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Samarkand

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Enjoying the view of Registan, Samarkand

Samarkand (also and more rarely in English, Samarqand), is perhaps the most famous city of modern Uzbekistan. The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Understand[edit]

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 century Temur (Tamerlane) made Samarkand the capital of his empire. Samarkand is a must see for all travellers visiting the Central Asia. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001 as Samarkand - Crossroad of Cultures.

History[edit]

Pre-Islamic[edit]

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 (5.5km), 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 329BC. 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 (171-145BC). The pottery differs markedly between these two phases.

The pre-Islamic Sogdian civilization is best documented from excavations at Panjikent. 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 c. 660AD, probably by King Varkhuman.

Islamic period[edit]

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 (c. 115m x 84m), which was according to numismatic evidence built in the 740s by the last Omayyad 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, c. 820-30, was enlarged and the remaining parts of the palace were levelled.

It subsequently grew as a trade centre 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
Daylight (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 season for travels to Samarkand is Apr/May and Sep/Oct.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Uzbekistan Airways operates flights from

By train[edit]

There are daily trains from Tashkent, the morning train No. 2 departs every day at 07:00 expect Tuesday and Wednesday arriving three hours later at 10:50. Train No. 4 is an evening train and departs all days expect Wednesday at 18:20 arriving 21:55. The slower 662 bound for Bukhara departs daily at 20:45, arriving 02:11.

The most popular international route is from Saint Petersburg (93h) via Volgograd (57h) departing every Friday at 07:30 arriving five nights later at 06:26. This train bypasses Moscow, nearest stop is in the town of Ozherelye. There is also a weekly connection fron Alma-Ata departing every Sunday at 15:50 arriving 07:59 two nights later.

Bus No 73 run via Registran Street to the train station (Vokzal).

By road[edit]

