In different centuries Uzbekistan's ancient cities played the main role on the Great Silk Road - this ancient transcontinental road. But the title "the Heart of Great Silk Road" is indeed obtained by Samarkand. The city is included into "The World Heritage" list of UNESCO - so great the significance of material and spiritual values concentrated here. The unique buildings of ancient architecture, heritage of scientific and art schools, centers of national handicrafts available in ancient city are famous today all over the world. So, our today destination - Uzbekistan, Samarkand.
Samarkand is one of the ancient cities in the world, contemporary of Rome, Athens, Babylon - stepped over its 2500 years anniversary. "The Radiate Point of Globe", "The Jewel of Islam", "The Mirror of the World" was named it in the East from the earliest times. During its centuries-old history the ancient city went through the times of rising and decline, suffered the devastating raids of foreign invaders, revived to the new life becoming more beautiful. A special flourishing and rising was reached by the city in the period of Amir Temur and Temurids. Exactly Samarkand was chosen by Sahibkiran as a capital of his powerful state Movarounnahr.
Uzbekistan - Samarkand: the history of creation
Amir Timur made his great contribution into the formation of state system, progress of science and culture. The vast program of town-planning was carried out during his rule and especially - in the capital of state - Samarkand. Huge funds were assigned for the erection of monumental buildings, in fact grandiose architectural buildings were to serve as an indicator of grandeur of empire and its sovereign. Temur gathered skillful architects, builders, masters of architectural decor. We can admire splendid works at the present time. The city charms as personified in real life fairy tales of Shaherezada.
Uzbekistan, Samarkand - required places to view
Start your tour visiting Gur Emir building - a mausoleum of Amir Temur. From a distance Gur Emir looks like a blue tulip, folded tightly its turquoise petals. The remains of great sovereign, his two sons and two grandsons, one of them is a prominent scientist and thinker of the East - Mirzo Ulugbek are rested on here.
Having inspected richly decorated gravestones, made of onyx with superfine ligature of dedicatory inscriptions, lighted precious semi-columns, unusual wall-paintings, cupola, which are opened for the observation of tourists, ask to show a burial place itself. And the keeper for a reasonable price will lead you into the low crypt where under the flat cupola you can see the ancient graves.
Next in turn is the legendary Registan square which by right is the main architectural sight in whole Central Asia. Since ancient time this square was trade and public center of Samarkand. The proud mass of three madrassahs of Ulug Bek, Shir Dor, Tillya Kari dominate here. Ulugbek as his grandfather paid a great attention to monumental building and during his rule the ensemble of magnificent buildings was completed.
While admiring the elegance of precious mosaics of Ulugbek madrassah, the ribbed turquoise cupolas and majestic minarets of Shir Dor, the golden paintings of pattern walls of Tillya Kari, do not keep your emotions in - the echo responds to your exalted exclamations as a voice from old time: "I am Registan, the heart of Samarkand ..."
Here possibly is the most beautiful place to take pictures for memory. At Shir Dor madrassah the professional photographers usually try to catch the moment when the sun touches top of minaret. Be patient - you can take a unique picture as well.
The outstanding monument of ancient architecture is a lofty congregational Bibi Khanum Mosque. By the way, at parking place near the mosque you can see a donkey with cart next to a fashionable car, on which farmers from nearby villages bring sweet melons and watermelons for magnificent Samarkand Bazaar.
The grandiose building of congregational Bibi Khanum mosque towers above the city as a giant silhouette and the blue dome is a match for vault of heaven. By basic idea sparkling walls, tall minarets, wide portal of mosque, designed by white marble had to glorify the name of Timur and his lovely wife for ages. The construction of mosque was started in 1399 and huge funds were assigned for this purpose. Even elephants imported by Temur from India were used for construction works. In 1404 the magnificent building was close to complete. The yard of mosque was surrounded by precious galleries, which arches rested on more than three hundred marble columns, and four slim minarets arose above in every corner. Public worships were held here. But after the death of Sahibkiran in 1405 the construction was not finished.
Nearby, behind walls of Bibi Khanum mosque, the colorful eastern bazaar seethes with many-voiced chorus. It is the sight of the city too and one should get to know it. It will certainly excite your appetite. It's simple to satisfy your appetite: local cooks invite repeatedly to taste a number of different eastern dishes.
