Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Splendors of Samarkand

Finally, we made it to Samarkand - a beautiful city full of historic treasures, rich culture and architectural wonders. Samarkand is probably the most well known city of Uzbekistan and this is because it enjoyed a central position along the Silk Road and Tamerlan had made it the capital of his empire.

Our guide explained that the word Samarkand is derived from Persian and means rock (samar) fort (kand). The city was ruled by great conquerors such as Alexander the Great and King Eucratides before the onset of Islam. During the Islamic period, Samarkand was conquered by Arabs and flourished during this time. However, in the 1200s, Ghengis Khan destroyed a large part of the city. Luckily, Samarkand managed to re-emerge as an important trading center under Tamerlan's rule. Tamerlan is now the most revered person in Uzbekistan.

For tourists, Samarkand has lots to offer. We started off by visiting the Amir Temur Mausoleum. This is where Tamerlan is buried and his tomb lies in this very beautiful and peaceful complex.



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No doubt, the most famous monument of Uzbekistan is Registan, a massive complex turquoise and sapphire colored stone buildings. Registan means sand fort and is made up of three madrasahs and a mausoleum. Inside the madrasahs, there is a museum showcasing Islamic architecture and ornaments used to decorate the buildings. Also, we saw some traditional Uzbek style furniture. In the middle of the complex, there is a vast area which is now being used for holding concerts and large fairs. In the evenings, Sound and Light Shows in French and German are conducted especially for tourists. We managed to catch the show and the whole site was simply glowing in shades of red and orange in the dark.







Another interesting site was the Bibi Khanum Mosque. The mosque is named after Tamerlan's wife and was constructed using precious stones from India during his conquest of the country. The gigantic mosque was built in just five years but has very weak foundation and its condition has deteriorated over the centuries. It has been restored, however parts of it remain destroyed. At the centre of the complex, there is a marble Quran stand (bottom right photo). The locals believed that if a woman could pass through the hole, she would become pregnant. I did not see anyone doing that so I am not sure if they still hold on to this belief.



Very close to the mosque is a large bazaar where fruits, vegetables, spices, bread, meat, souvenirs and clothes are sold. I was mostly interested in the bread and spices and spent most of my time taking in the wonderful aroma. I ended up buying some traditional bread and fragrant cumin seeds.



My favorite place in Samarkand was the Shahi Zinda Mosque. Shahi means king and Zinda means life, so this place literally means "the living king". I loved this place - it is so beautifully laid out that it almost seems like a village within a mosque. There are smaller paths within the complex that lead to elevated buildings where there are tombs of historically important figures and their families. Furthermore, there is a cemetery on the upper level of the complex, and people still continue to be buried there.



The Shahi Zinda Mosque is regarded as a very holy place among Muslims. In fact, Muslims who are unable to or cannot afford to pay a pilgrimage to Mecca come here as it is often considered equal to Mecca.



I thought that this mosque displayed the most variety in terms of architectural designs and stone work. I was just amazed by the colors and details of each structure- what a brilliant mix of blues and greens!



I loved spending time at this place. It was so peaceful, although it felt eerie to walk in the cemetery!



These are the must-see sites in Samarkand. There are other things you can do too, if you have free time, and I will write about this soon! Hopefully, I won't take too much time!


6 comments:

Sriram said...

This looks so nice ! The blue sky matches the blue domes ! Nice selection of pictures.

Ravipa said...

Beautiful Samarkand pictures and article. Very serene and architectural marvel.

Charlie said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I was disappointed for not seeing light and sound at Registan Square. I was waiting from sunset until 10 pm and they didn't turn on a single light bulb! I wondered if my visit was during the off-season or it is during the weekdays (Thursday night). Do you have any idea?

banoo said...

Very nice interior and exterior designs! reminds me of our trip to Delhi......what a blue! luvly pictures!

Preethi said...

Hi Charlie,

Thank you for reading my blog!

I was told that the Registan Sound and Light Show takes place every night and is in German or French only. The show is usually around 8-9pm. I was there on a Friday, so maybe they just do the show on Thursdays and Fridays now. I am not sure. I am sorry you did not get to see it! Were you just in Samarkand or did you go to other Uzbek cities?

Charlie said...

Hi Preethi,

Thanks for your answer. We were in Uzbekistan for a few days, en route to Kazakhstan. We only got a chance to see Taskent, Bukhara and Samarkand (and a quick trip to Shakhrisabz), which are fantastic! I was in Samarkand on Thursday and they definitely didn't light up Registan Square :(

Nice story you wrote!

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