Samarqand, Uzbekistan – July 2014

August 4, 2017

Samarqand, Mirror of the World, the Garden of the Soul, the Jewel of Islam, the Pearl of the East, the Center of the Universe. Lying in the river valley of the Zerafshan, and flanked by spurs of the Pamir-Alai mountains, this fabled oasis at the fringes of the Kyzyl Kum desert has never failed to leave its admirers in awe. Samarqand (Samarkand) has survived the full sweep of Central Asia’s history. Up to 40,000 years ago Paleolithic man wandered through the area. The city proper ranks in age with Rome and Babylon. Six arteries of the trade routes west to Persia, east to China and south to India met here to form a major Silk Road crossroad.

The Registan of Samarqand

The Registan complex is at the heart of Samarqand. It is considered the greatest and most magnificent in the Central Asian Islamic world. These Madrassahs were like universities for advanced education and religion.

Heading north out of Bukhara on M 37, we wanted to reach the town of Ghijduyan, home for the sixth generation of potters from the Narzullayevs family, world famous for their beautiful hand-painted ceramics. We were able to watch an artist as he created a shapely vase. Even with the difficulty of transporting such treasures back to California we took a chance and couldn’t resist buying at least one piece.

The tiles’ details on this turquoise dome above the Bibi Khanum Mosque were exquisite.

The roads were good and we were able to continue all the way to Samarqand. Following the Silk Road as we were, we had to stop at the remnants of an old caravansary near the village of Lavish. Not much was left of it except the foundations with the grand entry portal where long caravans of treasure-laden camels once plodded through. Little else had withstood the test of time.

Finding the Hotel Abdu Babudir 2 we had previously researched in Samarqand was a challenge without a detailed map of the city. The easy way in such cases is simply to hire a taxi and have him lead you to the address. Our room was not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but the AC worked and we lounged in the cool air. It was a well-known stopover for overland travelers so it was a great time to exchange ideas and travel tips.

Beth from Auburn, California, near our home town was traveling all the way to Vladivostok on an obviously well set-up BMW.

Each morning as the first rays of sunshine melted over the arches and exploded off the multicolored mosaics surrounding us, we would wander through some of the most amazing architecture in the world. What was truly more astonishing is that most of the temples, minarets, mausoleums and madrassahs, (schools of science and religion), had been destroyed, sacked, burned to the ground and rebuilt numerous times by different rulers. In 329 BC, 2,346 years ago, Alexander the Great conquered the city. A succession of Persian and Turkic peoples ruled until 1220 when Genghis Khan stormed in. In 1370 Tamerlane, (Taurid Transoxiana), made Samarqand his Imperial Capital, a city beyond compare. During his

The showroom at the Narzullayev family’s studio displayed their pottery.

35-year trail of campaigning, an estimated 17 million people died in a path of blood marked by pyramids of skulls throughout Persia, Syria, Asia Minor and Russia. The plunder of his conquests funded his dream and the architects, masons, painters, calligraphers, tile-glaziers and glass blowers he brought back created the fluted domes and sky-blue mosaics that excite travelers even today. After falling into despair for a few hundred years, many of the buildings have been restored and others are undergoing restoration. When you look at the pictures below we have made our best effort to show you the amazing details. These are not simply painted designs. What you are seeing is hundreds of thousands of individually glazed pieces of ceramic and glass placed one by one to create the image. One cannot even imagine the human effort it required to engineer these massive works of art.




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