The name Samarkand conjures a place that floats somewhere between fact and romantic fiction. Its fame reaches back into the fog of time. In 329 BC, Alexander the Great exclaimed, ‘Everything I have heard about Samarkand is true, except that it’s more beautiful than I ever imagined!’
This city is the jewel in the crown of the Silk Road. It’s centerpiece, the Registan, has been carefully restored. This is medieval Samarkand’s commercial heart and is dominated by three madrassas facing each other across a square. Their façades are a riot of vibrant majolica and azure mosaics that dazzle the eye. It’s best to set aside a whole day to explore these buildings with their gold-leafed interiors, cool courtyards and colourful bazaars. See the extraordinary Ulugbeg observatory, created by Tamerlane’s grandson, and visit Gur Emir – Tamerlane’s mausoleum. Have tea on a terrace overlooking the Bibi Khanum mosque, built for Tamerlane by his wife as a surprise gift.
In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.
Registan Ensemble – Registan became the city square when the life in Afrosiab stopped. Since that time Registan was reconstructed several times. Today it is surrounded by the three medreses Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillokori.
Gur Emir Mausoleum – As a conqueror there are few that are Tamerlane’s equal, both in territory and legacy left. Today one can visit his tomb in the beautifully reconstructed Gur-Emir Mausoleum (1404-1405, 15-17 centuries) and reflect on his life while looking at the largest piece of jade (greenstone) in the world.
Bibi-Khanym Mosque – named after the wife of Temur and built between 1399-1404 – is one of best known architectural attractions of Central Asia. The Mosque was erected on Timur’s order after his combat of Delhi. The Minaret of the Mosque was supposed to be the tallest.
Shakhi-Zinda Ensemble – (9 -14, 19 centuries) situated on southeastern mound of Afrosiab. This architectural complex consists of 44 tombs in more than 20 mausoleums. The greatest significance of Shah E Zinda is that he was the First cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and resembles the Prophet the most
Afrosiab – The ruined site of ancient and medieval Samarkand in the northern part of the modern town. This place always ensured favorable conditions for human settlements. As proof, one can freely walk through the ancient ruins. A museum is in the center of the remains.
Khazrat-Khizr – built 8-18 cent. This mosque is one of the ancient edifices of Samarkand was destroyed by Genghis Khan’s hordes. It was rebuilt in 19 cent. A beautiful Mosque stands on the elevation at the entrance of town from where their eye wanders over Bibi-Khonym Mosque, the big bazaar and the mountains in the South.
Tomb of Prophet Daniel, Afrosiab – Amongst other curiosities in Samarkand is the tomb of the Hebrew Prophet Daniel, which is in the cemetery section of Afrosiab next to a pleasant stream. It contains a burial chamber around 18 meters long. After the conquest of Syria the grave was transported to Samarkand under the orders of Amir Temur.
Ulugbek’s Observatory – observatory of Timur’s grandson. Only the foundations remain but it is truly extraordinary. Ulugbek was an astronomer, scientist and architect. His scientific and astronomical discoveries greatly advanced knowledge in these fields. The only thing that was preserved is a part of huge sextant – major astronomic instrument, the lowest part of which was in a deep trench (11km).
The Mausoleum of Al Bukhari – located in a suburb of Samarkand. Al Bukhari was collector of the sayings of prophet Muhamed and compiled them in to a book Known as Hadith Bukhari Sharif or Bukhari Sahih. He was buried in the place where his mausoleum is located now. His Mausoleum was reconstructed by Uzbek Government. According to newspaper articles Imam Bukhari’s grave is visited every day by about 1.000 visitors from all over the world. The present building was constructed on top of the original grave of Imam Al-Bukhari in 1997, 1225 years after the imam’s death. The complex consists of Al Bukhari’s mosque and grave and a museum exhibiting Qurans.
Abu Mansoor Al Matrudi Mausoleum – Newly Renovated the Mausoleum of great Sunni Faqi is located 1 Km from masjid Bibi Khanum inside the Residential area. Babur in his book Baburnoma has praised the knowledge and Command on Fiqh of Abu Mansoor Al Matrudi.
Rukhabat Mausoleum – According to manuscripts Rukhabat mausoleum (“place of spirit presence”) was the burial place of the Samarkand sufi Burkhan ad-Din Sagardji, who died in 1380s. The mausoleum was built at a time, when central compositions were not popular.
Koni Ghil Paper Mill – The paper is renowned for its exquisite quality and called silk-paper because of its smooth, shiny surface. Many 9th and 10th century Arabic and Persian manuscripts were written on it. Only emirs, sultans and viziers could afford this paper. That is why it is also known as royal paper. The Silk Road caravans exported this paper to Asia, the East and Europe.