Samarkand, Uzbekistan

We arrived in Samarkand from Khiva at 6:30am on the overnight sleeper train. While not as comfortable as the Turkmenistan train (due to lack of a cooling system), it was still a good way to travel between cities as it meant avoiding having to squeeze into a shared taxi and a bumpy ride on the pothole ridden roads of Central Asia.

We headed straight to the Bohadir B&B which was in the LP, as well as being recommended to us by other travellers in Bukhara.  They gave us a double with bathroom for US$9 each including breakfast, which we were happy with. We had some brekkie and headed out to explore. The B&B is located right next to Samarkand’s Registran so as we walked out we saw the breathtaking view of the Registran’s medrassas. It was noticeably cooler than it had been in Bukhara and Khiva.

We started off at the Registran but realised we need to exchange some money so headed to Siob Bazaar. It was not hard to find a money exchanger on the black market – almost every shopkeeper exchanges or knows someone who does!

Bibi Khanym Mosque

We then headed to the grandiose Bibi Khanym Mosque. It is massive at forty-one metres high. This mosque was built for Bibi Khanym, the Great Timur’s Chinese wife. Apparently the architect fell in love with Bibi and Timur had him executed. We crossed the road over to the Bibi Khanym Mausoleum which has brilliantly restored interior. The lady there offered us to climb the ‘minaret’ for 5000 Som which turned out to be the tin roof of the mausoleum, but it had great views of the Bibi Khanym Mosque and nearby Shah I Zinda.

Turquoise fluted dome of Bibi-Khanym MosqueBibi-Khanym MosqueInner courtyard of Bibi-Khanym Mosque
Blue mosaics of Bibi-Khanym MosqueSide entrance of the Bibi-Khanym MosqueHard carved and painted wooden being sold at the Bibi-Khanym Mosque
Intricate wooden carving at the Bibi-Khanym mausoleumTiles of the Bibi-Khanym mausoleumTiles of the Bibi-Khanym mausoleum
Stalactites of the Bibi-Khanym mausoleumBibi-Khanym mausoleumBibi-Khanym mausoleum

Hazrat Hizr Mosque

Next was a visit to the 8th century Hazrat Hizr Mosque, beautifully decorated in pastel colours with wooden columns.

Hazrat-Hizr MosquePascal minaret at Hazrat-Hizr MosquePascal coloured Hazrat-Hizr Mosque
Colourful mosaics at Hazrat-Hizr MosqueIntricate tile work at Hazrat-Hizr MosqueInner dome of Hazrat-Hizr Mosque
Stalactites of the Hazrat-Hizr MosqueThe outer kiblah of the Hazrat-Hizr MosqueInner dome pattern at Hazrat-Hizr Mosque

Shah I Zinda

We headed to the spectacular Shah I Zinda, avenue of mausoleums, a truly brilliant array of mausoleums (including that of Qusam ibn Abbas, cousin of Prophet Mohammed) with beautiful tile work, mosaics – a feast for the eyes! It is a pilgrimage site and many of the tombs were covered in Som (Uzbek currency) notes.

One of the many highly mosaiced tombs at Shahi-ZindaInner dome of one of the tombs at Shahi-ZindaInterior of one of the more lavish tombs at Shahi-Zinda
Intricate blue and white mosaics at Shahi-ZindaTurquoise domes of two tombs at Shahi-ZindaAvenue of mausoleums at Shahi-Zinda
Avenue of mausoleums at Shahi-ZindaAvenue of mausoleums at Shahi-ZindaThe entrance of Shahi-Zinda (avenue of mausoleums)

Afrosiab

An ancient Samarkand site of Afrosiab is located near to Shah I Zinda, so we decided to visit this next. While the site itself is mostly in ruins, the museum houses a 7th century fresco of KKing Vokhaouman (Sodgian period) and some Afrosiab history.

In the evening we headed back to the B&B and it started raining heavily. Thunder bellowed and lightening struck.

The Registran

The following morning we headed to the Registran, one of the most spectacular sights in Samarkand. Our B&B was just a stone throw away, so we’d walked past it a number of times but decided to explore the interior medressas on our second day. There are three magnificent medressas – the Ulugbek Medressa, named after Timur’s grandson Ulugbek, famed for his passion for astronomy and mathematics, the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa which depict liger-like creatures (in order to align with Islamic regulations around depicting animals) which are frequently used in Uzbekistan artwork and handicrafts, and the Tilla Kari Medressa which insides contains extremely well restored mosque with its elaborately gold-decorated dome.

After we went in search of a bank (Asaka Bank) and an internet cafe, taking a walk along the streets of old Samarkand.  There seemed to be a lot of restoration going on in the streets of the old town.  We had lunch at a restaurant – plov, two salads and green tea.

East wall of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanFluted turquoise dome of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanFluted turquoise dome of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the Registan
Sculpture of Kazizoda Rumi, Mirzo Ulughbek, Ghiyasiddin Jamshed, Muhammad Khavofi and Ali Kushchi at scientific discussionThe inner court of Ulugbek Medressa part of the RegistanThe inner court of Ulugbek Medressa part of the Registan
Turquoise dome of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) MedressaTurquoise dome of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) MedressaTilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the Registan
The gold-leaf of the Tilla-Kari Medressa part of the RegistanThe inner dome painted blue and gold in the Tilla-Kari Medressa part of the RegistanThe gold-leaf of the Tilla-Kari Medressa part of the Registan
The inner court of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa still under restorationPainters restoring the interior walls of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa,The entrance portal of Ulugbek Medressa part of the Registan
Ulugbek Medressa part of the RegistanThe entrance portal of the Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanSher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the Registan
Sher Dor (Lion) Medressa part of the RegistanThe entrance portal of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the RegistanThe three Medressas making up the Registan
Sonya and Travis at the Registan, SamarkandThe entrance portal of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the RegistanTilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa part of the Registan

Guri Amir Mausoleum

We then headed to the Guri Amir Mausoleum which contains the tombs of Timur, his sons and grandsons (including Ulugbek). We also popped into the Ak-Saray Mausoleum hidden in a back alley behind the Guri Amir.

Blue fluted azure dome at Guri Amir MausoleumGuri Amir Mausoleum with blue fluted azure domeGuri Amir Mausoleum with blue fluted azure dome
Inside the Guri Amir Mausoleum hallwayGold and blue mosaics at the Guri Amir MausoleumGold and blue mosaics at the Guri Amir Mausoleum
Gold and blue mosaics at the Guri Amir MausoleumEntrance of Guri Amir Mausoleum with blue fluted azure domeGuri Amir Mausoleum

The following morning we caught a shared taxi to Tashkent, 55,000som per person for the three hour journey.

  • this is oh so beautiful…and the posts about som and theatre are also interesting, and good things to know :)

  • jony james

    hi,
       such a beautiful country for travel…..
    great information!!!
    Thanks for sharing this post….
    Tashkent Tourism