Samarkand is situated in Zeravshan Valley and is surrounded by the spurs of Pamir-Alay mountain ranges. Samarkand is the second largest city of Uzbekistan and is the same age as Babylon, Athens, Rome – more than 2500 years old. Ancient Arab manuscripts refer to it as the “Gem of the East”.
In the 4th c. B.C. - It was the cultural and commercial centre of the East. Then it was named Marakanda.
End of the 4th c. B.C. - beginning of the 3rd c. B.C. – the invasion of Alexander’s army. The city was destroyed.
328 B.C. – the rebellion of citizens against Alexander. The city was destroyed.
4th-3rd c.c. B.C. – Battleground between the state of the Selevkids and the Parphians.
1st c. B.C. -1st c. A.D. – Commerce and culture flowerishing. Kushan tsars reign.
3rd c. – Arab conquest of the city.
7th-8th cc. – Samarkand was the heart of Sogdiana.
720-721 – The city was captured by Said Hussein. This was period of converting the local religion of the Sogdian people into the Islam religion.
11th. c. – Samarkand lost the fame of the cultural and economical leader. The capital was transferred to Bukhara. Mukhammad-Khorezm Shakh established his power.
1212 – A revolt against Khorezm Shakh.
1220 – Gengiz-khan’s army destroyed the city.
14th c. – Tamerlan’s army liberated Samarkand from Mongols and Samarkand became the capital of Tamerlan’s empire.
14th c.-15th c.c. – Rapid building of the city under the Tamerlan’s autocratic ruling.
15th c. – Ulughbek replaced Tamerlan and became his heir.
15th-16th. c. – Shaybani-khan attacked Samarkand. The city was captured by Uzbeks.
The end of the 16th. c. – Decline of Samarkand for the reason of feudal system collapse.
1740 - Nadir Shakh’s devastating campaign to Samarkand.
By the end of the 18th. c. Shakh-Murad gradually restored the city.
1868 – the Russian army entered “the sacred city” of Samarkand.
At present it is the city of handicrafts and scientists.
Registan Square, 15th century
The main public square of Timurids’ Samarkand. Under the town square from where decrees were pronounced and where trials were held and wares from East and West were traded. Ulughbeg, Timur’s grandson continued the tradition of monument architecture, building a khanaka, madrassahs, caravanserai, and two mosques. Only Ulughbeg’s madrassah remains today of that period. In the 17th century the adjacent Sher–dor madrassah was erected (1619-1631) and thereafter, to complete the U-shape, madrassah Tilla-Kari.
Ulughbeg’s Madrassah, 1417-1420
A highlight of classic Central Asian monumental architectural heritage. The madrassah’s mosaics are among the finest both for their star pattern composition and sophisticated techniques. Not only theology but a whole range of sciences were taught in this school. Legend has it that Ulughbeg himself gave lectures on astronomy field.
Tilla-Kari Madrassah, 1646-1660
The “gold covered”, served as the main Friday Mosque, which after extensive renovations once again takes your breath away and adjacent museum exhibits should not be left out.
Sher Dor Madrassah
The rich colored finishing and the depiction of sun, lion (tiger) and antelope tell of a different approach to artistic expression, unique in the Islamic world. The construction is also remarkable for its wall painting using “kundal” techniques with rich gilding of the main Mosque’s inside walls.
Shak-i-Zinda (the Living Shah), 9-14 c.c.
The necropolis is one of the great holy places of Islam. The unique memorial city-complex with its streets, mausoleums, monumental tombs includes 44 tombs in more than 20 mausoleums, all of extraordinary beauty. The magic power of this palace is undisputed. According to the legend, the living Shah, Shakhi-Zinda, a cousin of the prophet Muhammad, Kusam ibn Abbas, was buried here. He perished struggling for his faith. The Shah-i-Zinda architectural ensemble can be considered a museum of glazed tiles, mosaiques and terracotta through the ages. More inside...
The small mausoleum is said to contain a hair of the prophet Muhammad. The only storey madrassah accommodates crafts masters work and sales shop.
Bibi-Khanum Mosque, 15th c
The mausoleum for women of the Timurids dynasty. The restored cathedral Mosque of Samarkand erected on Timur’s order after his raid of Delhi. This was to be the biggest mosque ever constructed and an architectural competition was arranged. High, beauty and time were the criteria. The Bibi-Khanum mosque is the biggest in Central Asia and one of the biggest in the Islamic world. A 15th century traveler wrote: “the cupola would be the only one of its kind if the sky didn’t dub it”.
Two kilometers away from the Registan square steps lead up through a tree-covered park to the museum and to what remains of the once majestic observatory. The subterranean part of the sextant is preserved and it takes little imagination to understand the grand scale of things once explored here and the passion Ulughbeg, the scientist, the intellectual patron of arts put into his life’s achievements.
Opinions differ as to the purpose the building served in its time. Unrestored, the ruin is still awe inspiring in its harmonious planning details. One of the first examples of cupola ceilings.
Dedicated to the patron saint of traveling stands a beautiful Mosque on the elevation at the entrance of town from where they eye wanders over Bibi Khanum Mosque, the big bazaar and the mountains in the South.
Gur-Emir mausoleum, 1405-1407
The Timurid dynasty’s mausoleum, Timur himself, his two sons Shakhruh and Miran-Sultan, the most beloved one, supposed to inherit the throne (the Mausoleum was built for him) and buried here. Timur’s spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, the son of Sultan Abu-Said, also rests here.