Magnificent and adorable city Samarkand is one of the most visited and second largest city in Uzbekistan. Having over 2700 years history, Samarkand owns particular antiquity scent. Evidently it is of the same age as the cities of Rome or Babylon.
Although we are short of reliable proof according to some theories, Samarkand was established as a city in the VIII and VII centuries BC. It used to be the capital of the Sogdian satrap when the Persian Ahamanids Empire conquered it. In 329 BC when Alexander the Great took the city under control it was named in Greek as ‘Marokanda’.
Situated in a favourable geografical position, Samarkand is put to the first place among Central Asian countries, owing to which many rulers intended to conquer the city. Up to now this legendary city has witnessed several break-downs and growths, ruined, destroyed, again revived, flourished and today has become the pearl of the world.
CHOR-CHINOR PLANE TREES
In the core of Samarkand there are numerous spectacular sights, some of which are not well-known among visitors. One of them is Urgut Chor Chinor plane tree garden. According to some legends, the plane trees were planted during the Arabian invasion. Plates held on the enormous trees show the ages of them, namely 600, 700, 1000, 1100, the one near the gate is about 1162 years old. In the hollow of the plane you can see a spacious Chillakhona decorated with carved doors, benches, pillows and counterpanes, which makes the room a fairytale house.
For centuries the Chor Chinor grove has been used for prayers and meditations, as you enter to the garden relaxing and tranquil ambience is felt. The Chor Chinor trees grow near a healing spring running through the whole garden, creating a little picturesque pond. In the place where water goes out there is a stone with a hole looking like an old millstone. Recently a worker from investigators group pulled out it, as a consequence water stopped to score. After the locals requirements, as soon as they returned the amazing stone to its place – it began scoring again. Appearently it has no function in blocking or pressing, but there is stone – there is water, no stone – no water!
One more significant point to note, there is a mosque erected about a century ago, in 1917. Initially it was used as a madrasah. The architect of the building was very meticulous, because he was able to construct the mosque standing on the inclination without a spatial inaccuracy.
Inner part of the garden is a cemetery where the rulers of Urgut, as well as other historical figures were buried.
MAUSOLEUM OF IMAM AL-BUKHARI
Complex of Imam al- Bukhari is located in Khartang village, forty kilometres from Samarkand. There is a belief among Muslims that visiting the tomb of Imam al- Bukhari is equal to Umrah Pilgrimage to Mecca – hajj.
Abu Abdulloh ibn Ismoil al- Bukhari was the greatest mukhaddis scholar of Islamic world, till the age of seven he learned by heart whole Koran, and till he was ten could tell thousands of hadiths by heart. The most famous book written by him is ‘’Sahih al- Bukhari’’, including 7275, considered the second most reliable source after Koran.
The first Mausoleum for Imam al-Bukhari was constructed by Sheybanids in the XVI century and till 1997 the complex preserved its outlook. The reconstruction was conducted in honour of his 1225 years anniversary. The whole area of the complex is about 10 hectares, where is a mosque, on the left of the complex, accommodating over 1500 prayers, with a khanaqoh ( cloister), an administrative building located on the right of the entrance, next to library- museum with unique manuscripts and lithographs written about Islam Theology.
In the central part of the complex erected Imam al-Bukhari’s mausoleum which was built 9×9 dimension with a 17 meters dome. A cube shaped mausoleum of the scholar is decorated with onyx and marble. On the right of the construction there is an entrance taking to Imam al-Bukhari’s dakhma (tomb).
There are a lot of plane trees near the complex whose ages are over centuries. People say that wishes said touching the trees would surely come true.besides, in the yard of the complex there is a spring flowing healing water.
AFRASIAB SETTLEMENT OF THE ANCIENT ORIENT
In Samarkand there is historically important site – the ruins of ancient Afrasiyab, established in the favourable geographical position of Zarafshan Valley. The city was mentioned with various names in the historical scripts, for example, it was cited as Marokanda by Greeks. According to the results of the excavations we may presume of the original appearance of the city, which has been conducted since 1874 till now.
During the process palace of Afrasiyab kings which was decorated with paintings of various scenes, ancient fortifications, religious, commercial, administrative and civic buildings, neighbourhoods of citizens, mosque named Hazrati Hizr and others were uncovered.
Samarkand History Museum Afrasiyab is located in the North of modern Samarkand, near to the ancient and legendary settlement Afrasiyab stretching for about 200 ha, including the ancient areas of Marokanda – the Sogdian capital. The museum itself was founded on the eve of very important date – 2500 years anniversary of Samarkand. Today in the museum over 22 000 findings are exhibited telling about daily life, culture, mode, traditions of the locals had lived there appearing of human being in these areas. With the assistance of the artifacts historians try to portray the antique period as clear as possible.
