, do they speak or understand English, how did you communicated with them, were Hotels decent and
    reasonably price….

    • Ali Karim April 14, 2021 at 10:34 pm Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Shams.
      To answer your questions:
      – most people did not speak English; but they were all friendly and helpful
      – how did we communicate? sign language and pointing to things we needed; not as difficult as one would imagine. Places we wanted to go to were written down on paper for us by our hotel manager in Russian, so easy to point to where we wanted to get to.
      – Hotels; yes, they were reasonably priced and reasonably decent; we paid about $55/night including breakfast, for a 2 star place. Not bad.
      Let me know if you have more questions

  • Shamim Virji April 13, 2021 at 11:06 am Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing! Very historical and very informative. Shukrh you are blessed.
    Please keep safe and healthy.
    Thanks.
    Shamim.

    • Ali Karim April 14, 2021 at 10:35 pm Reply

      Thanks Shamim.
      Yes, we are indeed blessed and thank god every day
      Appreciate your feedback

  • Benita Naidu April 19, 2021 at 9:31 am Reply

    Fabulous pics. as usual……
    Bravo.
    Benita

    • Ali Karim April 19, 2021 at 9:02 pm Reply

      Thanks for the encouragement Benita

  • Zubeda virani April 20, 2021 at 11:43 pm Reply

    Ali/Dilshad…Love taking my journeys through your eyes.. excellent photography and I truly enjoyed the detailed descriptions of these remote areas and the Residents.
    Thank you for my fine virtual journey.

    • Ali Karim April 21, 2021 at 7:53 am Reply

      So glad you are enjoying journeying with us; appreciate the feedback 🙂

  • Zahir Dharsee April 21, 2021 at 11:14 am Reply

    Hi Ali and Dilshad – again a very interesting and informative write up on your travels to Samarkand and the Registan .Public square. I think the AK Award for Architecture ceremony in 1992 was there.

    I noticed something interesting in the picture of the Pomegranate (Daram or Anar fruit) display. They were displayed on boxes that were used to pack Bananas. Are bananas grown locally in that part of the world or are they imported?? Anyway notice one of the boxes was from Dole company – Premium Bananas. Looks like the American Corporate tentacled extend all over the Globe!! The variety of fruits and vegetables and foods on display was amazing. I do not think anyone goes hungry in that part of the world.

    • Ali Karim April 25, 2021 at 7:38 pm Reply

      Thanks Zahir, for the feedback. The banana’s in Dushanbe were imported from Ecuador, and I suspect it is the same in Uzbekistan. Some were from Dole, good observation.
      Thanks again

  • sadrudin nathoo walji April 22, 2021 at 9:24 am Reply

    Memorable pictures

    • Ali Karim April 25, 2021 at 7:38 pm Reply

      Thanks

  • Pingback: Silk Road 28: Bukhara, Oct 2019 - Ali Karim Travelog Asia

  • Amin Somji May 24, 2021 at 2:34 pm Reply

    Wow – wonderful pics and what memories….You are indeed blessed…. Amin

    • Ali Karim May 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm Reply

      Thanks Amin; yes; we are indeed blessed and thank God every day

  • Shemin THobani May 24, 2021 at 2:35 pm Reply

    Thank You

  • iqbal Talib May 24, 2021 at 2:39 pm Reply

    Hahaha – Amazing Ali. Great job as always. Very professional, very well written, great pictures, and lots of fun. How many miles (kilometers) have you traveled so far?

    • Ali Karim May 24, 2021 at 2:41 pm Reply

      Thanks Iqbal; appreciate the feedback.
      So far, we have clocked 2,300kms on the journey from Bishkek till Samarkand.
      More still to come as we continue touring Uzbekistan 🙂

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