Traveling to Samarkand

Traveling from the ancient city of Bukhara (130+ Photos) to Samarkand was easy.

Simply hop in a taxi for about $40 USD for 4 hours.

Bukhara to Samarkand by Taxi

Upon arriving, you notice that Samarkand is a much more developed city than Bukhara (with Khiva being the least developed, but the most magical).

I stayed in Samarkand for about 3 days, and had a thorough walk around the main historical points in the city.

Where is Samarkand, Uzbekistan?

Samarkand, Uzbekistan Video Review

History of Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Known as Maracanda in the 4th century BCE, Samarkand is one of the oldest and most grandiose cities in Human history. Samarkand means ‘Stone' (asmara) and ‘fort' (kand) in the old Sogdian language.

By 329 BCE, Samarkand was conquered by Alexander ‘the Great', and eventually the Turks by the 6th century, the Arabs by the 8th century, the Samanids (Iranians) from the 9th-10th century, and again various Turkic tribes from the 11th-13th century.

By 1220 CE, Samarkand was completely annihilated by the mongol empire, the city completely destroyed, and the people either enslaved or killed.

By 1365, Samarkand revolted against Mongol rule, and was taken by Amir Timur (Tamerlane) the conqueror.

Amir Timur and his sons and grandsons made Samarkand into the most important economic, cultural, and religious city in central asia.

Samarkands importance was amplified by its location on the crossroads from China into Europe along the silk road.

But by the 16th century, the city was captured by the Uzbek people, and became part of the Bukhara Khanate (empire).

Due to constant tribal in-fighting and the advancements of ship technology, the ancient silk road became an impractical and unsafe method of transporting goods.

So, from 1720, Samarkand became a ruinous wasteland dotted by ancient architecture, with no one living there.

By 1865, the Russian empire had captured Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand, and ran a railroad next to the city by 1888, at which point economic and cultural activities resumed.

From 1924-1934, the soviets had recaptured most territories of the old Russian empire, and made Samarkand the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.

The beauty of Samarkand falls unto its gigantic 14-20th century Madrassahs, mosques and tombs that were built during the empire of Amir Timur and his children.

Thus, most of the city converges onto the tombs and mosques due to their historical significance.

For a more thorough understanding of Amir Timur (Tamerlane), check out my post about Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Adventure Photos of Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Islam Karimov Memorial Statue. Islam Karimov was the first president of the newly formed Republic of Uzbekistan, from 1991 until his death in 2016.

Under Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan was considered a ‘hard' authoritarian state, suppressing religion (to prevent Islamic Extremism) and ethnic diversity. He kept a distance from all other countries, especially Russia (for their colonial past), and the US (for attempts at democratization).

Uzbek policement stand watch near the Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is always under a thread of Islamic extremism.

Marriage in Uzbekistan is still highly valued and celebrated. Families are still created early, relative to westernized societies.

Ulugh Beg Madrasa in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, is part of the Registan – a complex of 3 Madrasas in a large plaza.

The Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619–1636) in Samarkand. There are tigers on the front mosaics, despite a ban on living creatures on buildings in the Islamic traditions.

Uzbek men go for prayer at the Registan. Uzbekistan is a predominantly Islamic country.

Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646–1660) acted as a school and a grand mosque.

An uzbek man walks home from prayer or work in Samarkand

Uzbek boys posing in Samarkand

Facing the Gur-e Amir Сomplex in the distance. This is where the turko-mongol conqueror Timur is buried.

During soviet times, many pieces of art were drawn on apartment blocks to improve the aesthetics of an otherwise boring complex of thousands of apartments.

Two local uzbek men converse in Samarkand

The entrance to the Amir Timur park in Samarkand

The Amir Timur park, with the Rukhobod Mausoleum on the left. Built for Sheikh Burhaneddin Sagaradzhi who is credited for spreading Islam to the nomads of eastern Turkestan.

Walking through the Amir Timur Park

Gur-e Amir Сomplex, this is where the conqueror Amir Timur is buried.

Hoji Muin, a Samarkand native, journalist, dramatist, and translator.

Gur-e Amir Сomplex, this is where the conqueror Amir Timur is buried.

Gur-e Amir Сomplex has been heavily restored since it has fallen into ruin since it

Gur-e Amir Сomplex has been heavily restored since it has fallen into ruin since it

Amir Timur – one of the most successful and brutal conquerors of all time.

Inside the mausoleum of Amir Timur.

The carved bricks and mosaics are extensions made by Muhammad ibn Mahmud from Isfahan

The carved bricks and mosaics are extensions made by Muhammad ibn Mahmud from Isfahan

The carved bricks and mosaics are extensions made by Muhammad ibn Mahmud from Isfahan

The carved bricks and mosaics are extensions made by Muhammad ibn Mahmud from Isfahan

The high mausoleum ceiling is adorned with mosaics and patterns hand painted over the centuries in the Gur-e-Amir

The green jade slab is where Amir Timur rests, along with his sons, and grandsons to his sides.