In the list of the museum there are terracotta statues, pieces of clay ornament dishes, ossuary fragments, different kinds of tools, adornments belonged to women, and of great speciality – examples of highly artistic paintings dating back VI-VII centuries. Besides, here are displayed sepulchral vessels, mirrors made from bronze, coins of Greco-Bactrian Age. Interestingly, up to now the remnants of the ancient sewerage system of the city has been preserved and shown in the museum. As the most remarkable exposition we cite the wall paintings of Samarkand Palace which are fully saved. They depict the way of royal life: on the southern wall a wedding embassy is enlightened – the bride, daughter of Chaganian, riding white elephant, surrounded by dignitaries; on the northern wall you can observe fight between wild animals and horsemen. The eastern wall shows the scene of the sea, amazing birds and animals, sailing people. The scene of the receiving representatives of ancient Chach, Eastern Turkistan and China is illustrated on the wall behind the king’s throne.
The museum was established in 1970 according to the project of Bagdasar Arzumanyan.
CAVE OF HAZRAT DAUD IN SAMARKAND
The pilgrimage Hazrati Dovud is located in Aksay village of Mirankul mountains, Samarkand. People from all over Uzbekistan visit here hoping blessing from Saint Davud who is considered a prophet in Islamic world to whom a holy book Zabur was sent.
The main sight in this pilgrimage is a 30 meters cave 0.5-4 meters wide, and 15 meters high.at the end of the cave there are fingerprints touching which if you make a wish it would come true and people believe it.
To reach this sacred place every visitor ought to go up 2000 steps; here is a small mosque where pilgrims pray before they enter the cave.
They say, Hazrat Davud was sent to this place to propagate Islam, at that time people confessed Zoroastrism (holy book – Avesto), that’s why they got angry with him. By God he was bestowed a possibility of fusing metal about which the ruler of Samarkand got to know and wanted and forced Hazrati Dovud to work for him. At that time he ran to mountains, they turn into clay, after Hazrati Dovud got hidden the entrance closed. In the other version of the legend, before the battle with Goliath, Saint Davud was going to have a rest, and Jinns (kind of evil ghosts) brought him in the mountain. However, his enemy found him soon. Realizing his low potential for winning over Goliath, he asked God for help to hide him. Then he started digging the stony mass in front of him, going deep into the rock leaving a tunnel after him. But Goliath could not enter the cave, people say that the giant footprints and knee traces belong to him.
The Siyab Bazaar is as famous as other historical sights of Samarkand therefore visitors do not leave without drop-in there. The locals say that the open-air market has existed since the city established though there is no historic proof about it. The market is comfortably located a ten-minute walk from Registan Square, very near to Bibikhonum Mosque. The bazaar was constructed and decorated in oriental style, which is considered convenient for the
In the bazaar you can learn about the prices of the products on the stock, local news, sometimes, you can watch national live shows. The Siyab bazaar is well-known with its bakeries offering 17 species of golden Samarkand breads baked in the oriental clay ovens – tandirs. Any traveller can be surely excited with the colourful and delicious fruits as well as dried-fruits here and they may sample as much as they want.
You can feel amazing ambience mixed with the pleasant flavours of species – pepper, saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, caraway, cumin which can not be found in the other sides of the world.
Wandering the bazaar stocks you are offered various souvenirs to present or just for remembrance from Samarkand.
Today we can see the Registan Square in assembled form, but originally the architectural monuments were built in different periods, by various rulers. Interestingly, the word ‘’registan’’ means ‘’a town upon the sand’’, in fact, before constructing of these vulnerable buildings the site used to be a flat and arid land appeared after a river dried up. In the square there three main historical sights, namely: Ulugbek Madrassah, Sherdor Madrassah, Tillakori Madrassah which is covered with gold.
Ulugbek Madrassah was built in 1417 by Mirzo Ulugbek, the grandson of Great Temur, not only just a statesman, but also a great scientist and astronomer of Middle Ages. He wanted to erect an educational institution which is unequalled in beauty and scientific potential, the fame of the madrassah spread all over the world, the students taught by great scholars of that time Maulana Kashani, Kazizada Rumiy, Ali Kushchi contributed to improve people’s spirituality, acknowledgement, cultural well-being. In the madrassah students were lectured teology, mathematics, geometry, logic, science, astronomy as well as astrology, occasionally Mirzo Ulugbek personally himself gave lectures on the last two subjects.
