Uzbekistan has some cities which are relics of the past, such as Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.
Samarkand, the center of a region that has the same name, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is of the same age as Babylon, Rome and Athens. The earliest mention of Samarkand was in the 4th century BC. At that time the city was known as Marakand, and it was protected by powerful defensive walls, 10 km long.
Historically, Samarkand has faced many periods of upheaval and decay, it has taken a difficult historical path. Every period in the life of Samarkand has its characteristics, embodying the spirit of the times. Throughout the years of its existence, Samarkand has played a great role in the historical, political, economic and cultural life of Central Asia. Its favorable geographical location was very important. The city is situated in a fertile and well developed part of the Zarafshan Valley, along the Great Silk Road from China to Byzantium.
The city was conquered by the troops of Alexander the Great, the Arab Khaliphat and Genghiz Khan. It was the capital of the powerful state Sogd, the center of Amir Temir’s great empire. Temur was the one who cared about the beauty of the city and its strength as a major capital city in the region. The numerous monuments of Samarkand and its suburbs impress tourists with their beauty and splendor. The refined architectural shapes, intricate ornamentation, mosaics, blue-tile domes and facades are interesting for all who visit these beautiful buildings. Blue is important in decorating buildings, it blends in with the blue sky.
Places of interest in Samarkand:
• Registan square – this ensemble of majestic, tilting madrassahs – a near-overload of majolica, azure mosaics and vast, well-proportioned spaces – is the centerpiece of the city, and one of the most awesome single sights in Central Asia. It consists of three madrassahs: Ulugbek’s, Tilla Kari and Sher Dor.
• Bibi-Khanym mosque – The gigantic mosque, powerful and shapely even in ruins, was finished shortly before Timur’s death, and must have been the jewel of his empire. The majestic ruins of the Bibi-Khanym mosque give an idea about the building techniques and architecture of their time, leaving an indelible impression.
• Shahi-Zinda complex. The most attractive and comparatively well preserved historical monument is the Shahi-Zinda complex, which means: King alive”. It consists of mausoleums and mosques decorated with fine fascinating, delicate ornaments, astonishingly rich in design. In a word, Shakhi-Zinda is a bona fide museum of design art of its time. It is also an important place of pilgrimage.
• Gur-Emir mausoleum. The Emir’s grave with its splendid bright dome is a masterpiece of historic architecture.
• Ulugbek’s Observatory. The ruins of Ulugbek’s famous observatory are in the north-east of the city. The observatory had the most perfect equipment of the time, of which remains only a piece of a huge sextant. The Observatory is being restored and protected by the state.
• Bazaar. Oriental Bazaar in old part of the city represent a feast to the eyes with fresh fruits, vegetables and most exotic spices and local delicatessen.
• Meros Centre – visit to local craftsmen center and getting experience of different crafts like ceramics, toy-making, needlework, painting and etc. Tourists will participate in the process and may prepare something for themselves. The highlight of the visit is the process of making Samarkand paper from mulberry tree.
• “Aisha” silk processing workshop – Here tourists can see all the stages of natural silk production. It is also a good opportunity to buy fashion cloth that no one other will have. Valentina Romanenko – designer and owner of the atelier is known around the world and ladies from different countries come back here after visiting once. Her hand fashioned original designs are fashioned from stunning hand painted silks, antique laces, traditional suzanie embrodery & apliqued designs enhanced with her planet-based secret dying techniques.