Samarkand sketches – a city at the turn of epoch

Today Samarkand welcomes visitors with clean streets, busy traffic, bright greenery of numerous trees in parks and squares, and along the highways as well. The city, which is home for about 600 thousand people, does not seem to be so heavily populated, and it is the third largest in Uzbekistan! Why? Maybe because of the building, which is mainly low-rise and only occasionally modern high-rise buildings come across, sparkling by glass and metal.

In general, the combination of architecture of different historical epochs is a distinctive feature of Samarkand. And flowers… they’re everywhere. There are stylized flower pots on the roadsides, and even on the concrete bumps, separating the traffic lanes on city streets.

The local cuisine is worthwhile to note a special attention. Why just mention! It is worthy of the greatest publication. Pilaf, shish kebab, famous Samarkand samsa – signage, surrounded on all sides beckon and entice, and just require, “Come in, dear guest, come in and taste immediately our treat!”.

Samsa in Samarkand is an indispensable participant of all significant events in the life of an Uzbek. It is baked just in tamdyr and made only with puff pastry. Mincemeat contains diced lamb and broadtail fat. Locals told me that early in the morning on the wedding day, the groom’s family sends trays of hot, freshly cooked samsa to the bride’s house, so that numerous guests and relatives who came to congratulate the happy girl can enjoy their favorite treat. These days, the amounts of aromatic and rosy Uzbek “pies” are measured in hundreds.

Samarkand pilaf is very different from “Tashkent” one. All the ingredients of the main Uzbek dish are prepared separately, by analogy with Azerbaijani pilaf. Apparently, it is the influence of a close neighbor – Tajikistan. And there are a lot of ethnic Tajiks in Samarkand.

We can write a lot about the historical sights of Samarkand, because this ancient city (it was founded, according to some sources, in 742 BC) had experienced a lot – periods of flourishing culture, architecture and literature, and times of struggle with foreign invaders, and it even had a status of the capital of the Great Timurid Empire, and the grandson of the awesome Tamerlane Mirzo Ulugbek turned Samarkand into the center of world science, having built here a madrasa and the observatory.

This Observatory remains are accessible for tourists and even in its current state are amazing, it is only necessary to imagine this scientific structure before it was dismantled brick by brick…

Al-Bukhari Memorial complex, built in 1998 on the burial site of the Imam, is located near Samarkand, it is particularly revered by the local population and well-known among visitors.

Gur-Emir Mausoleum is one of the main attractions of Samarkand, and the remains of the terrible Amir Timur and his descendants, called Timurids, lie on there. In 2014, it was included in the list of historical “Pearls of the Commonwealth” by the decision of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of CIS countries. Here is the tomb of Tamerlan, formerly terrifying enemies only by the name and recognized by some data as the most successful commander after Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great (there is a rumor that Amir Timur won a thousand battles without losing!) with the graves of his sons and grandchildren, and even the resting place of his spiritual mentor.

But the most famous place in Samarkand, which is simply impossible not to visit – Registan (so called the central squares in the Eastern cities). It is formed by the famous architectural ensemble of the 15-17 centuries, including Ulugbek Madrasah, Sherdor Madrasah and Tillya-Kari Madrasah. The International Music Festival “Sharq taronalari” (“Melodies of the East”) is held every two years, traditionally gathering performers and guests from around the world.

In the mausoleum of Bibi Khanum – Amir Timur’s beloved wife – there are burials of the most noble lady, her mother, her niece and at some distance – the graves of two most faithful and devoted servants.

The mosque, named after her, is striking by its size and splendor. It was built on Timur’s return from a victorious jehad to India. Famous complex with two portals would be built much slower but for the many Indian slogger-elephants specially brought by Tamerlane. Apparently this is the first documented use of migrant workers in construction.

And in Samarkand there are also Shakhi-Zinda necropolis, tomb of Khoja Daniyar, and the ancient settlement Afrosiab… Ishratkhana Mausoleum is very interesting, its walls are not yet touched by the hand of restorers, but nevertheless, it’s not less impressive than other restored historical and cultural monuments. It is impossible to see all sights of Samarkand during one visit.

Well, is there any Eastern city without a bazaar? There are many of them here, but everywhere there is one principle, which hasn’t been abolished yet – bargain, bargain and again bargain. Guided by it, I’ve bought fragrant spices for 14 thousand soums at the initial price of 20 thousand from a tradeswoman of Samarkand sweet halva in the Siab Bazaar. The woman also gave me as a gift an additional pack of something sweet, so that I quickly got away… The East is tricky!