Samarkand is one of the ancient cities of the world with its 2750 year history; it is the contemporary of Rome, Athens and Babylon. The city is located on the left bank of the middle course of the Zarafshan river, in the center of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In ancient times it was the capital of the powerful state Sogd. At the entrance to the city the forking of Afrasi-ab remained, where old Marakand, with the name of which Central Asian campaigns of Alexander of Macedon are associated.
Samarkand for a long time has been the most catching object to the eyes of politicians, businessmen and travelers. It reached the prosperity and grandeur in the time of Timur the great. The city had an advantageous geographical situation; it was an important crossroad on the Great Silk Road. This epoch left the most significant marks in the historical and architectural appearance of the city.
Magnificent samples of medieval architecture affecting the perfection of forms and riot of colour, were kept in Samarkand.
Samarkand ensemble of mausoleums Shakhi – Zinda on the slope of Afrosiab is the place of interest of whole Central Asian architecture. Its formation began in the XII century, the main building was in XIV- XV centuries in Timur’s time. Burial vaults of women of Timur’s clan prevail in the ensemble. All buildings differ by the rich architectural décor: carving composing mosaic, carving casting terra cotta, relief and painted majolica.
Registan is the combination of grateful majolica and sky-blue mosaic.
Gur-Emir mausoleum (XV century). Timur with his sons and grandsons was buried here. There is a one-colour marble marker of Mirsaid Barak on the left above the tomb. Mirsaid Barak was the most respectable mentor of Timur. The tombs of Mukhammad Sultan, Timur’s grandson is in front of the ossuary. The tombs of Shakhrukh and Mirshakh are behind the gravestones of Timur’s marker, and UmarSheikh’s gravestone is behind them (Timur’s sons). The burial vault of Gur Amir became the prototype of Taj Mahal in Agra.
As “a scientist on the throne ”, patron of science and education, Timur’s grandson Mirzo Ulugbek, went down in history. He gathered outstanding scientists. In 1420 during Ulugbek government, the observatory, which had no equal, was build. Star tables “Zidji-Gurgani” formed here have kept their scientific significance till our days. Only the foundation and a part of the astronomical instrument – sextant have remained of the observatory.
The greatest prosperity of the construction of the necropolis was in the last quarter of the XIV century, the time, when the construction of mausoleums of Timur’s family members, military leaders and nobles began. Several buildings of the ensemble “Shakhi -Zinda” belong to the first half of the XV century, time of Ulugbek. These include discreetly decorated portal (1434-1435) at the foot of the hill Afrosiab and standing on the hillside above, the mausoleum with two turquoise domes raised high over the tomb of the astronomer Kazi-zade-Rumi, a teacher of Ulugbek, as expected.
Open space in front of the mausoleum “Kazi-zade-Rumi” is replaced by a narrow passage, built up on both sides by the mausoleums of Timur’s time: “Emir-zade”, “Tuglu-Tekin,” “Shadi-Mulk-aka” (“Turkan-aka”) and “Shirin Bika-aka”. The main facades of these small buildings having only one hall are composed in the form of a portal focusing on a rich colorful decor. Only the octagonal mausoleum with open apertures on both sides, decorated with mosaics of glazed bricks, probably, originally (the first half of the XV century) covered with a dome on a high cylindrical drum differs from them.
In 1997, on the decision of UNESCO the 1225-year anniversary of the outstanding scientist and scholar of the East of Imam al-Bukhari was widely celebrated. By the anniversary date in the village Khortang near Samarkand, where the great mukhaddis was buried, the memorial was restored.
Ancient Samarkand generously gives its guests the unique historical and architectural monuments, the inimitable craftsmanship of artisans, folk customs and holidays, the secrets of oriental cuisine.
Modern Samarkand is a well-planned city. There are many parks and gardens. The city became one of the most important cultural centers of Uzbekistan, it has the university, other educational establishments, scientific institutions, opera and drama theaters, and numerous museums.
Attractions In Samarkand
National House of Muborak-opa always welcomes guests of Samarkand. Here you will taste traditional Uzbek dishes. Hostess Muborak-opa pays special attention to different tastes of guests, including vegetarian menu. Here you will have an opportunity to get acquainted with national style of Uzbek house as well as with peculiarities of local cooking traditions.
The Instants of Eternity, an unusual ethno-cultural performance staged by the theatre of historical costume, will be a nice complement to your guided tour of Samarkand. During the show the actors demonstrate the costumes of different historical periods in Uzbekistan, from the Bronze Age to the present day.
There you can see clothes worn by the Saka and Massageatae, Zoroastrians, Persian and Sogdian rulers and noblemen and others. The theatre’s collection includes a wide range of colourful garments from the Timurid period, as well as traditional clothes from all of the present-day regions of Uzbekistan.
Every item is an exact copy of an original reproduced from the clothes in major museums around the world, such as the Hermitage, Museum of Natural History in Milan, UK Museum of Natural History, Royal Institute of Arts and History in Brussels, Institute of Oriental Studies under the Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation and Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan, from the bas-relief and frescoes in Persepolis, Afrosiab and Penjikent, old miniatures by Behzod, historical chronicles Shakh Name, Bobur Name, Zafar Name and others. The materials used for the production of the clothes included various coarse and handmade fabrics, animal skins, leather, silk, velvet and brocade. Currently, the theatre’s collection comprises around 200 unique sets of clothes.
