Area: 65 km2
Population: over 509,000
Airport: Tel.: (+998 66) 2308699. Abdullaev str.
General Booking Agency: Tel.: (366) 2340030. Gagarin str.
Railway Station: Tel.: (366) 2291532, 2282311. Beruniy str.
Information services of Samarkand
101 - Fires
102 - Police
103 - Fast help
104 - Gaz service
105 - Service of saving
055 - Information service of railway
006, 066 - Information service of airport
007 - Offering of interurban talking
109 - Referral service
Annual average temperature, °С
The ancient city of Samarkand is known as the crossroads of cultures. Home to fascinating historical monuments, this sparkling centerpiece of jewelled cities strung on the necklace of the ancient Silk Road, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must see for anyone visiting Uzbekistan.
Founded more than 2500 years ago, the city has excited the imagination of conquerors and tradesman alike.
Samarkand has always attracted people by its mystic's power. In the course of history, it has always been considered as a special town, the town-keeper of peculiar mysteries, and according to Islam as a guarded, God saved town.
The town itself became a legend.
This is a town where present and past are adjoining. This is a town of turquoise cupolas and rising up minarets. The town with the squares of hammered stones and ceilings decorated with gold.
The name of the town is mentioned as far back as the first thousand years B.C. in the Holly Book of Zoroaster "Avesta". In this book it is described as a developed agricultural region in the Zaravshan river valley where "the high mountains are abounding in pastures and water, providing the cattle with plentiful fodder, where the deep lakes with vast water surface and navigable rivers with broad beds..." In the Book, this region is called Sugd (Sogd), and in the notes of Alexander Macedonian's biographer, Arian, is given a name of the main town Marakanda, which is situated in the present region of Samarkand, up to this date conditionally counting 3000 years old.
The town went through its ups and downs. It was always a desired trophy for any invaders, since the main caravans of the Great Silk Road from Syria, Turkey, India, -and China passed through ancient Samarkand.
The biggest raising and development in the town formation is related to the time of Timurids dynasty government. Amir Temur had chosen Samarkand as the capital of his huge empire that stretched from East to West from Kashmir to the Mediterranean Sea, and from North to South from the Aral Sea to the Persian Gulf.
Samarkand was the main city of the ancient Sogdiane. Located at the crossroads of main trade roads coming from China , Siberia , Persia and the West, the city was prosperous up to the wave of the Gengis Khan's troops of Mongols who destroyed the city before rebuilding it on its ashes. Samarkand had its hour of glory two centuries later, when Tamerlane made it as capital of his empire. The wonderful madrasas of Registan Square (XV-XVIIth centuries) decorated with dazzling earthenware will give you the possibility of apprehending the numerous influences showing the evolution of the Timuride architecture.
Today the former capital of Tamerlane's empire boasts monuments of such magnificence as to stun the mind. Among them are: ShakhiZinda - an elaborate necropolis (10th to 19th centuries) representing various oriental architectural styles, Registan square - architectural poetry on an epic scale, Gur-Emir mausoleum with its celebrated ribbed tile dome, Bibi-khanum Mosque - a majestic building of the past.
Afrosiab is the name of the legendary king of Turan. In turn, Turan is a name of a huge territory, occupying almost all of Central Asia.
As the capital of Sogdiana, Afrosiab was conquered by Alexander Macedonian in 329 B.C. In the beginning of the 8th century A.D., it was conquered by Arabs and soon became an important center of Muslim culture. In 1220, it was almost ruined by the Mongolian ruler, Chingiz-khan.
Today, in Afrosiab, archeological digs are caring out and the findings are situated a historical museum.
In the XIV century Registan became a central square of Samarkand, which, in translation, means "sandy place". Six main streets of the town were radically meeting at Registan. The architectural ensemble of Registan is considered as a leading one in Central Asia and as a supreme one among the grandiose constructions of the Islamic world. The former market-place Registan, today it is surrounded from three sides by sublime buildings: Ulugbek madrasah (1417-1420), Sherdor madrasah (1619-1636), and Tillya-Kari madrasah (1647-1660).
The madrasah was admitting, at least, 100 students under the roof of an Islamic and sacred sciences teaching school. Its dimensions are harmoniously combining with absolute elegance of its design and tiled covering. After the entrance, you come to the inner yard, which leads to four arches, smoothly turning into two rows of hujras.
The second madrasah of Registan was built by Yalangtush governor in 1619 to 1636. The architects, first of all, tried to build a construction which would be worth by its dimensions and greatness, while the Koran prohibited the total symmetry in mirror reflection.
