Over the centuries, Uzbekistan’s cities played a major role in the life of the Great Silk Road, the ancient, transcontinental thoroughfare. But, one city stands out as being "the Heart of Great Silk Road"; that city is Samarkand.
"The Radiate Point of Globe", "The Jewel of Islamic Architecture", "The Mirror of the World" are oriental titles bestowed upon Samarkand fr om earliest times. A contemporary of Rome, Athens, and Babylon, this city has already celebrated its 2750th anniversary, who`s golden age occurred during the Temurid dynasty as this very city was chosen by Emir Temur, the greatest warlord and ruler of the Central Asia after Chingiz Khan, as the capital of his powerful Empire, Movarounnahr. Emir Temur carried out a vast program of town-planning during his rule.
Here in Samarkand the great ruler gathered skillful architects and craftsmen whose works of art have outlasted the years. His grandson Ulugbek continued these construction traditions. Today the monuments of Samarkand are majestic and wonderful. In this town one can feel the breath of history itself. It can be traced in the ancient ruins as well as in the madrasahs, mausoleums, and minarets, which have been decorating the city until now.
Things to do in Samarkand
Visit the Registan Square - The heart of Samarkand. The word Registan means "sandy place". Registan arose long before the Mongol invasion as a center of crafts and trade. This is the intersection of six roads that go from the city gates. Registan is surrounded on three sides by magnificent buildings: Ulugbek Madrasah (1417 - 1420), Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619 - 1636), Tilla-Kori Madrasah (1647 - 1660).
During the reign of Tamerlane, Registan was a city square, Tamerlane's troops going on campaigns, gathered before the performance from the city on this square. Tamerlane’s grandson Mirzo Ulugbek, the great patron of sciences and the scientist himself, changed the purpose of the square during his reign.
Visit Siab Bazaar - Everyone who wants to find a real oriental flavor in Samarkand should visit the Siab Bazaar. This is the largest market in all of Central Asia and the most visited place after Registan. It was formed in antiquity and was part of the Great Silk Road, later it became a trading "transshipment point" between the major cities of Uzbekistan - Tashkent, Shakhrisabz and Bukhara. Now it occupies more than 70 thousand square meters.
The market is conveniently located in the central part of the city, a kilometer north of Registan. The main entrance is marked with a triple arch decorated with traditional blue mosaics. Here you can buy whatever your heart desires - national goods, clothes, food, and mysterious things, the meaning of which is understandable only to local people.
The most popular purchases from tourists: dishes, textiles with national ornaments, nuts and dried fruits, delicious Uzbek cakes, famous oriental sweets, authentic spices, and in summer, fresh fruits and melons. In addition to the standard rows, there is a supermarket, a shopping center, several cafes where you can try Uzbek dishes. Craft ranks are right there, where masters, right in front of everyone, create and sell their goods.
Try Local Cuisine - Uzbek cuisine is one of the most delicious in the world. The basic ingredients of Uzbek dishes are flour, meat (beef or mutton), vegetables, herbs and spices. Uzbek dishes are rich in calories, due to a considerable amount of oil. Cottonseed oil and sunflower oil are most used. Fat is often used in many different dishes, but pork is never used in Uzbek cuisine.
Some of the Uzbek dishes are cooked only by men. Some special dishes are prepared only in festivals, holidays and special events. Main Dish of Uzbekistan is Plov (pilaf, palov, osh). Herbs and spices, such as coriander, zira (kumin), barberries, sesame, basil (raihon) are most popular in Uzbek cuisine.
Visit Shakhi Zinda Necropolis - Probably, there is no place in the glorious and old city of Samarkand that would more fully reflect the many milestones of its turbulent and long history as the Shakhi Zinda memorial complex. Locals call this necropolis a "cemetery street", but, of course, these majestic and monumental structures have nothing to do with the living dead who stagger here, hunting mortals.
Ancient times Shakhi Zinda was the largest religious and cultural center of Central Asia. Perhaps the best description of the importance of this complex in the picture of the Muslim world at that time is the fact that the hajj (i.e. pilgrimage) to Mecca could be replaced by a visit to Shakhi Zinda. The story itself is also unusual, according to which wonderful architectural works appeared here. This story is connected, but rather even a legend with the name of the cousin of the prophet Muhammad - Kussam ibn Abass. In 676, Kussam visited the city of Samarkand with the aim of preaching Islam in these places. During the prayer, which was done by the preacher and his new flock, the pagans from Panjakent attacked the worshipers. Actually, after the moment of the attack, various versions of the development of events begin.
