Samarkand Favorites

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  • ...Bibi Khanum
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    by TheWanderingCamel

Best Rated Favorites in Samarkand

  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Students – help for travellers

    by Trekki Updated Jan 23, 2007

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    Samarkands students - ready to help travellers
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    Favorite thing: A concept, which I liked very much and of which I hope it will last for long, is the one of Samarkand students helping travellers. They are obviously studying tourism at the University of Samarkand and, assisted by their professors, have set up a small stand at the State Museum of Cultural History, just east of Registan. They have a whole pile of information of any kind, such as transport, restaurants, accommodation, sights, prices and recommended travel agencies.
    They won’t charge anything, you even get something to drink (tea or soft drinks) and you can have a nice chat with the guys and girls. Needless to say that they speak pretty well English.

    Definitely something to do and to support; the kids are nice and it is a both way learning.

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    How many days to plan for Samarkand ?

    by Trekki Updated Jan 24, 2007

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    Bibi Khanum Mosque - in the morning
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    Favorite thing: Now how many days should you plan for Samarkand ? As I am living in Germany with that unbelievable amount of 30 plus days to spend for holiday per year, I don't really think about tight time schedules.

    But let me give it a try:
    Samarkand can be visited in 1 day, provided the visitor is used to seeing-all-in-1-day visits, and that most of it is “done” by car (taxi or group bus). But this implies minimum 1 night stay, better 2 nights.

    For a one day visit, I would suggest the following tour:
    Start early and visit:
    Bibi Khanum Mosque (to get the gorgeous morning light conditions),
    then walk northeast to Shah-i-Zinda,
    grab a taxi and visit Ulug’bek Observatory,
    go back with taxi to Gur-I-Amir Mausoleum and Timur’s statue, if of interest.
    Walk back to Registan to visit the medressas and try and climb on Ulughbek Medressa Minaret in late afternoon, just before sunset.
    Inside Ulug’bek Medressa, maybe do some souvenir shopping and finish your evening with either the folklore dance show in Sher Dor Medressa or with a dinner at a nice restaurant.

    Fondest memory: .
    Best time for photos:
    Bibi Khanum Mosque should be a must in the morning, with light shining through the wooden window into the main sanctuary;
    Shah-i-Zinda is best also in the (late) morning, as most of the colourful mausoleums face east.
    Gur-i-Amir is time-independent, as the most intresting sights are inside.
    Registan is best in late afternoon and evening.

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  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo

    The great astronomers

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Aug 29, 2005

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    Astronomers all

    Favorite thing: 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.

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    Further reading (websites)

    by Trekki Updated Jan 24, 2007

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    Favorite thing: Some websites will give you further reading and information. Some are of travel agencies, but they still have a lot of interesting information.

    Travel Agency Orexa

    Sairam Tours - Samarkand

    Samarkand’s website

    Samarkand at UNESCO

    Timur’s Samarkand by Mark Dickens, with a lot of interesting reading, sights to see, architecture and Timurid period.

    The most facinating and very detailed site about Samarkand’s architecture however is available only in German. But I can highly recommend to read it, as Bernhard Peter has put a lot of effort and knowledge into it:

    Architecture of Samarkand , and then Samarqand.

    (I might add more websites in the future, as I plan to go back)

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  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo

    Delicate decoration

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Sep 6, 2005

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    Painted domes and walls

    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.

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Opening hours, and “how much does it cost”

    by Trekki Written Jan 24, 2007

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    Favorite thing: A recent conversation with a friend led me to the idea to make a short summary of opening hours and prices, to give you a rough overview of the costs you can expect for Samarkand. This all is as of summer 2006 and my travel style, which involves basic to medium accommodation and two meals per day plus snacks. And of course, visiting the sights.

    Opening hours:
    mostly from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm on “normal” days. Expect different hours for Fridays, as this is the “Sunday” in the Islamic world.

    Travel expenses – for 3 days plus 1 afternoon/evening – per person:
    Accommodation costs (4 nights): 40 USD (including breakfast);

    Food costs: 22.000 som (equals 17 USD) ;

    Snack and water costs: 5 USD;

    Costs for visting sights including camera fee: 17.000 som (equals 14 USD).