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

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

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

Registan
Gur-Emir
  • Registan Ensemble. Registan became the city square when the life in Afrosiab stopped. Since that time Registan was reconstructed several times. Today it is surrounded by the three medreses Ulugbek, Shirdor and Tilla Kari.  edit
  • Shirdor Medrese, (on Registan, opposite Ulugbek medrese). Medrese Shirdor repeats the facade and composition of Ulugbek medrese opposite. In Shirdor medrese the first floor is preserved, whereseas 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.  edit
  • Ulugbek Medrese, (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.  edit
  • Tilla Kari Medrese.  edit
  • Gur Emir Mausoleum (Gur-e Amir Mausoleum), Akhunbabayev. 8-19. (aka Amir Temur Mausoeum) As a conqueror there are few that are Tamerlane equal, both in territory and lives taken. It is said that he made pyramids out of the skulls of his vanquished. Today one can visit his tomb in the beautifully reconstructed Gur-Emir Mausoleum (1404-1405, 15-17 centuries) and reflect on his life while looking at the largest piece of jade (greenstone) in the world. [Aug 2012] entrance $4.50, camera $3.  edit
  • Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Tashkent kochasi (on the pedestrian by Siob Bazaar). The restored Mosque Bibi-Khonym (named after the wife of Temur 1399-1404) is one of best known architectural attractions of Central Asia. The Mosque was erected on Timur's order after his raid of Delhi. The Minaret of the Mosque was supposed to be the tallest. [Aug 2012] uzs 8000.  edit
  • Shakhi-Zinda Ensemble. Another point of interest is ancient necropolis Shakh-i-Zinda (9-14, 19 centuries)situated on southeastern mound of Afrosiab. This architectural complex consists of 44 tombs in more than 20 mausoleums. The greatest Significance of Shah E Zinda is that he was the First cousin of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and resembles the Prophet the most. (Hadrat Hissam Ibne Abbass or Kissam Ibne Abbass) {GPS N 39.39.42.4 , E 066.59.16.5} uzs 5000.  edit
  • Afrosiab, Tashkent kochasi (on an irrigated valley of the Zerafshan River, a few hundred meters from the center of the city). The ruined site of ancient and medieval Samarqand in the northern part of the modern town. This place always ensured favorable conditions for human settlements. As proof, one can freely walk through the ancient ruins. A museum is in the center of the remains. The famous Persian Pehlvan Rustam and Sohrab belonged to the Afrosiyob.  edit
  • Khazrat-Khizr, Tashkent kuchasi. 8-18. This mosque is one of the ancient edifices of Samarkand was destroyed by Genghis Khan's hordes. It was rebuilt in 19 cent. A beautiful Mosque stands on the elevation at the entrance of town from where their eye wanders over Bibi-Khonym Mosque, the big bazaar and the mountains in the South.  edit
  • Tomb of Prophet Daniel, Afrosiab (Off Tashkent Kochasi, Northeast of Registan). Amongst other curiosities in Samarkand is the tomb of the Hebrew Prophet Daniel, which is in the cemetery section of Afrosiab next to a pleasant stream. For a small fee you may enter the tomb, which contains a burial chamber around 18 meters long. Muslim men will offer prayers while you listen respectfully. After the conquest of Syria the grave was transported to Samarkand under the orders of Amir Temur.  edit
  • Ulugbek's Observatory: Another curiosity is the observatory of Ulugbek (Timur's grandson). It was located by the Russian archeologists. Only the foundations remain but it is truly extraordinary. Ulugbek was an astronomer, scientist and architect. His scientific and astronomical discoveries greatly advanced knowledge in these fields. The monument is situated in the north-east outskirts of city at the foot Chupan-ata mountain, which in medieval times was called Kukhak. That was three floor round building, decorated by glazed tiles, majolica, mosaic, but it was destroyed. The only thing that was preserved is a part of huge sextant – major astronomic instrument, the lowest part of which was in a deep trench (11km). Both arcs of this instrument are made of marble with indication of degrees. During the excavation works there were found a lot of remains of other astronomic instruments. Even being preserved partially, the observatory of Ulugbek is unique not only for Central Asia, but also for the whole world. The remains of observatory were conserved at the beginning of 60s XX. Here was also organized museum, where collecting the unique astronomic information and instruments related to Timurids epoch.
  • The Mausoleum of Al Buxori Al Bukhari located in a suburb of Samarkand, at Payerik. Al Buxori was collector of the sayings of prophet Muhamed and compiled them in to a book Known as Hadith Bukhari Sharif or Bukhari Sahih. He was buried in the place where his mausoleum is located now. His Mausoleum was reconstructed by Uzbek Government and supported by some Muslim Governments, the bricks were delivered from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The project was financed by the Iranian government. The constructers and artists from all Uzbekistan and Iran were working to reonstruct the complex. The Green Marble was supplied by the Pakistan Government. According to newspaper articles Imam Bukhari's grave is visited every day by about 1.000 visitors from all over the world. The present building was constructed on top of the original grave of Imam Al-Bukhari in 1997, 1225 years after the imam's death. The complex consists of Al Bukhari's mosque and grave and a museum exhibiting Qurans from some Muslim countries.
  • Abu Mansoor Al Matrudi Mausoleum Newly Renovated the Mausoleum of great Sunni Faqi is located 1 Km from masjid Bibi Khanum inside the Residential area. Visitor has to walk. Mirza Zaheer Ud Din Babur in his book Babur Noma has praised the knowledge and Command on Fiqah of Abu Mansoor Al Matrudi.
  • Rukhabat Mausoleum, Akhunbabayev (between Registan square and Gur-Emir ensemble). This is a central square mausoleum without portal with four identical facades. The arch entrance is decorated by blue glazed tiles and eventually the cupola was also covered by glazed tiles. According to manuscripts Rukhabat mausoleum ("place of spirit presence") was the burial place of the Samarkand sufi Burkhan ad-Din Sagardji, who died in 1380s. The mausoleum was built at a time, when central compositions were not popular and decorations of burial architecture was very rich. On the occasion of anniversary of Amir Timur in 1996 all buildings, which were not related to the monument, were destroyed and the ruins of constructions of Rukhabat complex – the mosque, khidjras, medrese and minaret came to light.  edit
  • Abdi Darun Ensemble, (in the north-east part of city). The mausoleum was erected over the grave of famous lawyer. It has been reconstructed for several times. A 'ziaratkhana' was built in front of mausoleum during the reign of Ulugbek. The portal and cupola drum are decorated with geometric ornaments and inscriptions from glazed bricks. In the cemetery are 'dahmas' (large grave constructions), dating to the 15 cent., covered with glazed tiles. The mosque was constructed at the beginning of 20 cent. It consists of a winter room and a summer column aivan, decorated by pottery carving and colored paintings. A small medrese was added at the end of 19th cent.  edit
  • Ishrat-khana Mausoleum, Sadriddin Ayniy. Ruined and atmospheric with no people at all {GPS N 39.38.35.0 , E 066.59.26.5} [Aug 2012] free.  edit
  • Ak-Saray Mausoleum.  edit
  • Khodja Ahrar Ensemble, (in the northern part of city near the cemetery). The grave of the famous religious and state benefactor of 15th cent. Nakshbandi Ubeidallah Ahrar is decorated by white marble tiles covered by inscriptions. The Medrese of Nadira divan-begi is a one floor building with a traditional four-aivans yard composition. The main entrance is decorated by portal, two khudjras are situated on the both sides of it as well as in the north and south parts of building. The western part of building is a mosque with a huge portal, main hall (mikhrab) and four rooms. The mosque was probably built in 15th cenr., but the medrese was erected in 1040-1045 (1630-1636) according to the order of well-known official Nadira divan-begi by architect Dust-Mukhammad. The decoration are very typical for ?VII: majolica, mosaic of high quality. The decorations of entrance portal are illustrating tigers and does. The summer mosque was built in XVII in the south from medrese. The decorations of mikhrab niche of this mosque are very similar to medrese. The column aivan (verandah) between medrese and summer mosque was constructed or reconstructed in later period. At the beginning of XX century ceiling of aivan was covered by vivid paintings. A small minaret, which is situated opposite to aivan, was erected in 1909 by Sadulla architect.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

