This is the difficult question that must be asked with regard to the restoration/conservation of many of the world's great heritage sites.
Here in Samarkand there are many people who are worried about the effect of the over-zealous "restoration" of the Shah-i-Zinda complex in particular. This magnificent group of buildings is currently listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO but this status (and the funding that comes with it) is threatened by the work that is currently being done, much of which is insensitive to the the ancient buildings here to such a point that it amounts to total rebuilding. Whilst no-one would wish to see them fall back into the state of neglect that old photographs show, the rush to restore them certainly seems to need to be tempered with the realization that sensitive conservation would be a better path to follow.
Favorite thing: After the brilliant coloured tiles and elaborate gold of the interior decoration of Samarkand's buildings, the delicate painted walls and domes of the Dorus Tilivat in Shakhrisabz were quite surprising. White walls were covered in formally laid out small painted panels of intricate geometric patterns, gardens and trees that were very reminscent of the patterns on Chinese porcelain with blue the dominant colour. The domes were equally delicately painted with blue tracery and red and gold floral patterns -more Persian perhaps than Chinese. The whole effect was so light and airy - a complete change from the strong colours seen in similar buildings in Samarkand where deep blues and gold leaf predominate, or Bukhara where walls that were painted were mostly done so in shades of apricot, cream and red.
Grouped together in bronze as they never could have been in life, the great astronomers of the classical and mediaeval periods, Ptolemy, Tychoe Brahe, Copernicus and Galileo join the Uzbek scientist-king, Ulugh Beg, to ponder the astral globe. They make a charming group, all dressed alike in Uzbek robes, standing in the entrance to the medressa built by Ulugh Beg on the east side of Samarakand's Registan.
Ulugh Beg's astronomical legacy was to plot the co-ordinates of over 1000 stars, to develop the parameters by which eclipses could be predicted and to measure the stellar year so accurately that his measurements come within one minute of modern electronic calculations. His passion for science, coupled with his weak rule, brought him into dispute with deeply religious factions in Samarkand and ultimately led to his assassination at the behest of a dervish court and the co-operation of his son.
Nowadays he is held in the highest regard in Uzbekistan, as much for his learning and scholarly achievements as for the wonderful buildings he commissioned for his city.
It is the "new" Samarkand which was built after Tamerlan destroyed the old Afrosiob to create a capital city really showing that it is the centre of one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen.
Fondest memory: It is great to visit all these wonderful Mosques and Madrasas, to admire the innumerable variations of wonderful mainly blue glazed wall tiles, often reminding the finest oriental carpets. See the travelogues!
Favorite thing: Though all the Monuments were impressive, some of them were a bit abandoned, most of the "accesible" tiles had been removed and they seemed a little ruined. I guess the communist regime didn't pay much attention to religious monuments.
Favorite thing: When I was in Samarkand you could not see many tourists around. It was still Soviet Union, and travel was restricted to guided groups (with the official Intourist guide, of course). I don't know if it was because of that or because of the heat (august), but it was really pleasant to walk around the monuments all alone...
Favorite thing: This necropolis is a wonderful example of local architecture, with magnificent tiles and blue domes. Is like a little town with tombs and mausoleums all beautifully decorated...
Favorite thing: Tea houses are, let's say, the bars of Samarkand. Here you can seat at some kind of beds in the shadow and enjoy wonderful tea in a relaxed quiet atmosphere
Madrassas are islamic schools, fundamental institutions in this parts of the world.
In Samarkand you can find some which are beautifully decorated with nice tiles.