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Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The stunning city of Samarkand is a landscape filled with tones of blue and light brown. Clear skies and bright turquoise domes reign the skyline, relaxing lush gardens surround every square along with large bazaars that fill your senses with smells of different kinds of nuts, fruits, and spices. But nothing compares to the awe-inspiring structures that make you feel as small as an ant as you walk inside those huge madrasas decorated with endless details that tell Samarkand’s history within its current modern streets.

The Registan

Your first stop in Samarkand is the Registan, one of the most iconic squares you could visit in Uzbekistan and Asia. The first thing your eyes will see as you reach the square is three big madrasas facing each other, called Ulug Beg, Sher-Dor and Tilya Kori. These structures used to function as Islam colleges where young men learned about religion and science so you can imagine all these boys walking down the halls as you look up to the second floor, where they used to live and study.

As you go into the madrasas, you’ll find striking courtyards decorated with colorful tiles filled with blues, browns, and greens. Despite their anti-Islam sentiment, the Soviets were the ones who decided to reconstruct the Registan, destroyed by several earthquakes, after they took over the city. They are responsible for the current minarets standing on both sides of two of the madrasas and their famous turquoise domes that make you think of the refreshing water the area lacks.

If you pay attention to the intricate decoration of the structures, you’ll find mesmerizing symmetrical patterns and complex quotations from the Koran. And even though the Islam forbids the representation of living creatures in religious buildings, you’ll notice two tigers facing each other with rising suns on their backs with human faces on the top of the Sher-Dor Madrasah.

This building, just like the Uleg Beg Madrasa, is flanked by the previously mentioned minarets, which were meant for decoration rather than their usual prayer site function, since both madrasas were used as colleges and not mosques. However, back in the day, public executions were also carried out in this place, throwing criminals in a sack from the top.

After you’ve taken the immense beauty of the Registan in, you can change your perspective and go up the north minaret of the Ulug Beg Madrasa for a couple of dollars to get an impressive vast view of both the square and the city.

Bazaar life

Now you’re ready to head to the nearby bazaar where life and trade go on as it did back when the Silk Road, an old trading route that connected China and Europe through the Middle East, brought fabrics, gold, and spices. If you’re interested in those round hats many Muslims seem to wear, you’ll be able to buy one in here, along with different foods and exotic spices that date back to when gold was nothing compared to the value of saffron and black pepper.

How to get there

You can take a bus, train or even a plane from the capital Tashkent to Samarkand. Many international airlines fly to Tashkent since Uzbekistan Air has a modern fleet and good worldwide network. Samarkand has a good range of accommodation options so you won’t have any trouble finding a good hotel. However, we recommend the four-star Hotel Presidential Palace.

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