    Transport from Samarkand to Tajikistan in shared taxi: seat 1600 som (equals 1,30 USD)
    Transport from Bukhara to Samarkand in shared taxi: seat 15 USD.

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  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo

    How far do you go?

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Nov 24, 2005

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    Conserve or restore?

    Favorite thing: 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.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Changing money at Afrosiab Hotel

    by toonsarah Written Sep 13, 2007

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    Uzbek currency

    Favorite thing: One thing we had a few difficulties with in Uzbekistan was finding somewhere to change our money. The best option was often our hotel, but in Samarkand the Zarina didn’t offer this service. So instead we headed to the nearby four star hotel, the Afrosiab Palace. The exchange bureau there closed at 8.00 in the evening, and we arrived a bit later so thought at first we might have to return the next day. The security guard however spotted us lingering by the desk, trying to make out the Russian language sign that would tell us what time it would re-open in the morning, and offered to help. His help was more than welcome, as it consisted of taking us behind his desk (though still in full view of the hotel lobby!) to conduct a black market exchange.

    This is common practice in Uzbekistan, and we’d done the same some days earlier in Khiva. I was surprised to learn that the rate for these black market exchanges seemed to be as fixed as the legal rate, and only a little lower (1,200 som to the dollar rather than the official 1,250). Each time we lost only a couple of £s on the deal, and we knew that our friendly helper would change the money at the official rate when the exchange office opened the next morning, so that his probably meagre salary would be augmented– so it seemed to me that these deals were a win for all of us!

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Orientation and distances in Samarkand

    by Trekki Written Jan 24, 2007

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    Landmark - Hotel Samarkand
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    Favorite thing: As mentioned earlier, Samarkand can roughly be divided into two parts: the eastern more old city with the ancient monuments, stretching northeast from Registan. And the modern part, which is west to southwest of Registan.
    Hotel Samarkand is a good landmark, if you think, you got lost. You can see this almost from everywhere west of Registan. How ever, it is no longer in use as hotel (as of mid 2006).

    Walking distances:
    Registan to Hotel Samarkand: approx. 30 minutes
    Registan to Shah-i-Zinda: approx. 45 minutes

    I also add a screenshot of GE (scale referring to 1 km), to give you an idea how far the sights are located. You might decide upon taking a taxi for visiting some monuments.
    Samarkand is definitely not as “concentrated” as Bukhara.

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  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo

    How long did we stay?

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 22, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Photo: Domes of the Tilya-Kori Madrasah

    I've been asked this question a lot.

    On our first visit we stayed for 3 nights, arriving from Bukhara at about 4 in the afternoon. That gave us about an hour to take a first look at the Registan. We returned next day with our guide for a longer visit and also visited the Ulugh Bek observatory, the bazaar, Bibi Khanum mosque and mausoleum, Shah-i Zinda and the Gur Emir at some length, and made short stops at the summer mosque, the Kazret Khyzr mosque and the Khodja Akrar medressa - a very long day but par for the course for most tours.
    We spent the second day on a trip to Shahrisabz - an all day affair, 3 hours each way by road.

    Returning for a second visit, I was determined to have more time in the city and not to be so rushed, so 4 nights were booked. Our plans went slightly awry when a cancelled flight and a car breakdown meant we arrived after 8pm instead of the 3pm that was intended. I had thought we should spend that afternoon at the Registan, without a guide, leaving all the next day for other sightseeing. Instead we spent the whole of our first morning at the emsemble - as well as the delay with our transport I hadn't reckoned on the passion for shopping some of our group developed!

    So -
    Day 1 was the Registan, the bazaar, Bibi Khanoum, Gur Emir and the Rukhabad mausoleum.

    Day 2 took us to Panjakent in Tajikistan and, on our return, an early evening visit to Shah-i-Zinda

    Day 3 morning found us in Urgut for the fabulous bazaar, then it was back to Samarkand and Afrosiab, Ulugh Beg's observatory, Daniel's Tomb and a late afternoon visit to the paper mill at Konighil.

