Samarkand

Samarkand or Samarqand is perhaps the most famous city of modern Uzbekistan. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Understand

The name Samarkand is derived from Old Persian asmara ("stone, rock") and from Sogdian qand ("fort", "town"). Samarkand literally means "stone fort" or "rock town." Samarkand had a central position on the Silk Road between China and the West. In the 14th cent. Temur (Tamerlane) made Samarkand the capital of his empire. Samarkand is a must see for all travellers visiting Central Asia. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001 as Samarkand - Crossroad of Cultures.

History

Pre-Islamic

The site of Samarkand was sporadically occupied in the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. A city was founded in pre-Achaemenid times, between 650 and 550BC. A wall followed the whole circuit of the plateau (5.5 km), complemented by another one which separates the town from the acropolis, situated in the northern part and itself including a citadel raised on an artificial platform. The massive wall, 7m thick, was made of coarse mud bricks, all of which bear a mark, an indication that labour was strictly organized in groups of workers. Similar building techniques have been noticed at other Sogdian and pre-Sogdian sites during that pre-Achaemenid period.

The city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. It was named Maracanda by the Greeks. Two phases of Greek occupation can be distinguished, the first lasting from Alexander to the second half of the 3rd century BC and a second period of reconquest under the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides (171-145 BC). The pottery differs markedly between these two phases.

The pre-Islamic Sogdian civilization is best documented from excavations at Panjikent, which was the capital at that time; the town is near Samarkand but now across a border in Tajikistan. At Samarqand, the major source of evidence for this period is the aristocratic residence with the famous wall paintings which were commissioned for a reception hall ca. 660AD, probably by King Varkhuman.

Islamic period

Bibi-Khanum Mosque

In the early 8th century AD, Samarkand was conquered by the Arabs and soon became an important center of Muslim culture. Excavations beneath the mosque show a rapid succession of monumental buildings. A massive enclosure, perhaps the temenos of the pre-Islamic temple mentioned in the sources, was razed some time after the Arab conquest of 712. The site was occupied by a large palace (ca 115 x 84 m), which was according to numismatic evidence built in the 740s by the last Umayyad governor Nasar b. Sayyar. Between 765 and 780 the Friday mosque was first built on a square plan, which probably at the beginning of the Samanid period, ca. 820-30 was enlarged and the remaining parts of the palace were levelled.

It subsequently grew as a trade center on the Silk Road, the great trading route between China and the Mediterranean region.

In 1220 Samarkand was almost completely destroyed by the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan. It flourished again when Timur-i-Leng (known as Tamerlane in the West) made it the capital of his empire in 1369. As his capital Timur put Samarkand on the world map and much of the architecture visible today was built by him or his descendants. The empire declined in the 15th century, and nomadic Uzbeks (Shaybanids) took Samarkand in 1500. In 1784 the emirate of Bukhara conquered it. The city was taken by Russia in 1868 and once again began to assume importance. From 1924 to 1930, Samarqand was the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 6 8 14 21 26 32 34 32 28 21 15 9
Nightly lows (°C) -3 -1 3 9 13 16 16 16 11 6 2 -1
Precipitation (mm) 44 39 71 63 33 4 4 0 4 24 28 41
Sunshine (hrs/day) 4 5 6 7 10 13 13 12 10 8 6 4

Samarkand has a typical continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. Best seasons for travels to Samarland is Apr/May and Sep/Oct.

Get in

By plane

The   Samarkand International Airport (IATA:SKD). has daily flights to Tashkent ($21) except on Mondays or Fridays. Other destinations are Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kazan all with Uzbekistan Airways. Domestic tickets can only be bought at the airport in US$.

By train

The   Samarkand Railway Station (Вокзал Самарканд). is 5km northwest of Navoi Park. Take bus 22 or marshrutka 3,27,35 or 72 that says Вокзал from   Registan stop. for 1,000 som. A taxi from the city centre is about 5,000 som. Train tickets for all routes in Uzbekistan can be also bought at the brand new   Ticket Office. in new town. Trains get very crowed so it is advisable to book a few days ahead.

There are a few daily trains to and from Tashkent. Besides the slow local trains there is the super fast Afrosiob and the still fast Sharq train that continues to Bukhara. For Khiva take the night trains to Urgench and hop on a marshrutka or shared taxi. For departure times see the Uzbekistan#Get around section.

The most popular international route is from Saint Petersburg (93 h) via Volgograd (57 h) departing every Friday at 7:30AM arriving five nights later at 6:26AM. This train bypasses Moscow, nearest stop is in the town of Ozherelye. There is also a weekly connection from Alma-Ata departing every Sunday at 3:50PM arriving 7:59AM two nights later.

By car

Samarkand is about 4 hours by road from Tashkent; shared taxis leave from Sobir Rahimov bus station.

The distance to Samarkand from Tashkent is 290 km, from Bokhara 270 km, from Khiva 740 km, from Andizhan 610 km, from Fergana 600 km, from Karshi 150 km, from Kokand 500 km, from Nukus 820 km, from Shahrisabz 90 km, from Termez 380 km and from Urgench 700 km.

Get around

See

Enjoying the view of Registan, Samarkand
Gur-Emir
Shirdor Madrasah (on Registan, opposite Ulugbek medrese). Medrese Shirdor repeats the facade and composition of Ulugbek medrese opposite. In Shirdor medrese the first floor is preserved, whereas it is destroyed in Ulugbek medrese. The decorations of entrance portal are illustrating the tiger (“shir” that’s why it is called Shirdor. Ornaments and decorations are very rich, but its quality is worse than of Ulugbek medrese. Shirdor medrese was erected by order of Uzbek feudal lord Yalangtush in 1619-1632. Inscriptions of medrese show the names of the masters Abdaldjabbar and Muhammad-Abbas.
Ulugbek Madrasah (on the western side of Registan Square). The oldest medrese on Registan is a large rectangular building with monumental portal and a yard with four-verandahs, surrounded by cells for students and with four classrooms in the corners. In the western part is a winter mosque. The corners of the building are decorated with high minarets. The decorations consists of glazed and unglazed bricks, mosaics, majolica,carving marble. The most beautiful decorations are zhose of the main portal, where geometric, vegetative and epigraphic decorations were used. Inscriptions mention Ulugbek and several dates relating to the stages of construction. In 823 (1420) when the construction of the medrasah was finished.
Tilla Kari Madrasah. In 1660 the Tilya-Kori ("Gilded") Madrasah was built. It was not only a residential college for students, but also played the role of grand mosque. It has a two-storied main facade and a vast courtyard fringed by dormitory cells, with four galleries along the axes. The mosque building is situated in the western section of the courtyard. The main hall of the mosque is abundantly gilded.
Tile mosaic in the mosque of Khoja Ahrar

Do

Visit a spa/banya for a Samarkand deep tissue massage.

Buy

Eat

The most famous product of Samarkand is their bread, "Samarkand Non". A visitor will rarely find anybody leaving Samarkand with out buying Non as a gift. There are so many interesting stories about "Samarkand Non".

Drink

Samarkand is a conservative city as compared with Tashkent. There are few Night Clubs and Bars. On Afrosiab Hotel there is a Night Club and Bar. In President Hotel Guests can have Beer in Nice Environments. Incante Show Club is at a walking Distance from Afrosiab Hotel and in the evening visitors can watch Pole Dance.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, November 30, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.