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 Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Manichaeism, Judaism, 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.
We started exploring Samarkand first by getting a taxi (called by hotel) to visit the Registan, which is what Samarkand is most famous for
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.
Below are other views inside the Madrassas and the Registan square; we came here a couple of times as it was so beautiful
Video of the Registan square
Video of the inside of the Sher-Dor Madrasah
Multiple young couples were also here to take wedding photos
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
We had an excellent time in Samarkand; but after 3 great days here, it was time to move to Bukhara next
Our journey so farThis entry was posted in Asia, Silk Road Uzbekistan Sept-Oct 2019, Uzbekistan