If you are in Uzbekistan, you cannot miss coming to Samarkand. Located 2 hours and 30 minutes away (with the super fast train Afrosiyob) from Tashkent, Samarkand is the reason why everybody wants to come in Uzbekistan. This mistic city hides centuries old legends while still having a cosmopolit side. And it is no wonder that everybody wants to come here
Founded 2500 years ago, Samarkand has seen it all: peace times and war times, prosperity and downfall. This city took advantage of its geographical location and became a very important part of the Silk Route. Back in the medieval times, Chinese and Persian tradesmen were coming here hoping to strike a deal. Samarkand became, naturally, a crossroad of cultures which can still be seen today. In the 8th century it was conquered by the Arabs, which brought with them their own traditions and religion adding up to the prosperity of the city, and in the 13th century it was conquered by Genghis Khan, which brough with him destruction and massacres. The city, however, raised like the Phoenix and transformed into the most beloved treasure of the Silk Route.
At the heart of city, almost pulsating, you will find the Registan Square.
Back in the medieval times the Madrasas you see today were not here and, instead, this place was occupied by traders, artisans and farmers. However you look at it, Registan was in center of this city from the moment of its conception.
The entrance ticket was 30,000SUM (October 2018) and you can enter the complex as many times you want during that day. In 2001 this complex has been enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and with just one look at it you will understand why.
Begin with your left, where you will find the Ulugbek Madrasah, built between 1417 and 1420 by Timur and the scientist/astronomer Ulugbek. Madrassas used to be educational institutions, similar to universities. This one, in particular, used to be one of the best universities of the Middle East. Although it was severely damaged by earthquakes, it still has a certain elegance when you look at it. Just marveling at the wonderful facade will take you some time. The high arch, with its geometric designs and colorful carvings, is a masterpiece.
Once you step inside, you will see the niches where the students used to live and nowadays, these are occupied by sellers whishing to strike a nice bargain.
In front of the Ulugbek Madrasah you will find the Sherdor Madrasah, which stands out due to one detail. Its facade is decorated with two leopards, the emblem of Samarkand, which goes against the Islam tradition of not portraying animals in their paintings.
This madrasah was built in 1424 and its decorations are simply luxuriant. The glazed bricks, the arches, the mosaics, the paintings with gold depicting flowers, buds, complex patterns, are beautifully intertwined with Arabic scripts.
Dominating between these two madrassas you will find the Tilla-Kori Madrasah. Built in 1660 in order to complete this architectural complex, this madrasah was also functioning as a mosque. You can see the opulence in this building. Its interior is abundant with gold, especially the dome.
Every madrasah is completed with beautiful minarets with complex geometric designs.
Believe it or not there were times when this square was is disrepair and empty, especially while Bukhara was the main focus of the Silk Road trade. However, at the end of the 18th century Samarkand came back to life and the square was restored at its proper glory. Today, there are many festivals and shows which are held here, while local artisans are in full display inside the madrassas every day.
Your feet will ache wanting to wander more and this is what you will . You will go and have lunch and come back here to discover a new detail, because Registan is the gift that keeps on giving. Thankfully, this square is not the only reason to stop in Samarkand. But about what is next, you will read in the next post.