Nowadays, a special program offered to guests of ancient city - is an acquaintance with local folk crafts, applied arts. Wares of Samarkand masters were famous all over the world since olden days. Along the branches of Great Silk Road unsurpassed beautiful fabrics - crimson velvet, brocade, silk, carpets, goods of metal and leather, jewelry, famous Samarkand paper and other goods were delivered from here to various countries. Marvelous wares of Samarkand masters one can here today- do walk along the famous Tashkent street with handicraft shops and trade rows, watch skilled craftsmen creating their wonderful works before your eyes.
May be you want to make a closer acquaintance with locals ? To find out more about their traditions, life, customs? Visit an Uzbek house. It is not necessary to pre-arrange meeting for that. Go along the University Boulevard and at the end of it turn to the left, to Mukimi Street. Then you will find a shady street full of vineyards. Here it is called "Domla Guzar" - the street of University teachers. Knock at any door - you are a welcomed guest. You will be given bunch of grapes, a cup of fragrant tea to drink, hot pesty - somsa and eastern sweet.
If you have some time, they will cook an astounding Uzbek plov especially for you, the locals don't let their guests go without trying that. By the way, this course is unique, so as it goes through three stages before preparedness - at the beginning it is fried, then boiled and at the end steamed.
Uzbekistan - Samarkand: accommodation
Do not worry about overnight stop - hotels "Afrosiab", "Central Samarkand", "Samarkand", "Zeravshan", "Malika" offer you a high quality service. You can take an opportunity to be accommodated in private hotels, situated in cozy houses, hiding in the shadow of gardens and vineyards.
During your sightseeing tour visit the ensemble Shah-i-Zinda on the slope of the ancient Afrosiab. As a blue necklace, a chain of monuments are stretched out here. Sparkling by glitter of colorful glaze the mausoleums in which Temur and his heirs buried their relatives from both sides surround the way which leads to the main sacred place of complex - situated on the top of the hill, to mazar (burial place) of Kussam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed. He arrived in Samarkand in VII century, preached Islam and was killed suffering for belief.
The legend says that Kussam-ibn-Abbas continues to live. From here, follows the name of complex - Shah-i-Zinda which means "the Living King". The first burial-vaults appeared in XII century near his esteemed grave. Most part of the construction works were carried out in XIV-XV centuries under rule of Amir Timur. Among these constructions - splendid mausoleums of two emirs - Burunduk and Emir Zade. But burial-vaults of women from Sahibkiran clan are prevailed. All mausoleums are marked by a single compositional finding - this is a square domical buildings, the entrance in which is emphasized by portico. The great architectural decor of buildings in which glazed bricks, majolica slabs, carved mosaic are used strikes imagination.
This complex of monuments of ancient architecture has its own peculiarity, attracting not only tourists but locals too. From the entrance arc, steep and long staircase leads to the mountain. Carefully count steps on the way to the top. Do not forget to count steps when you will go downstairs. It is spoken, if number coincides you are sinless.
The burial place of Kussam-ibn-Abbas attracts to Samarkand many followers of religious and spiritual tourism. In fact in middle ages the pilgrimage to the grave of "Living King" was equal to Hadji to Mecca. Another sacred place of Samarkand - Mazar Khodja Doniyor (Tomb of Saint Daniel) is honored not only by Moslems, but Christians and Jews as well. It is situated near the site of ancient settlement Afrosiab on the bank of river Siab. According to legend the water of spring which spouted near the tomb has a healing power.
In Samarkand which was the center where the scientist schools were formed, you can see the first astronomical observatory built in the world. It was built by the grandson of Temur - Ulugbek which went down to history as the "scientist on throne", the patron of science and enlightenment. Being the greatest astronomer he compiled star tables "Zidji Gurgani" with his companions which contains the exact positions of more than thousand stars. The tables preserve their scientific significance till nowadays.
To touch more extreme antiquity go to the ancient site of Afrosiab. The guides will tell you about city originated 500 years BC about underground palace, designed by precious Sogdian frescos...
Leaving the city, according to tradition, take the best in the world Samarkand round bread . They come useful during your travel along the Great Silk Road.