Sunday, September 22nd 2019

Samarkand – the capital of Tamerlane

I have never really connected Smarkand with Uzbekistan. I knew it is there, but  when i think of Uzbekistan, i think about the Soviet Socialistic Republic of Uzbekistan. While thinking of Samarkand, which was the capital of Tamerlane Empire, i always imagine the Silk Route.

A month ago i went to Tashkent for a business trip. Unfortunately i have not seen much of it as I was working till late each evening. Well i managed to see some of it going around by taxis.

One of the strongest impressions is food. It is extremely delicious. Travelling for more is very often about. I can choose or not a destination just because of food.

As i had only 1 day free i have decided to use it for visiting Samarkand. A regular train takes almost 4 hours between Tashkent and Samarkand. But i was lucky as just recently an express line called Registan was opened. It takes 2h20mins one way. Return ticket is 76USD (official exchange rate: 1USD=1400) or 49 USD (unofficial rate: 1USD=2700). People are supposed to exchange money at banks or official exchange points. When you arrive you are supposed to fill in a declaration of how much of which currency you have. and theoretically they may ask for receipts from banks.

The inflation has been quite high so if you exchange a couple of hundreds you get a bag of money.

Uzbek currency















It is very funny as you will need of this packs to pay for a dinner of 2-3 people. So when people go shopping, they have to have bags full of money.

The train for Samarkand leaves at 5.55. after coming back from a dinner with potential partners at 1am, it was not easy ;-)

Registan Express between Tashkent-Samarkand

Registan service staff

Business car




The ticket included free breakfast and tea. But i had to pay for water. A man sitting next to me, made a bit of a scandal when he was requested money for water and told a young man from the staff that the service was terrible and he refuses to pay…..

After a bit more than 2 hours we arrived.

Samarkand train station

The system of entering stations is similar to what I experienced earlier in China. One has to have a valid ticket to enter. So i saw the inside of the train station only in the evening on the way back.

So i took a taxi and went straight to the Registan square, on of the most famous places.

Registan square, Samarkand

 The name Registan (ریگستان) means “Snowy place” in Persian.

The Registan was a place of public executions, where also people gathered to hear royal proclamations, heralded by blasts on enormous copper pipes called dzharchis.

Timur historically known as Tamerlane in English was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire inIndiauntil 1857.

In 1370, Timur the Lame decided to makeSamarkandthe capital of his empire, which extended fromIndiatoTurkey. During the next 35 years he built anew cityand populated it with artisans and craftsmen from all of the places he had conquered. Timur gained a reputation as a patron of the arts andSamarkandgrew to become the centre of the region of Transoxiana. During this time the city had a population of about 150,000.

Tamerlane Empire (Timurid Empire)

In this video you can see three madrasahs (from right to left): the Sher-Dor Madrasah, the Tilya-Kori Madrasah and the Ulugh Beg Madrasah.

Tilya-Kori Madrasah

Tilya-Kori (“Gilded”) Madrasah was not only a residential college for students, but also played the role of grand masjid (mosque). It has a two-storied main facade and a vast courtyard fringed by dormitory cells, with four galleries along the axes. The mosque building (see picture) is situated in the western section of the courtyard. The main hall of the mosque is abundantly gilded.

Inside yard of Tilya-Kori Madrasah

An Uzbek souvenir

The Ulugh Beg Madrasah has its imposing portal with lancet arch facing the square. The corners are flanked by the high well-proportioned minarets. The mosaic panel over the entrance arch is decorated by geometrical stylized ornaments. The square-shaped courtyard includes a mosque and lecture rooms and is fringed by the dormitory cells in which students lived. There are deep galleries along the axes. Originally the Ulugh Beg Madrasah was a two-storied building with four domed darskhonas (lecture rooms) at the corners. The madrasah was one of the best clergy universities of the whole Muslim Orient of the 15th Century CE. Abdurakhman Djami, a prominent poet, scientist and philosopher studied there. Ulugh Beg himself gave lectures there. During Ulugh Beg’s government the madrasah was a centre of secular science.

Ulugh Beg Madrasah

Inside the Ulugh Beg Madrasah

Inside the Ulugh Beg Madrasah

Inside the Ulugh Beg Madrasah

Inside the Ulugh Beg Madrasah

Inside the Ulugh Beg Madrasah

In the 17th century the ruler of Samarkand, Yalangtush Bakhodur, ordered the construction of the Sher-Dor and Tillya-Kori madrasahs. The Sher-Dor (Having Tigers) Madrasah was designed by the architect Abdujabor. The decoration of the madrasah is not as refined as that on the Ulugh Beg madrasah of the 15th century – the “golden age” of Samarkand architecture. Yet the harmony of large and small rooms, exquisite mosaic decor, monumentality and efficient symmetry, all place the structure among the finest architectural monuments of Samarkand.

Sher-Dor Madrasah

Tiger of Sher-Dor Madrasah

After exploring the Registan complex i went to the Juma (Jameh, Friday) Mosque, also called Bibi-Khanym Mosque which was the main one in Medieval Samarkand.

The Juma (Jameh, Friday) Mosque

A gate of the Juma (Jameh, Friday) Mosque

Inside courtyard of the Juma (Jameh, Friday) Mosque

And to finish my day I went to buy some souverniers and some food at a nearby market.

Market in Samarkand

Spices stall


Meat stalls in Samarkand

Fancy a tongue?

Market in Samarkand

Tired but happy, with souvenirs, spices and some dried fruits I loaded myself into a taxi and went to take a train back to Tashkent.


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4 Comments on “Samarkand – the capital of Tamerlane”

  1. Great shots, made me want to visit.

    1. Yes, this trip made me start thinking of a more extensive trip around Uzbekistan. I would like to visit Khiva, Bukhara, mountains. But I also want to travel more countries around like Tajikistan, Kazakhstan.

  2. Such a beautiful place, and very good pictures! Thanks, Lesha!
    I would also want to travel to those places! Pity I didn’t have a chance to do it when it was Soviet… Although I hope I will do it now! :)

  3. Thank you, Nadia. Yes, now I want to travel Central Asian countries more. Especially Uzbekistan – Khiva and Bukhara. I hope i will be able to post some pictures from Azerbaijan soon.

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