Visit Winery Museum - Samarkand is interesting for tourists not only for its ancient architectural monuments. When you plan your stay in this unique city, do not forget to supplement the excursion program with a visit to the oldest Central Asian Samarkand winery named after M. A. Khovrenko.
The history of the plant begins back in 1868, when entrepreneur-winemaker D. M. Filatov, who came from Russia, who appreciated the limitless possibilities of the sunny Zerafshan Valley, built this very building and began to manufacture wine.
Here you can also visit the tasting room located in the former industrialist Filatov’s house and taste the best wines produced by the plant. For tasting you will be offered ten grades of wine from the softest drink with a delicate bouquet of flavors to a balsam infused with mountain herbs infused with mountain herbs.
Visit Gur-Emir Mausoleum - Gur Emir is Persian for "Tomb of the King". This architectural complex with its azure dome contains the tombs of Tamerlane, his sons Shokhrukh and Miran Shah and grandsons Ulugbek and Muhammad Sultan. Also honoured with a place in the tomb is Timur's teacher Sayyid Baraka.
The earliest part of the complex was built at the end of the 14th century by the orders of Muhammad Sultan. Now only the foundations of the madrasah and khanaka, the entrance portal and a part of one of four minarets remains. The ornate carved headstones in the inner room of the mausoleum merely indicate the location of the actual tombs in a crypt directly underneath the main chamber.
Under Ulugbek's government a solid block of dark green jade was placed over the grave of Tamerlane. Formerly this stone had been used at a place of worship in the Chinese emperor's palace, then as the throne of Duwa (a descendant of Genghis Khan) in Chagatay Khanate. Next to Tamerlane's grave lie the marble tombstones of his sons Miran Shah and Shah Rukh and also of grandsons – Muhammad Sultan and Ulugbek. Tamerlane's spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, also rests here.
Visit Bibi Khanym Mosque - The mosque Bibi-Khanym Mosque (Bibi Hanim) is one of the most important monuments of Samarkand. In the 15th century it was one of the largest and most magnificent mosques in the Islamic world. By the mid-20th century only a grandiose ruin of it still survived, but now major parts of the mosque have been restored.
According to the manuscripts, the mosque was erected by the order of Timur in 1399-1405. It possesses the traits typical for many Muslim medieval constructions, especially aivanyard compositions. The mosque follows the basic plan of the courtyard mosque. Its outer walls enclose a rectangular area which measures 167 metres (182.63 yards) in length and 109 metres (119.20 yards) wide and runs roughly from northeast to southwest — the Qibla accordingly. However the size of the site vacant of covered galleries was only 78 by 64 meters.
Visit Observatory of Ulugbek - Ulugbek Observatory is one of the most significant observatories of the Middle Ages, built by Ulugbek on Kuhak Hill in the vicinity of Samarkand in 1424-1428.
The remains of the observatory were found and investigated by archaeologist V.L. Vyatkin in 1908. The study of one of the documents of the 17th century: donation to the earth for the Dervish monastery, helped to find an accurate description of the location of the observatory. In 1948, the expedition of the Institute of History and Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR, led by archaeologist V. A. Shishkin (1893-1966), completed the last stage of excavation, exposing the foundations of the observatory and fragments of the building right up to their foundation on a natural rock.
Visit Shakhrisabz - Shakhrisabz is the hometown of Temur and everything in Shakhrisabz is connected with his name. Temur was born in 1336 at the village of Hoja Ilghar, about 13 km south of Shakhrisabz.
Temur's father Amir Taragai his spiritual adviser Shamsedin Kulyol, and his eldest sons Jahangir and Omar Sheikh were buried. The name Shakhrisabz is Tajik and means "green city". The Historic Centre of Shahrisabz was declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.
According to legendary information of the XVIII century, the ashes of the Old Testament biblical prophet Daniel (Daniyar) are buried in the mausoleum, the remains of which were brought to Samarkand and buried by the Central Asian medieval commander and conqueror Amir Timur (Tamerlan).
The current building of the mausoleum and the complex were built at the very beginning of the 20th century, in subsequent years the building of the mausoleum and the complex were reconstructed several times.