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It is always hard to choose a single favourite place when travelling through a country, but when it comes to Uzbekistan, Samarkand is one of the candidates. Stunning architecture, ancient history, what’s not to love about the most famous Silk Road city?
To give you a taste of what to expect, let me show you some of the city’s highlights:
#1 The Registan
The Registan might be Samarkand’s most famous building. It consists of three medressas, each of them adorned with blue tilework. You can go into each of the medressas, where most of the rooms have been taken over by souvenir sellers.
Take your time walking around the buildings. The most notable features include the golden mosque inside Tilla Kori medressa. Also, take a look at the outside of Sherdor medressa. You will see tigers with faces painted on them. It is a rare depiction of human faces in the Islamic world.
#2 Climb the Shah-i-Zinda
The Shah-i-Zinda is one of Samarkand’s most impressive sights. Located northeast of the Registan, it is also called the avenue of mausoleums. Climb up the stairs and look at the mausoleums along the way. Nowhere else in the city will you find as many blue-tiled buildings and blue domes as here.
Make the effort of walking all the way up to the top, no matter how hot it is, to take in all the buildings. Also, you have to cover your knees to be allowed to get into the site. If you are not dressed appropriately, you will get a skirt at the entrance.
And remember, no animal sacrifice on the tombs!
#3 Learn about Uzbekistan’s history in Ulugbek’s observatory
Samarkand has a rich history. With all those old buildings, it’s hard not to guess that this city once belonged to a splendid empire. But you will not grasp the influence it had on your own part of the world until you visit Ulugbek’s observatory. While not much remains of the building, the museum next door is very informative. Ulugbek was one of the most important astronomers of all times. The museum explains about his life, his discoveries and the brilliant idea behind his observatory.
The observatory is located slightly outside the city centre so consider taking a taxi to get here.
Built in 1399, the Bibi-Khanym-Mosque was once one of the biggest and most important mosques in the world. The mosque fell into disrepair over the centuries but restauration started during the Soviet era and it is now a grandiose sight to visit.
Besides the huge cupola, that is about 40 meters high, make sure to take a look at the stone Quran in the middle of the courtyard. Legend says that fertility increases if you crawl underneath.
Gur-e-Amir, Timur’s mausoleum, is another great example of Silk Road architecture. It was our last stop in Samarkand and nicely tied up all the bits and pieces we had learned about Uzbek history. The tilework is stunning, even after having visited many blue-tiled buildings already.
Originally, the building was constructed for Timur’s grandson. But when Timur died unexpectedly and all the passes to his hometown were snowed in, he was buried here. Ulugbek’s grave is also located here.
So what do you think? What is your favourite sight in Samarkand?