Samarkand is perhaps the ultimate Silk Road city. A city that once sat at the crossroads of multiple trades routes leading to exotic locations such as China, India and Perisa. A city whose name is full of magic, wonder and romance. A city where brilliant aqua domes push towards clear skies. A city with some of the most amazing architectural sights in the whole world. A city so glorious it prompted Alexander the Great to comment ‘Everything I have heard about Marakanda (Samarkand) is true, except it’s more beautiful that I ever imagined’.
Ever since I first saw pictures of the ancient city of Samarkand I desperately wanted to visit. Having wanted to visit for a very long time I held a small fear that I might be disappointed once I finally reached Samarkand. But Samarkand exceeded all my expectations. I spent my whole visit in the glorious city in constant awe and taking a crazy amount of photos while saying ‘Wow, wow, wow’.
So what makes Samarkand such an awe-inspiring destination?
At the centre is Samarkand’s most famous sight, the Registan. The most dramatic architectural site in all of Central Asia. An ensemble of three majestic and tilting medressas, the world’s oldest preserved medressas. The huge medressa edifices are completely covered in an explosion of cobalt, azure, aqua and turquoise tiles in so many geometric patterns, floral motif and Arabic script. Stunning!
Nearby stands the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Once one of the biggest mosques in the Islamic world it’s also covered in beautiful tiles.
My personal favourite was Shah-i-Zinda (Avenue of Mausoleums). A stunning necropolis with tomb after tomb lining a narrow pathway. Each tomb is saturated in a dozen intense shades of blue tiles. This site is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Timurid art.
Beneath another gorgeous turquoise dome lie several tombs. The interior of the dome is stunningly decorated, all white and gold detail with touches of blue. This is Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum, the resting place for Timur, his two sons and two grandsons. Timur is known more for being one of most brutal tyrants the world has ever seen. Timur was infamous for his savage bloodbaths and some estimates consider his merciless campaigns led to the death of 17 million people. However, he poured all his plunder into creating his capital, Samarkand and he also forcibly relocated artisans from across his empire. Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum is a fitting testament to the man who turned Samarkand into the glorious city renowned today.
Finally Samarkand has a vibrant market the perfect place to grab lunch at the central chaikhana, or to pick up some snacks of stuffed dates, sugared almonds, nougat or halva…..yum! Or simply to people watch.
These stunning architectural sights, and colourful market, make Samarkand a city that is absolutely incredible and truly a wonder of the world. Go now!!
I stayed at Jahongir B&B. A gorgeous little guesthouse with vine-covered courtyards. The owner is very helpful and the location is excellent as it’s only five minutes walk to the Registan.
Train from Tashkent to Samarkand – there are a few different options. I took the brand new Afrosoiyob train which is slick, modern and fast. It took two hours to reach Samarkand and costs 52,000 som.
For more photos of Samarkand go to my facebook page, www. facebook/carlysadventuresafar.com