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

The Registan ensemble has a nightly "light show" that involves turning some flood lights on then turning them off ten minutes later. (A pretty underwhelming event.)

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Samarkand Zeera is famous all over the world for its aroma.
  • Samarkand Pistachio, smaller in Size but very popular.
  • Samarkand Shafran Or Zafran is famous but inferior in quality as compared with Iranian.

Eat[edit][add listing]

The most famous product of Samarkand is their bread, "Samarkand Non". A visitor will rarely find anybody leaving Samarkand without buying Non as a gift. There are many interesting stories about "Samarkand Non".

  • Cafe Nur, Registan 9 (Almost opposite Registan). Ordinary clean local cafe selling pizzas and burgers. Not vegetarian friendly. Pictures on the menu does not match with what you order. Generally over priced for its quality. Pizzas from UZS10,000.  edit
  • Regal Palace Restaurant, Regal Palace Hotel (Samarkand Airport). Indian Food Prepared by Indian Chef including vegetarian options. The only restaurant offering Indian Food. USD7 lunch, USD9 dinner.  edit
  • Istiqlol, 157, Amir Temur str,. serving Shurpa, Lagman, Mastava, homemade noodles, Guj, Plov, Manti, Shashlik, Pelmeni, Dul or Barra breakfast USD5, lunch USD6, dinner USD7.  edit
  • Karim Bek, 194, Gagarina str,. serving variety of food. The restaurant hall turns into a disco at 20:00 with a number of difference dance shows at 21:00. breakfast USD3, lunch USD6, dinner USD8.  edit
  • Cafe Magistr, 30/45 Buston Saroy (after the Timurs statue, on the main street past by the Registon hotel), +998 66 266 00 20, +998 66 250 15 51. Best pizza in town! Loved by locals. Variety of vegetarian options, reasonable prices, well trained chefs and friendly staff (the manager speaks good English) makes this place one of the best eateries in town. Ask for both the English and Russian menu as the English one is old and prices are not updated. [Aug 2012] pizzas from UZS7000, mains from UZS4000.  edit
  • Aziz Supermarket, Pochta 6. The only super market in town at the moment [Aug 2012] {GPS N 39.39.15.2 , E 066.57.27.5}  edit
  • Sikhookyung Korean Restaurant, (not very easy to find, from Ahunbabaev left to Ulugbek and then right on the 2nd street, keep on going, you'll see it on your left corner), +998 66 378 12 11. A good Korean restaurant with friendly service [Aug 2012] {GPS N 39.39.40.4 , E 066.57.31.8} from UZS8000.  edit
  • Kafe Labig'Or, Registan (A few meters west of Cafe Nur). Authentic, big chaikhana in a very convenient location. During lunchtime it's packed, but also open at night. Second floor has a nice balcony/open air sitting. Mostly locals, some foreigners who may find the food very salty and very, very greasy. Serves cold beer and tepid Pepsi. Moderate prices, considering its location: Laghman UZS4,000..  edit
  • Blues Cafe, Amir Timur. Nicely decked out blues bar, different than most of the other drinking spots in the city, also has a good, varied menu with generous portions. Great pizzas ranging from USD5-12.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Samarkand is a conservative city as compared with Tashkent (ekin megod toshkanda) 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.

