Samarqand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, and is spread over three sites — the ancient settlement known as Afrosiab; the Timurid portion; and the modern part of the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, Samarqand is a contemporary of Rome and celebrated its 2750th birthday in 2007.
Located along the Great Silk Road at the crossroads of routes leading to Persia, India and China, Samarqand has drawn people from all over. It also attracted itinerant travelers like Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta, as well as purposeful conquerors like Alexander the Great and Shaybanid Khan alike. The former came out of curiosity; the latter to plunder or rule over its vast wealth. Samarqand drew me in as well, a modern-day traveler. If you have been following my Uzbekistan journey on this blog, then you will recall that it was a picture of a blue dome in Samarqand that had sparked off a desire to visit it.
I was in Samarqand for two days and got a glimpse of a fascinating past filled with myths, legends and historical events. I also saw many blue domes and many more works of art that were in different shades of blue. The amount of blue was enough to dub Samarqand as the blue city and use that title for this blog post as well ! 🙂 .
Continue reading “The blue city of Samarqand”
The Registan Square in Samarqand is the city’s, and perhaps Uzbekistan’s, most recognised monument. In a way, it is to Uzbekistan what the Taj Mahal is to India. So it was not surprising that the Registan Square was the one place I was looking forward to visiting the most even before I set out for the trip in September 2015. 🙂
It was early evening when I arrived in Samarqand after a beautiful drive through the Zarafshan mountains from Shakhrisabz. As the car drove through the city towards the B&B I would be staying in, my first impressions were of an elegant and beautiful city filled with monuments. I kept an eye out for the Registan Square and even thought I glimpsed it, but could not be sure as the one way roads made me feel like we were going around in circles !
Once at the B&B, I was delighted to find from the very handy map given there that the Registan Square was just a 5-minute walk away. So after freshening up and some tea, I followed the directions on the map and within minutes was at the Registan Square. The sun had almost set and my first glimpse of the iconic monument complex was at twilight.
Time stopped still as I took in the magnificent sight before me and I think I had tears in my eyes as well. Over the next 2 days that I was at Samarqand, I would visit the Registan Square often, and each time it would be an overwhelming experience.
Continue reading “The Registan Square of Samarqand”
The legend of the origin of Bukhara appears in the Shahnameh (or the Epic of the Persian Kings) by Firdausi.
When King Siyavush of the Pishdak dynasty wed Farangis, the daughter of King Afrosiab of Samarqand, he was gifted a vassal kingdom in the Bukhara region by his father-in-law. Siyavush, who had always liked this region for its many rivers and its location on the ancient trade route, built a new city there — Bukhara. The first structure that he built was the Ark or Arg (the Persian word for ‘citadel).
Today, Siyavush’s Ark is long gone and another one stands in its place. Also known as the Ark, it is no coincidence that this 16th century Ark too continues to be at the heart of Bukhara, both historical and modern. And that’s why I begin this post with the Ark, for both the legend and the history of Bukhara is inextricably linked to it or the people who governed from there.
Continue reading “Monumental Bukhara: Masjids, madrassahs, mausoleums and more”