The intricate designs and sculpting of the Gur-e-Amir

The intricate designs and sculpting of the Gur-e-Amir

The towers beside the Gur-e-Amir

A close up of the towers beside the Gur-e-Amir

Another angle of the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum

Another angle of the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum

Another angle of the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum

A closeup of the main dome of the Gur-e-Amir

Registan Ko'Chasi (road) in Samarkand

The entrance to the Rukhobod Mausoleum in Samarkand

The side of the Ulugh Beg Madrasa in Samarkand during sunset

The Sherdar Madrasa during sunset

The Presidents Tomb (Islam Karimov) in Samarkand. This was not open while I was here, due to construction.

Children walking towards the Presidents Tomb (Islam Karimov)

A woman looks on somewhere, in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

The Siab Bazaar in Samarkand features many locally grown and produced products

Men buy fruits and vegetables in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Local uzbek women sell fruits and vegetables in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

An uzbek man sells his vegetables in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Local Uzbek selling their produce in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Traditionally, this market was just a large sand pit, but overtime, the government built a bazaar for the locals in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

A candy store in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

There are hundreds of vendors and buyers in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

A view of the presidents Tomb at night in Samarkand

The Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble (or Necropolis) at night in Samarkand. Legend says that Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the prophet Muhammad, is buried here. The complex was built over 8 centuries, from the 11th to the 19th.

Residential Samarkand Rooftops at night

A large sum of Uzbeki Som (currency). Each 10,000 is the equivalent of $1.2 USD

The Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble (or Necropolis) at during the day in Samarkand. Legend says that Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the prophet Muhammad, is buried here. The complex was built over 8 centuries, from the 11th to the 19th.

Graves in the Muslim cemetery, beside the Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble in Samarkand

Soviet-era tombstones have the face of the person on them. Samarkand Muslim cemetery

While some tombstones show the face of the deceased, others can be more extravagant, with some featuring a full BMW or Mercedes as a tombstone. Samarkand Cemetery

To reach the cemetery, you need to climb up a hill, which blocks the view of the cemetery (perhaps on purpose?)

The Samarkand cemetery is filled with thousands of tombstones

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque is seen in the distance, in Samarkand

I didn't visit this cemetery, but it looks less ornate than the rest. Presumably, this is either for the pre-soviet era, or for the extremely poor. Samarkand cemetery

Another section of cemetery that is being developed in Samarkand

The tombstones range up and down, on all levels in Samarkand

A closer view of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque from the cemetery in Samarkand

The lack of a singular level, makes this seem like a giant pit of death, or almost like a warzone in Samarkand

Some of the cemetery are sectioned off in Samarkand based on thinly defined markers such as the colour of the grass

Thin slabs, with the faces of the dead define most tombstones in the soviet-era, Samarkand

(Fake?) plants are visible beside the cemetery in Samarkand

An entire family was wiped out, during the chaos of the fall of the soviet union. Murder rates skyrocketed, and this could have been an instance of violence in Samarkand

Other sections of the cemetery start to show a higher socio-economic demographic, with slightly more expensive looking tombstones and setups. Samarkand cemetery

Another angle of the Samarkand cemetery

There is a lot of redevelopment occurring in the Samarkand cemetery. Previously we saw unorganized land with tombstones, but in this case, everything is linearly organized. Samarkand cemetery

Tombstones in the (potentially) middle-class area of the Samarkand cemetery

A facial bust of a medieval-era scholar or prophet from Uzbek territory in the Samarkand cemetery

A boy who lived from 1972 until 1982. Samarkand cemetery

An archaeologists reconstruction of the wall-based sculptures recovered from the Afrasiyab Settlement. This was a society that lived in northern Samarkand from 500 BCE until its destruction by the mongols in 1220 CE.

There are 4 walls, each depicting a different country (China, India, Iran, Turks). Each picture shows an ambassador bringing gifts to the king of Samarkand

Most of the restoration is being funded by the French government.

In this image, Chinese princesses on a boat are being transported to Samarkand.

An artistic depiction of the city of Afrasiab, before it was annihilated by the mongols. This is not an accurate picture of the city.

This is a closer representation of what the city may have looked like before being destroyed. The mongols simply cut off the flow of water by plugging the rivers, thus the residents became desperate, and eventually the mongols conquered them. Map of Afrasiab

A closeup of the Presidents Tomb (Islam Karimov)

A closeup of the Presidents Tomb (Islam Karimov)

A pigeon rests in Samarkand

An off-duty police officer shops for goods in the Bazaar in Samarkand

The Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Everywhere you go in the world there is bazaar featuring lots of mass-produced goods for sale. I'm guessing most of these are coming from China, India, or Bangladesh – Siab Bazaar Samarkand

Potentially nationally produced trinkets being sold in Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Fresh produce for sale in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

A man looks towards the camera in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

A woman selling various types of potatoes and vegetables in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

An uzbek man rests while in the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Bibi-Khanym Mosque was the most grandiose mosque during the 15th century in Samarkand. By the 20th century, it was in complete ruin. As of the 21st century, it was undergone extensive repairs.

