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Samarkand travel guide

In Middle Ages Samarkand was the capital of one of the most powerful states of Asia – the Timur`s Empire (also known as Tamburlaine), a descendant of Genghis Khan`s cousin. But Timur had only added some splendor to his capital, and the city itself was founded about 700 B.C. Actually, Samarkand can be considered one of the most ancient cities in the world. It is even older than Rome. And when it became the capital of Timur`s Empire, Samarkand was also one of the largest cities of that time with population of about half a million people.

Timur (Tamburlaine) was one of the most talented military leaders of his time. He not only subjugated all the lands of Golden Horde, but also extended the limits of his empire from Minor Asia to China. Timur won nearly all his wars, and all the treasures of conquered peoples was sent for decoration of Samarkand. Different craftsmen and women were also sent there. However, after the death of Timur in 1405 his empire was quickly divided into separate states.

Apart from being the capital of empire ruled by one of the cruelest conquerors in the world, Samarkand had also the other period in his history – the reign of Timur`s grandson Ulugbek. He headed the empire yet before its disintegration in 1409, but he turned all his efforts not to conquests but to development of mathematics and astronomy. Being himself a scientist, he invited to his court the most prominent scientists of Arab world. It was just him who compiled the star catalogue (after Ptolemy), which is today used by astronomers from all over the world.

After the murder of Ulugbek the collapse of empire was imminent, but Samarkand retained its role as one of the most important cities of Asia, because it was the key point of the Great Silk Way, which connected Europe with Asia. That’s why UNESCO included it into its lists as cross-cultural city.

Registan Square is the main sight of Samarkand. It is surrounded by medieval madrasa(h)es (schools): those of Ulugbek, Tillya-Kari, and Sher-Dor. All madrasa(h)es are finished with blue tiles. There are many interesting places around Registan Square. They aren’t only historical sites but simple narrow streets of the Old Town retaining the atmosphere of Central Asia of past centuries.

You must go to Timur`s Mosque, Bibi Khanym, located near Timur`s Mausoleum where he was buried. There is a following inscription on the tomb: «That who violates Timur`s precept will be punished, and cruel wars will break all over the world". According to one famous story, Stalin ordered to open the tomb to demonstrate its artifacts at the exhibition dedicated to Tamburlaine. The expedition had been working for several months studying its contents, and the opening of sarcophagus was appointed to June 21, 1941. As is known, there was a war in Europe at that time, but it didn’t then touch the Soviet Union. And several hours after the tomb had been opened, the armies of Hitler invaded the USSR and the Great Patriotic War began.

Besides Registan and Tamburlaine`s Mausoleum, you should see the famous Observatory of Ulugbek, mausoleums of Ishrat-Khan and Rukhabad, as well as that of Biblical prophet Daniel. In order to get the flavor of East, you can go to the City`s Bazaar.

When at Samarkand you should plan a trip to Bukhara (250 km). It is the second most famous ancient city in Uzbekistan. In late Middle Ages just Bukhara became the capital while Samarkand eventually lost its significance. The sights of Bukhara are at least as impressive as those of Samarkand. The most famous square of Bukhara – Poi-Kalyan (also Poi Kalyan), is very similar to Registan Square. There are also many beautiful madrasa(h)es, minarets, mausoleums and simply old constructions in the Old Town of Bukhara.

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Complex of Registan in Samarkand is a masterpiece of Uzbek architecture
Sher-Dor Madrasah on the Registan Square in Samarkand
Guri Amir Mausoleum was built in Samarkand in 1404. There were buried Timur, his sons and grandsons.
Tombs of the Guri Amir necropolis. Black tomb of Timur was cut of a single jade slab.
By its size the empire of Timur was equal to that of Alexander the Great.
Underside of the dome of the Guri Amir Mausoleum.
Shahi-Zinda necropolis in Samarkand
Bibibi-Khanym, the biggest mosque in the Central Asia and one of the biggest mosques in the world, was built by Timur during 1399-1404.
Towers of the side walls of the Bibibi-Khanym mosque have massive ribbed domes.
One of the portals within the Bibibi-Khanym.
Model of the Bibibi-Khanym mosque in Samarkand, as it looked under Timur at the beginning of the 15 century.
Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619-1636) is likely the most beautiful building on the Registan Square in Samarkand
Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417-1420) is opposite the Sher-Dor Madrasah on the Registan Square in Samarkand
Sculpture group of astronomers including Mirza Ulugh Beg who was the son of Tamerlane and the ruler of the huge empire
Mosaic depicting snow leopards with the sun on their back (coat of arms of Samarkand) over the entrance to the Sher-Dor madrasah
Interior of the Tilla-Kari Madrasah (translated as «finished with gold») is richly decorated with gold and mosaics
The throne of the great military leader Timur in the courtyard of the Guri Amir where he sat during parades of his troops.
Timur is a great medieval ruler who created a huge empire and lost no battle.
Timur had the Ruchabad Mausoleum built over the grave of Burhaneddin Sagargy in 1380.
Main entrance to the Ruchabad Mausoleum. By this road you can come to the Guri Amir Mausoleum, расположенному напротив
A mosque with iwan near the Ruchabad Mausoleum in Samarkand.