There are cities which centuries-old history embodies the history of whole nation and countries, reflecting the way passed by many generations. Samarkand is one of the most ancient cities in the world. As other first centers of human civilization - Babylon and Memphis, Athens and Rome, Alexandria and Byzantium - Samarkand was intended to go through many events and shakes.
History of Samarkand goes back in remote days. Archeological finds and chronicle records of eyewitnesses and ancient historians allowed to establish with full reliability that a man lived on the territory of modern city many centuries before the Common Era.
Advantageous geographical location, rather favorable climate, abundance of natural springs with fine water, nearness of mountains with large wild fowl, flowing Zaravshan river - all these factors always provided favorable conditions for human settlings in that area, where strong walls, castles, majestic buildings and temples of Samarkand raised some centuries before the Commone Era.
In historical events of ancient time the earliest mention about Samarkand (also known as Marakand) dates to 329th year B.C., in descriptions of eyewitnesses and participants of conquering army of Alexandr the Great. By that time Samarkand was a big city with crowded population, developed crafts, trade, and culture. It had unassailable citadel and outside defensive wall with length of 10,5 kilometers.
According to new archeological excavations scientists concluded that Samarkand was founded much earlier than Greek-Macedonian conquer and already during the epoch of the Akhemenids State (6-4th centuries BC) it was quite developed city. Hence the “age” of Samarkand is over 2500 years, starting from the origin on the forest hill of Afrosiab, though it is far older.
Over the history the city saw half-savage tribes of Sacs and Massagets, iron flanks of Greek-Macedonin army, hordes of cruel Kara-Kidani. The city resisted the destructive invasion of fanatic Arabic commanders - followers of Islam religion. Bloody hordes of Ghengis-Khan attacked its peaceful houses with fire and sword. Samarkand became the capital of Great Empire of Tamerlane, ranged from Ind River to Bosfor.
After Timur’s death all his empire came to the power of his children and grandchildren. Samarkand and surroundings devolved to Ulugbek, Timur’s grandson. Ulugbek ruled Samarkand during 40 years. For the whole history Uligbek was the most peace-loving ruler. He almost did not participate in aggressive campaigns over ruling his state. He visited other countries many times but only to study traditions, culture, and customs of those countries. He was great scientist, astronomer, and mathematician; therefore he brought many scientists from different countries for science development in his county.
14-15th centuries is the period of the Golden Age of the city. City construction is at its zenith: the city is surrounded by strong fortified wall, new streets, paved of stone, are laid through the city, blue domes of magnificent ensembles tower above the city. Most of these objects survived our days and are the main symbols of the city.
Today Samarkand like most cities of Central Asia is divided into two parts: old and new city. New part is an administrative part of the city, including industrial and cultural centers, high educational institutions. Old part of the city includes historical monuments, shops, workshops, old private houses. Generally, an excursion is held in the old part of the city. Samarkand numbers 500 thousands people. This is multinational city, more that 100 nations live in Samarkand. Samarkand takes second place in Uzbekistan by number of population and territory.
SYMBOL OF SAMARKAND
Samarkand is wonderful and fascinating with its beautiful architectural monuments, with striking harmonies of perfection between mausoleums, madrassahs, mosques, and city squares. Some of the main sights are listed below and more information will be added soon.
Bibi-Khanum Mosque(the 15th century), which at that time was considered to be the largest dome in the Muslim world, is standing next to a noisy and crowded oriental market full ofcolorful fruits, vegetables and fragrant spices grown in Uzbekistan. The construction of Bibi-Khanum Mosque was undertaken by Amir Temur in 1399 after the victorious Indian campaign. Amir Temur dedicated Bibi-Khanum Mosque to his love queen Bibi-Hanim.
Registan Square The Registan was the heart of the ancient Samarkand. The name means ”Sandy Place”. The ensemble of three madrasahs is a unique example of town building art a remarkable pattern of the architectural planning of the main town square. Madrasah is a medieval Moslem clergy academy. The three madrasahs of the Registan are: the Ulugbek Madrasah (1417-1420), the Sher Dor Madrasah (1619-1636) and the Tillya Kori Madrasah (1646-1660).
The Ulugbek Madrasah has its majestic portal with lancet arch facing the square. The corners are flanked by the high well-proportioned minarets. Mosaic panel over the entrance arch is decorated by geometrical stylized ornaments. The square-shaped courtyard includes a mosque lecture rooms and is fringed by the dormitory cells in which students had lived. There are deep galleries along the axes. Originally, the Ulugbek Madrasah was a two-storied building with four domed darskhones (lecture room) at the corners. The madrasah was one of the best clergy universities of the whole Mouslem Orient of the 15th century.
In the 17th century the ruler of Samarkand Yalangtush Bakhodur ordered the construction of the Sher Dor and Tillya Kori madrasahs. The Sher Dor Madrasah was designed by architect Abdujabor. The decoration of the madrasah is not so refined as that of the 15th century “golden age” of Samarkand architecture. Anyway, the harmony of large and small forms, exquisite mosaic decor, monumentality and efficient symmetry- all these put the structure among the best architectural monuments of Samarkand.
The years later the Tillya Kori Madrasah was built, the name means “Gilded”. It was not only the place for training students, but it also played the role of grand mosque. It has two-stored main facade, vast courtyard fringed by dormitory cells with four galleries along axes. Mosque building is situated in the western section of the courtyard. The main hall of the mosque is abundantly gilded.
During the tourist season, the performance of Light and Music is played each evening on the Registan Square and tells about the history of the city. The show can be enjoyed from the main street in front of Registan without going inside and paying the entrance fee. It is also a place where a “Sharq Taronalari”, the international festival of oriental music, is held every two years. Some tips for ingenious tourists include (1) using a side entrance to avoid paying the entrance fee, (2) getting in touch with the policemen who “guard” the minarets - the policemen know the way upstairs for the most breathtaking view of Samarkand. Whilst in Registan, look for traditional Uzbek performers acting for small groups of visitors scenes from Uzbek life. The visitors are seated on ‘soure’, a bed-like table, and are offered some tea and snacks. The performance with professional music and dance unravels in front of visitors. Be ready to participate in the performance. There is also a small shop with traditional Uzbek instruments, which are not very cheap, and exclusive Uzbek music CDs priced $4 each.
Shah-i-Zinda, a big medieval burial complex, often referred to as “the street of the dead”. It is considered as a holy place for Muslims. Shah-i-Zinda consists of mausoleums and other worship buildings. The Gur-Emir Mausoleum, where Amir Temur is buried along with several sons and a grandson, is the most brilliant example of the medieval Central Asian architecture. Shah-i-Zinda is situated in the north-eastern part of Samarkand. The “name of living king” is connected with the legend that Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the prophet Muhammad was buried there. He came to Samarkand with the Arabian invasion in the 7th century and preached Islam there. Popular legends speak that he was assassinated, but he took his head into his hands and went into the well, where he is still living now. The Shakhi-Zinda complex had been formed during nine centuries from 11th till the 19th centuries and now it includes more than twenty buildings. It comprises three groups of structures: lower, middle, and upper connected by four arched domed passages- “chartak”. The earliest buildings date back to the 11-12th centuries. Only their bases have remained now. The main group date back to the 14-15th centuries. The most ancient group - Kusam ibn Abbas complex is situated in the northeastern part of the ensemble. It consists of several buildings . One of them is Kusam ibn Abbas mausoleum is the most ancient building of the whole ensemble.
The Gur-Emir Mausoleum (the 15th century), where Tamurlane is buried along with several sons and a grandson, is the most brilliant example of the medieval Central Asian architecture.