Timur ordered the construction of this mosque after his conquests in India in 1399. By 1404 it was almost complete, but Timur was unsatisfied, and demanded that it be redesigned.

Despite the advice from his engineers and architects saying it was statistically impossible to build the mosque in the way Timur wanted, he demanded the construction in his design regardless.

Local uzbek men walking inside the Bibi-Khanym Mosque

By the end of the 16th century (~1597 CE), restoration works were stopped, and the Bibi-Khanym mosque fell into ruin, subject to earthquakes, weather, and wind decay.

The Bibi-Khanym Mosque during its ruinous state – pre-reconstruction.

The complex and intricate mosaic patterns inside the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

The complex and intricate mosaic patterns inside the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

From inside the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, looking up at the dome ceiling, you can see the complex mosaic patterns.

Ancient arabic writing from the Koran on the walls of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

One of the copulas of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

Ancient arabic from the Koran on the facade of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

Reconstruction of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand took place from 1974, at the discretion of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist republic.

The weathering in other parts of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque

A view inside the courtyard of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque

The entrance of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand is enormous

A zoomout of the scale of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand

Another angle of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand. The copula (middle left blue dome) is hidden by one of the Facades

A wedding taking place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Many of the weddings consist of walking around the groom and bride, while the friends of the groom sing and dance, and party away to the sides – all during a photo-shoot

An uzbek couple, celebrating their marriage with a photo shoot in Samarkand. Despite the Islamic traditions, the manner of the wedding is partly soviet, and partly western in its presentation.

The sunset in Samarkand

One of the mosques in the Registan in Samarkand

Inside the courtyard of one of the mosques in the Registan

A costume dress up shop in the Registan in Samarkand. English writing for the influx of tourists

Local uzbeks shopping in the Registan in Samarkand

Inside one of the mosques in the Registan, closer to nighttime, in Samarkand

Playing dress-up in the Registan, in Samarkand

Inside the Registan at nighttime in Samarkand

Inside the Registan at nighttime, in Samarkand

The grandiose size of one of the mosques in the registan is breathtaking – Sherdar Madrasa in Samarkand

Leonidas posing in front of the Registan in Samarkand

Leonidas posing again in front of the Registan in Samarkand, under a different light

Inside another one of the mosques in the Registan, at night, in Samarkand

The entire Registan complex at night time, (left to right): Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417–1420), Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646–1660), Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619–1636)

The enormous walls of the Registan in Samarkand

Conclusion

The several gigantic madrassas, and the cemetery were definitely the most intriguing elements of Samarkand.

I walked around most of the city, without having much information of what I was looking at. Using Wikipedia and Google was the best option in filling in the historical ambiguity.

And as always, the food in Uzbekistan is absolutely amazing.

While the game plan was to continue into my final destination: Tajikistan, I had a change of heart.

Instead, after 3 days in Samarkand, I decided to return to Canada to invest some money into a few projects that could only be done by being in Canada – so I bought a $560 USD flight ticket, from Samarkand, back to Toronto (50 hours of flight time and airport time).

Overall, I highly recommend visiting Uzbekistan for the food, the amazing architecture, and discovering the history of central asia (especially since most history classes in the western world are Euro-centric).

Finally, there will be a language barrier if you don't speak Russian or the local dialects (Tajik, Uzbek), so keep that in mind. So if you don't speak one of those dialects, I recommend a tour guide, or the ability to learn a few sentences for the necessary elements.

More Adventures in Uzbekistan:

The Ancient City of Bukhara, Uzbekistan (130+ Photos)

Khiva, Uzbekistan Reminds Me Of The City in Aladdin, Agrabah (100+ Photos)

Getting A Visa To Uzbekistan, Exploring Tashkent And Uzbekistan History (100+ Photos)

More Interesting Posts?

2 Comments

  1. Really nice article. It’s interesting that you’re so aware of the countries background history and actual socio-economic conditions. Like how you described your Porto Alegre and Astana trips.

    I also wasn’t expecting the food to be that good to be very honest, I remember somebody eating Mongolian beef and it smelling really bad, it was just the natural smell of the dish but apparently, it tasted good:P. I’ll have to give the food another go, to find some nice restaurants.

    About pay per call, what offers would you promote that are consistent with their conversions? For example, i’m testing a workers compensation offer and i’m trying to be patient with the call volume, its gotten like 190 impressions but no click-to-call from Google( using call only ads). But I’ve kept it running because it was showing up in the 5th spot with I think is the reason for the lack of clicks.

    What are two beginner-friendly offers as well?

    Thanks for the articles, I’ll be waiting for your next ones.

    • Hey John, thanks for the compliments for the posts 🙂

      As far as offers to promote, that depends on your network, and inside information from your affiliate manager. Obviously, there is no ‘beginner-friendly’ offer, since everything requires testing, and optimization.

      You should also check the forum, where I suggest ways of finding offers (outside of affiliate networks).

      Thanks again John for the compliments, and feel free to ask more questions 🙂

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