    As we were staying in Shahrisabz there was no need to rush away in the morning so we had a couple of hours after breakfast to go off and do what whatever.

    Fondest memory: It was all much more leisurely than our first visit and, thanks to our wonderful guide, Sasha, who was so generous with his time, spending far longer with us each day and meeting up with us after our return from Penjikent - something that he was not booked to do - we really had a wonderful time.

    Staying at a different hotel worked well for us also. On our first visit we were right near the Registan and we found ourselves wandering down to the square on early morning walks as well as the hours between the end of the day's sightseeing and meeting up for dinner. This time we were on University Boulevard, a quite different area but just as pleasant with the fine buildings of the University and the Russian part of the city all around.

    What should you do? That's going to depend on how you come to Samarkand. Tours have their set programmes and even those that only have one day in the city will certainly take in the Big 6 - Registan, Shah-i-Zinda, Bibi Khanoum, Gur Emir, Observatory and the bazaar.

    If, like us, you're on tour but one where you have set the itinerary - do your homework and make sure the tour company knows exactly what you want included. It can be very difficult, if not downright impossible, to add some excursions (Tajikistan for example) to your itinerary once you've arrived.

    Independent travellers will have even more freedom and will be limited only by the time they have at their disposal. Just be sure that if you think you might want to make that excursion to Tajikistan you have a multiple entry visa before you leave home.

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  • nepalgoods's Profile Photo

    History

    by nepalgoods Updated Nov 1, 2007

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    Favorite thing: The name "Samarkand" means: samar = fertile; kand = settlement.

    The city is older than 2500 years and is one of the oldest cities of the world. It has always been a center of trade and culture. It has been the capital of historical Sogd 4th century B.C. In this times Samarkand was called Marakanda. Alexander the Great conquered Marakand in 329 B.C.

    During the Chinese Han-Dynasty (1st century AD) the area stood under the rule of the Chinese emperors. Later centralasian rulers and dynasties ruled the city: Sassanides, Hephtalides, Turk, Samanides, Seldshuck, Choresm.

    Finally Samarkand came under the rule of the Mongols under Timur. It became Timur's capital. Trade, art and science bloomed in the next few centuries. The city was a very important center for the trade of the Great Silkroad. And it became the most beautiful city of the then known world.

    From 17th to 18th century Samarkand was almost forgotten. In 1868 Samarkand became part of the Russian Empire. Since 1991 Samarkand is the capital of the province of Samarkand.

    Today Samarkand has about 500000 inhabitants. It is a modern city with industry, modern buildings and wide streets. But the city center is still dominated by the beautiful buildings of 15th and 16th century.

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  • lotharlerch's Profile Photo

    Tne most spectacular architecture in Uzbekistan

    by lotharlerch Updated Apr 28, 2005

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    in Tilla Kori

    Favorite thing: 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!

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  • SirRichard's Profile Photo

    Very few tourists

    by SirRichard Written Nov 19, 2004

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    An empty Registan Square

    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...

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    Abandoned monuments

    by SirRichard Written Nov 19, 2004

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    A madrassa

    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.

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  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo

    An invitation to lunch

    by TheWanderingCamel Written Dec 8, 2009

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    Join us
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    Favorite thing: We didn't have time to visit the State Museum of Cultural History of Uzbekistan (to give it its full title) the first time we visited the city so, before we left for Shahrisabz and leaving the others to do some last minute sightseeing (aka shopping) at the Registan, two of us set off across the road to take a look.

    Workmen everywhere, doing what workmen on public building works do best - not a lot. We noticed something interesting over in one corner of the central courtyard so we wandered over to take a look. A couple of women , one busy peeling and chopping vegetables, the other carving chunks off a piece of meat, the fellow with them stirring the pot perched in a makeshift stove. Lunch for the workers - come back when it's ready and join us. It smelt good but we couldn't wait, Shahrisabz was three hour's away and we wanted to be there by 1.

    I have since found out that what we thought was restoration work is in fact demolition! It appears the man in Tashkent has decided that the modern (the museum was built in the 70s) building is out of keeping in the context of the Registan!

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