The performance consists of eleven dramatised episodes. The soundtracks include fragments of pieces of classical Uzbek music played on the ney, gijak, dutar and doyra, potpourris of oriental melodies performed by musicians from Uzbekistan and abroad, and modern sonic effects, such as sounds of wildlife, battles, clashing swords, treading and neighing horses and others.
The theatre is located in the heart of Samarkand, in a historical building that can seat up to 90 spectators. The theatre also features a small and cosy tea house, where one can have some rest and drink a cup of tea with traditional oriental sweets. The visitors can also try on the costumes and be photographed in them.
Samarkand is surprising not only for its ancient mosques, mausoleums and madrassas. On this blessed land under the scorching rays of the sun grow different varieties of grapes, which by their sweetness surpasses the global counterparts. Just imagine the sweetness of grapes in Europe is on average 14-18%, and grown in the Samarkand region in the middle grades are in the 24-26% of sugar (fructose), sometimes reaching a maximum of 35%. These figures allow for excellent wines.
All this contributed to the fact that back in 1868 opened the first winery in Uzbekistan. Its founder was the Russian businessman, D.M. Filatov, who discovered this sweet grapes, imported and adapted them to class. At that time, in Uzbekistan, there was an established wine production, and before the winemaker was a difficult task to develop new varieties of wines and their distribution. But after four years at the world competitions in Paris and Antwerp, “Samarkand wine of grape gardens of Filatov,” were awarded gold and silver medals. For 15 years he has achieved tremendous results – in 1883 at the International exhibition of wines and brandies in Paris, they bred variety “Biishty” (translated as “paradise”) received a gold medal. As a consequence, the French winemakers began to travel to Uzbekistan and brought Filatov’s wine from Samarkand to Paris. So even in the nineteenth century began the “golden” and “silver” march through the world of Samarkand wines. Now the winning logo for 9 of vintage wine plant. Users of these roads as a result of wine-makers of the plant’s troubled creative work.
In the Soviet period, Filatov had to leave their offspring, as the entrepreneurs had no place in the new state. But, leaving his factory, he had hidden and walled collection of his best wine to preserve it from plunder.
Today, Konigil, a village near Samarkand has the “Meros” paper mill, founded by well-known masters the Mukhtarov brothers. Thanks to their efforts the local factory revived an ancient tradition based on old Samarkand technologies. Interestingly enough but the production is manual and the visitors can watch a papermaking process with their own eyes. They have to pay a token payment of 3,000UZS as an admission and tour of the factory fee. The territory of the mill is really picturesque: shady trees, Siab river with bubbling water, a small tea house at the entrance to treat the visitors with a delicious Samarkand pilaf and fruits, charkhpalak – a water wheel, decorated with antique vessels flowing with water. The factory owners say that the restoration of Samarkand paper production technology took them 10 years. Various materials were tried to establish empirically that the raw material for the paper was mulberry bark.
The Samarkand papermaking technology is as follows. Mulberry bark is taken as a raw material. The bark is cleaned from the outside and boiled in a large pan for a long while. Then it is beaten off in large stupas to make a homogeneous mash similar to dough in consistency. The resulting “dough” is subsequently placed in a tub with water and filtered on a large sheet of flazelin. A blank is pressed, and then is covered with a next sheet of flazelin and some sifted mulberry brew, and so on. The paper is removed from the plates and dried in a vertical position for a day. The resulted dried paper is rather strong. To remove the roughness of the paper, the master polishes it on a granite table with a piece of granite or bone horn, thus the Samarkand paper obtains its famous smoothness.
It should be noted that the Samarkand paper has a characteristic yellow color. It is not bleached with chemicals, and therefore its shelf life is dozens of times longer than that of a plain white paper. For example, if a plain white paper of good quality lasts for 40-50 years, then the Samarkand paper – 300-400 years. The Samarkand paper mill makes not only post cards, note pads, masks, but also dresses, dolls and handbags. All of these gifts can be bought in a factory shop. Today the Samarkand paper made in Kongil Factory is widely used in ancient manuscripts, restoration work both in Uzbekistan and other countries of the world. Also, owing to production restoration, Uzbek artists can reproduce authentically old miniatures. Step by step the Samarkand paper is regaining its former fame both in Uzbekistan and abroad.
The silk is one of the most valuable fabrics in the East. The tradition of making garments of silk, silk carpets has been passed from generation to generation from ancient times there. Art of carpet weaving was the most valuable skill, because each house had several silk carpets. Today, Iranian, Azerbaijani and of course, Central Asian schools are the most famous and skilled schools of silk carpet weaving.
Art of weaving silk carpets is one of the oldest in our region. One can see many beautiful silk carpets, hand-made by Uzbek female masters, in Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva.
Mostly, girls do all the work. They paint yarn, then dry it and begin the main work. Manufacture of silk carpets is time-consuming occupation. It may take from 1 to 6 months, and sometimes more than a year. It depends on the size and complexity of the carpet pattern.
If you are in Samarkand, it is worth to visit the silk carpets factory “Samarkand Bukhara Silk Carpets”, also known as “Khudzhum” because of its location on Khudzhumskaya Street. Here, the very process of carpets manufacturing can be observed directly to see the unique patterns of carpets and, of course, order one of them.
Mostly young girls are employed in the factory, they create amazing carpets of the most vivid and varied colors. Here one can see items with ancient ornaments, made according to the secret technologies passed from generation to generation.
Uniqueness of the products of this factory is also in the fact that the colouring materials are made of organic colors: walnut, pomegranate, indigo, madder.
During a visit to the factory one can order one’s favorite carpets, and also girls can make a unique carpet based on specific sketches.