Samarkand is a city in south-eastern Uzbekistan and among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. There is evidence of human activity in the area of the city from the late Paleolithic Era, though there is no direct evidence of when Samarkand was founded; several theories propose that it was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. Prospering from its location on the Silk Road between China and Europe, at times Samarkand was one of the largest cities of Central Asia. Most of the inhabitants of this city are native Persian-speakers and speak the Tajik Persian dialect. This city is one of the historical centers of the Tajik people in Central Asia, which in the past was one of the important cities of the great empires of Iran.
By the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, it was the capital of the Sogdian satrapy. The city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE, when it was known as Markanda. The city was ruled by a succession of Iranian and Turkic rulers until it was conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220. Today, Samarkand is the capital of Samarqand Region.
The city is noted as a centre of Islamic scholarly study and the birthplace of the Timurid Renaissance. In the 14th century, Timur (Tamerlane) made it the capital of his empire and the site of his mausoleum, the Gur-e Amir. The Bibi-Khanym Mosque, rebuilt during the Soviet era, remains one of the city's most notable landmarks. Samarkand's Registan square was the city's ancient centre and is bounded by three monumental religious buildings. The city has carefully preserved the traditions of ancient crafts: embroidery, goldwork, silk weaving, copper engraving, ceramics, wood carving, and wood painting. In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.
Top Attractions in Samarkand
Gastronomy of Samarkand
The Bibi-Khanum Mosque
At the time of its construction, at the beginning of the 15th century, this was a mosque that had no equal in terms of both architectural style and size. Its 40-meter-high outer dome pushed the limits of engineering at the time; inside the dome was built to be ten meters shorter, giving stability to the structure. It was built under the orders of Tamerlane, who was very demanding and ordered it to be torn down several times before he was satisfied with the result. Almost a hundred elephants were brought to Samarkand from India, one of Tamerlane’s recent conquests, to help with the heavy lifting.
Legend of Bibi-Khanum
One of the enduring legends about the place suggests that it was actually Tamerlane’s wife who wanted to surprise the ruler with a magnificent mosque. She ordered the best architect to work on the project, but he fell in love with beautiful Bibi-Khanum and refused to complete it without a kiss. As her answer, she brought forty painted eggs and pointed out that they all looked different but inside they were the same. She offered other girls but he turned them down, saying that if he had forty buckets filled with water and one with wine, only one could turn his head. Beaten, she agreed to a kiss on the cheek. Right before he reached her she put a pillow in between them, but t his kiss was so passionate that it still left a mark on her cheek. Ashamed of the mark, the queen ordered all women to cover their faces. When Tamerlane found out about the kiss, he ordered both of them to be thrown from the minaret. Wings appeared upon the shoulders of the architect as he stood on top of the minaret and he flew away. The Queen asked for permission to wear all her silk dresses at once. Thus, when she jumped, they cushioned her fall or maybe even served as a parachute.