  • Teahouse-cafe Oriental sweets, Tashkentskaya Str. (located at the beginning of the pedestrian street Tashkentskaya in the center of old city, close to Registan). The building was constructed at the end of 19th cent. as a caravan saray.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Hotel Regal Palace (Regal Palace Hotel Building), Kunaev Street, Samarkand Airport (Samarkand Airport), +998 97 4431080 (), [1]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. $65-85 including breakfast.  edit
  • Hotel Zarafshan, 65 Sharaf Rashidov St (beside Central Park in the new part of town), +998 662 333 372. A recently renovated old Soviet hotel with loads of moody charm. Rooms are variable, so ask to see more than one if the first isn't to your liking. The front desk staff were very helpful. $15-30.  edit
  • Bahodir B&B, Mulokandov 132 (In the city center, on the east side of the Registan, behind the museum.), +998 622 35-47-59, +998 622 35-43-05. checkout: 12:00. This place seems to be the main meeting point for backpackers in Samarkand. The courtyard with teabeds makes a nice place for few beers and sharing travel stories. The staff is friendly, honest and willing to sell beer from their fridge. However, if staying in the dorm, the shared bathroom and toilet is a bit claustrophobic, but not bad. There is WiFi but had some kind of problem [Aug 2012] {GPS N 39° 39.366 E 066° 58.753} US$ 8 for a dorm bed, doubles from US$ 20 , breakfast is included and a dinner costs US$3 extra..  edit
  • B&B Davr, Samarkand,Republik of Uzbekistan,Ali Kushchi st.43 (In the city center, close to the Registan), [3]. checkout: 12:00. B&B with rooms set around a courtyard. They also do dinners on request which are a delicious and massive spread and very reasonable. The son of the owner speaks English. US$ 15 per person per night incl breakfast.  edit
  • Jahongir B&B, Chirokchi #4 (50 metres behind the wall on Suzangaron str. from the SUPERMARKET store on the corner), +998 66 391 92 44 (info@jahongirbandb.com), [4]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Jahongir B&B is located in the heart of Historical part of Samarkand within 5 minutes from Registan Ensemble. Comfortable rooms with modern amenities. Services include: dinners on request, wireless internet, taxi on call, guide services, laundry & dry clean. single US$25, double US$40. (39°39'3.35С,66°58'39.71E) edit
  • President Hotel, 53, Shokhrukh Str, 2334086, [5]. four star hotel opened 2004, centrally located, restaurant, swimming pool single USD105, double USD165 incl buffet breakfast.  edit
  • Orient Star Hotel, 33. Daghitskaja Str., 2322906. opened 2001, in the heart of the old tonn, restaurant, swimming pool  edit
  • Hotel Abdurahmon, 1/7 Buxara Str., +998 662 35 47 27. Simple and clean accommodations in Registan. Great hospitality and shared balcony. Limited parking (maximum two cars). USD25 per night for two-bed room, $35 per night for three-bed room (as of July 2012). Snacks and tea are provided on arrival and breakfast is included. Located a couple of minutes down a narrow street by car - you might think you're going the wrong way when you aren't. (39°39'3.42С,66°59'00.9E) edit

Contact[edit]

  • Railways Station, Beruny Str, 291532.  edit
  • Airport, Abdullaev Str (tickets: Gagarin Str 84, phone 2308659), 321102, 352894, 2308641.  edit

Get out[edit]


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