The madrassah was built in a rectangular form, the back side was accommodated by mosque audience. There lived over a hundred students, studying in the madrassah, in the fifty hujras situated in two open tiers of arched buildings. According to Vasifiy, the contemporary historian, the architect of the madrassah must be Kamaliddin Muhandis, an apprentice of Kazizada Rumiy. The Ulugbek Madrassah is decorated in the harmony of Islamic and oriental ornaments which gives unforgettable impression to the visitor
SHER DOR MADRASSAH
Among all the architectural monuments of Samarkand Sherdor Madrassah holds a significant role. This historically important construction was built for 17 years between 1619 and 1636 according to the architecture designed by Abdul Jabbar.
Erected at the same axis with Ulugbek Madrasah, Sherdor Madrasah has four minarets located in the corners of the main façade which are 40 meters high.
The name means ‘lions’ in Persian which is symbolically depicted above the portal arch – there are lions rushing after white deer in each side. The composition is filled with a golden blazing sun with almond eyes over the lion. All of them are imaged on a blue scene. In the decoration carved tile mosaic dominate, the illustrations of people and animals recall the characteristics of Persian culture which was mainly-addressed in the constructions.
The inner part of the building was traditionally ornamented like other religious buildings of Iran and Central Asia where blue colour was basically given in the decoration. The illustration over the entrance arch is always of special interest for most of the tourists.
TILLA KORI MADRASAH
The last but not least component of the Registan ensemble – Tilla Kori Madrasah is situated in the northern part of the square. The construction of the Madrasah began ten years later after completion of the Sherdor Madrasah, from 1646 to 1660. Although the capital moved to Bukhara after Temurids State was collapsed the Registan was cultural, crafts and trade centre of the city. The contemporary emir of Samarkand Yalangtush Bahadur intended to build two more Madrasahs here. However, he could not see the completion of Tilla Kori.
Stating about the ornament of the construction, according to some researchers, there is an affinity with the ancient themes illustrated in the Zoroastrism. For example, the tiger lion in the ornament means the fable about life after death told in the Avesto hymns.
Like many other religious buildings in the area on the walls of Tilla Kori Madrasah were also decorated with oyats – quotations from Holy Koran by skilful hattots ( the writers of Arabic letters in an artistic way mainly to decorate). Moreover, here you can see the sacred words in honour of the ruler.
As time passed the larger sized dome put disproportionally caused to fail the monument. Till the second half of the XX century it had not been paid enough attention as a result of which madrasah became deserted in the XIX-XX centuries.
In autumn, 1962 the reconstruction was ended, with the concerned effort of restorers and this unique historical monument of Medieval Ages began shining with glory again
ANCIENT HAND-MADE PAPER MILL OF SAMARKAND
In ancient times paper making was very laborious process conducted by well-skilled craftsmen and kept in secret. Samarkand had a great role to play in terms of paper-production not only in the Central Asia, but also in many states of the world. According to famous orientalist Adam Metz, paper-making in Samarkand in the IX-X centuries AD resulted in a revolution in the Eastern countries, supplying great demand for paper and liberating this branch of craft from monopoly. Another author from medieval ages states that paper production in China and Samarkand left behind using parchment and very expensive papyrus which had been employed by ancestors.
during the reign of Amir Temur there were 42 workshops producing high quality Samarkand paper in the city. The craftsmen used cotton, silk, mulberry as a raw material. In the late XVIII century the demand for Samarkand hand-made paper declined noticeably as white and more affordable factory paper was imported from Russia. Afterwards the workshops were closed, stopped to produce the magnificent paper. However, on June 23, 1998 Samarkand hand-made paper revived.
The Meros Paper Mill is situated in Konigil Village, 10 km from Samarkand, where the whole process is conducted according to the ancient paper-making technology. In the Siyab River you can see a mechanism driven by water, used in the main process as in the past. The process is really interesting and it would be an unforgettable experience for you as well!
BIBI KHANUM MADRASAH
One more ancient sites of Samarkand is Bibi Khanum Madrasah which was built in honour of Saray Mulk Khanum’s (Temur’s wife ) mother. Octagonal structure with a cylindrical drum was decorated with splendid inscriptions most of which has not preserved perfectly. In the construction of the Bibi Khanum composition strict traditional scheme was maintained: octagonal prism base, golden outer dome were the elements of Middle Eastern Architecture.
The construction initially consisted of a mosque, a mausoleum, and a madrasah major part of which was destroyed by Nadir Shah.