In order to fulfill the harmony of the square, Yalangtush governor directed his construction plans of the building to be a 75 meters high madrasah.
The construction was done approximately from 1646 to 1660.
The small angled towers, belonging to madrasah, with mosaic decoration, in the form of lavish sunbeams and intertwined flower motives, by its color spectrum look likes Sherdor madrasah. Its gorgeous interior was done in the style of kundalas with aureate inscription of Tillya-Kari name, citations from the Koran, and stalactites above the marble plate.
Gur Emir Mausoleum
The Gur Emir mausoleum is a masterpiece of Central Asian architecture.
The construction of mausoleum, which was started in 1403, was concerned with the sudden death of Muhammad Sultan, the direct heir and beloved grandson of Tamerlan.
Ulugbek, another grandson of Tamerlan, completed the construction. During his government the mausoleum became the family crypt of Timurids dynasty.
On the 19th of June 1941, they started the unsealing of AmirTemur tomb, though there was a carved warning for the ones who i would open the sarcophagus. The inscription said that "The one who break the precept of Temur will be punished, and terrible wars will break out all over the world".
His embalmed body was badly preserved, there were only bones. The man lying in the coffin was a tall person, with a big head. The shank was mutilated, and one of the dorsal, as all Timurids had, was deformed.
And on 22nd of June 1941, the German forces attacked the Soviet Union.
Was it just a coincidence or realization of the prediction, the disputes are still going on.
The construction of the mosque was started in 1399, after victorious campaign of Temur to India. The mosque was built in five years. The construction was over in 1404. By Temur's intention the mosque Bibi-Hanim had to outshine everything what he had seen in other lands. In participation of the mosque construction there were engaged architects, painters, masters, and craftsmen from many countries of the East.
Masters and craftsmen, who were collected and derived together from all parts of the world, were contributing their creative experience and tradition to the construction.
A spacious inner yard is covered with marble plates and enclosed with a covered gallery for pilgrims.
Ulugbek placed a marble reading-stand for the Koran, which was moved to the center of the yard in 1875. The entrance to the Yard is shaped as a high portal with two round minarets, which were reaches fifty meters in height.
Shahi Zinda Mausoleum
In the northern outskirts of Samarkand, on the edge of Afrosiab height, among the vast ancient graveyard, there are groups of mausoleums, among which the most famous is a grave of Kussam, the son of Abbas, the cousin of prophet Muhammad.
Among the people, Kussam is known under the name Shah-i-Zinda "Alive king", who, according to Samarkand's legends, passed away from this world alive. On the headstone of Kussam the following poems from the Koran are written: "The ones, who are killed on the way to Allah, not are considered as dead: no, they are alive..."
Stair of 36 steps leads to a small domical inner porch, and then to a corridor, on both sides of which there are mausoleums, which were built in the XIV-XV centuries.
The architectural assemble of Shah-i-Zinda, consisting of some mosques and mausoleums, is a real museum of glazed decorations of the XIV-XV centuries. Here you can see a slip carved terracotta, decorated majolica, splendid samples of composed mosaics, and big mosaics from slip bricks. In nicety, elegancy and variety of forms, none of the architectural memorial of Samarkand could be compared with Shah-i-Zinda mausoleums.
Observatory of Mirzo Ulugbek
There is poor data about the observatory construction. It was built in 1428-1429.
According to the archeological remainders, it can be concluded that the Observatory of Ulugbek was one of the biggest in the East. The observatory was supplied with the best and the perfect instruments of that time. The height of remained sextant of Fahri, situated in the trench, and which was discovered by Samarkandian archeologist V.L. Vyatkin in 1908, is 11 meters. Today there is a small museum, where there are presented fragments of the famous "Gurgan Tables" the tables with stars' data, calculated by Ulugbek and his companions, prints, testifying the high authority of Ulugbek among the European scientists, and small collection of astronomical devices.
Mausoleum of Daniel Prophet
Among the hills of Afrosiab, on the river-bank of small rivulet Siebcha (confluent of Zerafshan), there is a miracle place, the blessing of which can be nearly physically felt. The complete calm prevails there, even birds preserve it. Here is situated the Mausoleum of Saint Daniel. Among the scientists, there is still no agreement about when and how the mausoleum of the biblical prophet Daniel appeared in Samarkand. It is respected holly place by representatives of three world religions Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
This place is an object of pilgrimage of local inhabitants, as well as, visitors form the whole world. In 1996, coming to Samarkand with a visit, Patriarchy of Russia, Aleksey the II, visited the mausoleum and blessed it. It is said, that after his blessing, there bloomed a pistachio-tree near the mausoleum, which was considered to be withered.
