Howdy all. One of the most ‘fabled’ cities on the old Silk Road is without a doubt Uzbekistan’s Samarkand. It has a number of sites worth seeing, and a great place to experience Islamic Architecture. It’s a beautiful city, with wide roads and then miles of little backstreets in the old parts.
When I visited I stayed in a little guest house somewhere in the back streets, and to get out I would have to walk around the winding narrow streets until I would appear on the main street, full of restaurants, and opposite the key site in Samarkand, if not in all of Uzbekistan, the Registan.
‘Registan’ means ‘sandy place’, and it was the square at the centre of town. But more commonly it is actually known for the three incredible buildings that line three of the four edges of the square. The fourth is open and where people take their photos from when they want to capture the entire complex, and they even hold concerts and performances from time to time there. When I was there there were stands set up on the fourth edge of the Registan for an upcoming concert (I THINK it was an opera).
The three imposing buildings are Madrassas, places of Islamic teaching. As you approaching from the side with no building and Registan St, to your left is the Ulugh Beg Madrassa, straight ahead is Tillya-Kori Madrassa and the one on the right is the Sher-Dor Madrassa. You will find different versions of their names and even various spellings of madrassa online. I’ll try and use the same ones throughout this post!
I bought tickets from a little table outside the Ulugh Beg Madrassa. It was strangely makeshift to be honest. I bought a ticket for all three Madrassas, and entered Ulugh Beg. It’s oldest of the three dating back to the 15th century, and in some ways the most impressive. It certainly gave the feeling it was still in use, although I think I had come at the hottest part of the day and I was pretty much the only one there. Beautiful arches which created what in a church would be known as ‘cloisters’, stained glass windows too and of course, exceptional blue mosaic work.
Tillya-Kori was darker, less open. The cloisters surrounded a courtyard in Ulugh Beg, but this had more of a sense you were inside. There was a stone courtyard there though, and a gift shop. Built 1646-1660, it’s the youngest of the three. And also was used as a dormitory to house the students.
Finally, I visited the Sher-Dor Madrassa, built 1619-1636. This one is famous for its tiger mosaics – which makes it a pity I didn’t get any close ups on them, doesn’t it? Anyways, this was also pretty quiet, but had a little shop. Under a low door, I banged the top of my head on it and just thinking about it I can remember the pain it caused!
So, in short, you’re unlikely to miss to Registan if you’re in Samarkand, but make sure you don’t! Although I will say that there are many other interesting buildings that are must sees there! But they are for another post!
Thanks for reading, and May the Journey Never End!