Like many monuments the inner part of the mausoleum was ornamented with mosaic panel and mural-paintings on the walls and ceilings. The minarets were built of white marble, and the blue dome looks like perishing into the firmament, which is 12,5 meters high, in diameter and at the base – 15 meters.
THE PROPHET DANIAR MAUSOLEUM
The prophet Daniyar mausoleum in Samarkand can be seen a symbol of monotheism which attracts pilgrims faith in three world religons – Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
The mausoleum was built with the order of Great Temur outside the city, at the bottom of northern Afrasiyab wall, near the Siyab river in the XIV century.
Although his sepulcher is in Mosul the local people believe that it is Saint Daniyar’s tomb brought by Amir Temur during one of his campaigns. The length of the tomb is about 17.5 meters and some trust that it is constantly getting longer. Rocks from Zarafshan used to cover the grave and here you can taste stimulating water, feeling inexplicable invigorating atmosphere of the place.
People loyal to Zoroastrian traditions tie ribbons to the trees, Muslims, Christians as well as Judaists frequently visit here.
Due to love and interest toward stars Mirzo Ulugbek established a school as a great astronomer and left as a heritage to the whole scientific world.
In order to learn more about the astronomy he founded an observatory where a number of significant astronomical observations were conducted with contemporary scholars. They built usturlob – an astronomic equipment to watch the sky themselves, and the accuracy of the results are surprisingly correct. The scientist created ‘’Ziji Kuragoniy’’ – ‘’Table of Stars’’ in which he showed the place and movement of 1018 stars. The length of a year was calculated by the astronomers, equal to 365 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes and 9 seconds, which is very close to the exact numbers counted by modern technologies. The giant goniometer, vertical circle with a radius of 40.414 meters was in the basis which was widely used in the observations.
After he was died the observatory was destroyed, today we can see only a small part of it. Many architects presumed the original design of the whole construction and tried to project the models of observatory.
Samarkand can offers you not only ancient and historically important sights, but also amazing and interesting trips along its outskirts. One of them is to the Samarkand winery. It was founded in 1868 by Filatov. He planted various sorts of grape and all of them showed very good results in the fertile land of Samarkand.
In 1883 the sort named ‘’Bihishti’’(paradise), derived by Filatov, won the gold medal in the Paris International Exhibition of wines and brendies. During 1882-1884 a number of sorts were laid in the 20 tithes of plantations.
Today the best wines of Uzbekistan are made according to the traditional recipes with the help of modern technologies. Up to now Samarkand winery got more than 80 international medals for different tastes of wines. In the special cellars the workers of the Samarkand winery keep a sample from all products, which has a passport showing the year produced.
Under Samarkand winery there is the Wine Museum where you can see and sample all the tastes of wines exhibited there.
SHAKHI ZINDA NECROPOLIS
Situated in the ancient site of Afrasiyab, Shohi Zinda necropolis is of significant attention. The name of the sight means ‘’The Living King’’ in Persian.
The necropolis includes 11 mausoleums constructed in the XIV-XV centuries and the ruins of other ancient structures each of which has a special peculiarity concerning the shape and decoration. The entrance is located in the lower ground where a mosque is situated, built in the XIX century; and to the main part of the complex you ought to go up stone staircase bringing you a unique majestic world filled with a tranquil ambience.
The outstanding structure of the whole complex is the octagon-shaped tomb whose owner is unknown. Octahedral structure was unique for Temurid Era. The tomb of Ahmad Khoja can catch the attention with its gorgeous geometric and epigraphic ornaments created in light green. He is known us as a thinker and religious leader, it can be proved with the inscriptions by him: ‘’The day will come when you turn into the sand’’.
MAUSOLEUM OF KUSAM IBN ABBOS
During the tour to Shohi Zinda you are given a chance to call on the tomb of Kusam ibn Abbos(1334), who was a cousin of Prophet Muhammad(s.a.v). He brought faith in one God, spread the Laws of Shariah in the Central Asia.
he had come to Samarkand before the last invasion of the city by Arabs. As he was praying he was killed. In one of the legends, once he finished his preach sermon he himself took his head from his shoulders under his arm and disappeared in the narrow passage of the cave, where he is still allegedly going on living today, therefore the name of the place is ‘’Shahi Zinda’’ which means ‘’Living King’’.
Today the tomb differs from the description written in the XIV century. The gravestone made of ebony and decorated with precious stones has been replaced by one of irrigated tiles.
The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with marble and golden ornaments, the roof is made of lead, while the tomb is adorned with precious stones and the corners are covered with silver. Here is a cozy mosque which has three-dome-ceiling, which appeals with its lightness.