The History of Samarkandian Paper
It is considered that Samarkand was the first place in Central Asia, where paper was produced, done handwork with a help of a water mill. Later, owing to Arabs and the culture of Islamic world, the production technique was spread to the West from the Middle East to Spain, and later, to all of Europe.
owever, in the end of the XVIII century the production of Samarkandian paper gradually becoming extinct, as people started giving preference to the white and cheaper manufacturing paper, which was brought from Russia.
The chief of artisans Association "Meros", Zarif Muhtarov, revived the ancient art and anew presented the Samarkandian handmade paper to the world. In the Samarkandian settlement, Koni Gil, was built and functions a water mill, where the handmade paper is produced.
The Museum of Antique History of Samarkand
A small museum, which is situated on the site of the ancient settlement Afrosiab (predecessor of Samarkand). Here is collected the exhibits of different periods of antique history of Samarkand ossuariys, remainders of ancient blades, knives, arrows, coins, ceramics, as well as unique frescos, which were found during the archeological digs in the ancient settlement Afrosiab. After visiting the museum, one can stroll about the Afrosiab.
The Museum of Local Lore of Samarkand Region
This is the museum of exhibits, which tell about the history of Samarkand territory. The following expositions can be highlighted: "Flora and Fauna", "Interior of living quarters and workshops", photos and books. The house, where the museum is situated, has a museum value itself; this is a house of famous Jewish merchant, Kalandarov.
It is situated in Sharaf Rashidov Street, not far from the museum of winemaking.
The Museum of Winemaking, attached to the winery named after Hovrenko
This is the museum of winemaking history of Samarkand. There are diplomas and medals of Samarkandian's wines. There is a chance to taste and buy Samarkandian's wines.
It is situated near the school №37, in Mahmud Koshgariy Street.
Bazaars of Samarkand
The real bazaar should reveal the features of living creature to speak (make a buzz), boil up (because of permanently moving human flow), smell (of cooking food and goods), and smile (a good trade goes together with benevolence).
In the Eastern bazaar, they are used to haggle. At that, it is important not only to gained money, but the process itself. An experienced tradesman could be offended if the goods would be bought without a haggle. In Samarkand, there is a bazaar in each region, but the biggest one is situated in the ancient part of the town. It is called "Siabian" or "Ancient town", after the region where it is situated. You can reach it by walking from Registan square toward Mausoleum and Mosque of Bibi-Hanim. However, this bazaar is not so big in comparison with Urgut bazaar the bazaar in Urgut village of Samarkand region; people go there for big wholesales. In- between Samarkand and Urgut, there are permanently traveling back and forth buses and taxies, thus, if there is a wish, you can visit Urgut bazaar. Saturday is a main day of Urgut bazaar.
The round cakes ("Non") of Samarkand
The history of national round cakes in Samarkandian Sogd is very ancient.
The idea of bread baking from bread grains arose in the period to transfer from nomadic life to agricultural.
The round cakes are baked in specially constructed ovens Tandir. Tandir baking is one of the pawning to achieve the unique qualities of the bread.
In the Tandir, the round cakes achieve their readiness after 48 minutes.
In the past more than twenty sorts of round cakes were baked, they are "chahsak", "tafton", "Taftoni du bez", "tarkoli", "pulotiy", "fatiri chap-chak", "zaboni gov", "sohta", "shirmoi sedona payvand", "obi holi", "salang", and others.
Until present days, there are only several types, which are preserved, and still, they have retained the fame of Samarkand as a bread town. The round cake gala-osiegi-non, originated from Gala-Osiyo village, which is near Samarkand, and are famous far beyond the bounds of the Samarkand region. Everyone, who has visited Samarkand, at the time of leaving, is trying to purchase this bread: it is became a tradition. There are more then fifteen varieties of this round cake. Even stale one saves its unique attractive state, and being soaked a bit and heated up in the oven, tandir, or simply in a microwave, regains all its gustatory qualities, even after several years.
Samarkandian round cakes, as a symbol and as the best gift, are carried not only through Uzbekistan, but also all over the world.
International musical festival "Shark Taronalari"
In one of the unique architectural memorial, Registan square, every two years there is carried out an international musical festival "Shark Taronalari". The first festival Shark Taronalari" took place in 1997, where musical collectives and singers from 31 countries participated. Today it has become one of the most popular festivals not only in Central Asia, but also in the whole world. 51 countries took part in the 5th festival in 2005. The 6th festival took place during Samarkand's 2750 anniversary, in 2007.
It is possible to go to Samarkand in two ways directly and via Tashkent. Samarkand International Airport receives airplane from Kazan, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, and Simferopol. Railway station receives trains from Moscow and Saratov.
If you decided to go to Samarkand from Tashkent, then you can use the services of "Uzbekistan Havo Yullari" airline, or to go by comfortable company trains "Registan", "Nasaf" (express up to Karshi), "Shark" (express up to Bukhara), or by electric train Tashkent-Samarkand, which daily goes to Samarkand.
Alternatively, if you prefer motor transport, then from the auto station in Tashkent (the final metro station of Chilanzar line) there are hourly buses, microbuses, and cars.
The best time to visit Samarkand is spring and fall, as summer, especially from June to August is very hot.
There are more than 30 functioning hotels in Samarkand, situated as in modern, as well as in historical part of the town. For booking it is advised to use "booking via website" service. This service is absolutely free; moreover, it will be cheaper, than if you take hotel accommodation upon arrival. In addition, you will be sure, that after a long journey, a comfortable room will be waiting for you, but not a strolling around the town in search of free rooms.
The most common national dishes in Samarkand are: pilaw; shashlik from any sort of meat, samsa (small cakes with meat, baked in a special oven, tandir) with meat, potato, or pumpkin; shurpa (soup, cooked of big amount of fresh meat, potato, or, sometimes, pumpkin, cut into large pieces); lagman (thick spaghetti with meat or vegetable sauce); nuhad (Central Asian big peas, stewed with mutton); moshkichiri (a squash of mung bean, rice and meat); manti (big steamed raviolis).
Among the public catering the most common is shashlik (lump, ground, in a roll shape with meat' and fat layers, liver, fish, chicken and other), samsa, pilaw, and manti. The food is basically greasy, even though, Samarkand pilaw is considered to be the most dietetically among all the dishes in Uzbekistan. Along with this, the European food is included in menu of almost all cafes or restaurants.
Be careful with melons. The melon should be eaten separately from everything. About an hour or so, after eating a melon, it is recommended to drink only tea, and in no case un-boiled water.
The souvenirs and gifts you can buy during visits to architectural memorials, in souvenir shops and stalls the prices are varying, so, if you planned to stay in Samarkand for several days then first it is better to ask the price, to know how much the same thing costs in other places, and only then can you buy it. Do not forget to haggle, and then you could get a notable discount. While buying a souvenir or a gift, the one should follow the basic rule this thing must not be more than 50 years old. You will not have any troubles, at custom post or while crossing the border, for ordinary souvenir from a shop, but: books, paintings, gobelins, palases, suzanes, the items of decorative and applied art, art items of silver, stamps, badges, collection items, audio- and video records, archeological, geological and other samples, probably will require to make an art examination. To make this kind of examination and to receive exclusion, it may require a payment, according to the disposition of Uzbekistan Republic regarding the process of import and export of cultural values.
In Samarkand, visitors are treated with interest and respect. If help is required, you will get it. The majority of Samarkand inhabitants speak three languages: Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian. The sellers of craft shops usually know the colloquial expressions of English, French and German.
The local people, the majority of them reckon themselves as Muslims, absolutely tolerant toward Christianity and Judaism, however while visiting mausoleums and mosques, there are several simple rules the one should follow:
- do not smoke and drink alcoholic beverages, including beer, in the visiting area
- do not raise your voice, no loud laughing, do not use obscene language, and while telling beads keep quiet and do not chew gum
- take off your shoes in the entrance of functioning mosque orchapel
- it is prohibited to interrupt a saying pray; if you entered in a room, where a pray is being said, you should curtsy and wait until the praying will be over
By midnight the life in streets of Samarkand may bee deserted, except some night clubs. The inhabitants, as a whole, are friendly, and the guests traditionally are treated with respect. The magical "I'm from..." will instantly change the attitude towards you for more respectful, and will open many doors, though, may be, it will cost you more. For instance, while visiting the museums and memorials, the price difference of entrance ticket for foreigners, than for Uzbekistan resident, is higher and could reach 10 times higher.
Of course, as it is everywhere, you should not to go for a walk in late evening without accompaniment around regions and streets which are not central, and do not visit outside nightclubs. They are practically in each big hotel, that's why you won't have a need to go in a street, if you take a room there.