The journey through Uzbekistan has begun today with our first objective ... the myth of Samarkand, another one of those dreams of a child capable of putting chicken meat just by naming it.
Tashkent train to Samarkand, first stop on the route
Although we will talk long and hard about the preparation of this trip, any itinerary in Uzbekistan has a 7-10 day base route quite clear and defined. We find possibly one of the most "harsh" countries of the Silk Road, where 70% of the country is deserted: Kyzyl Kum and where three legendary cities rise up as monumental hearts of it over everything else.Samarkand, Bukhara and Jiva, either one way or another (flying between Urgench and Tashkent on the way there or back)
From there, to the west withAyaz Qala from Jiva and even approachingNukus, Moynaq and Mar de Aral or east toFergana Valley, are possible complements, although the latter we will leave for when the route takes us in future stages to Kyrgyzstan. What if between Bukhara and Jiva we stopped along the way to go to Turkmenistan, the other major objective of the trip? We'll see if the bureaucracy allows it, although everything looks great ...
Be that as it may, the small introduction takes us early by taxi (10,000 USZ and also does us the favor of switching to 6000 USD with which we pay)Tashkent Central Railway Station, where it seems that caravans and magic carpets have given way tomodern high-speed trains "Afrosiab" of Spanish technology "Talgo" circulating in 2 hours and 8 minutes between the capital and Samarkand since October 2011 (two 7000 USZ colacaos)
We have changed our first 20 USD (we bring everything in US dollars), nearby before entering, to 6100 USZ for 1 USD (the largest ticket is 5000 USZ so better go little by little). Everyone here offers you change, the black market is the order of the day as we already lived in other trips like Myanmar 10 years ago, while we see the first Afrosiab of the day.(EYE! UPDATE: Since September 2017 there is no black market, you have to change your money at the headquarters of a bank). In addition to ours at 8'00, there is another option at 7'00 of which there were no places left (formerly it was only on Saturdays and Sundays but now it seems that every day). The returns are at 18'00 and 17'00 respectively. There is also a small express called Sharq slower with different schedules (seeUzbekistan official train website)
We love traveling by train. Getting on one has an effect similar to entering places where other means of transport do not access, sometimes in impossible balances with mountains or valleys. Today we go in tourist class although for Bukhara we will try some higher since prices rise little and so we can talk about the experience (a 3000 USZ water)
The exit of Tashkent is not especially beautiful, dozens of communist blocks stand out in the suburbs. The track also needs a small "big" batting, as the movement of the train loop becomes excessive at some times for such a modern technology. Anyway, it is clear that we have returned to the 80, especially at the moment when the train stops in the middle of nowhere and all electronic systems are turned off. Better not to ask, the fact is that we have reached Samarkand ...
Arrive, book train for Bukhara within 3 days (we will try the first class for just 5 USD to change more), take a taxi (10,000 USZ) until the Bibikhanum Hotel and leaving the backpacks has been all one, we have even enjoyed our first “chai” in a hotel that has a lot of charm with Bibi Khanum as a backdrop
Maybe you look forward to seeing what awaits us. By the way, the hotel (Alexa's advice - thank you very much -) could not be better located.
What to see in Samarkand, detailed route and map to explore it
Samarkand is a city very different from Bukhara or Jiva. The charm of the monumental ensembles of the last two, which surely remind us of the "Thousand and One Nights" that we are looking for, has been devastated in Samarkand by the Soviets when Uzbekistan was one more state (perhaps not in the same way it could do the same Genghis Kan) with that frightening taste for the communist blocks that we have seen so much in other places, leaving now huge avenues where there was once an entire old city. However, all that goes to the background when you reach the area of Tashkent Street where we stayed, a modern avenue that connects the main monuments of the city (water 1500 UZS) ...
... and full of galleries and multiple stores of all kinds of silks or ceramics leads directly to Registan.What to see in Samarkand and how many days is it possible?
It is possible to see Samarkand in2 days (even 1 if you only focus on your 4 main pearls) although perhaps it would be ideal to give it 2 and a half days or even 3 days in order to get to know Shakbrisabz (and we, when coinciding on Sunday, we will try it with the famous Urgut market).
+ The first day (ie today), marking theRegistan As the center of the attractions, we will enjoy the area west of it that includes the square itself withUlugh Beg Madrash, Sher-Dor Madrasah and Tilya-Kori Madrasah, Chorsu (former bazaar) and the mausoleums ofRukhabad, Guri Amir and Ak Sarai to return byKosh Khauz and Khodja Zudmurod mosques
+ The second day (tomorrow), we will start having breakfast at our hotel with theBibi Khanum mosque in the background that we will visit at the end, to go through theSiab Bazaar (current market) before heading to the mosqueKhazret Khizr and the impressiveShah-i-Zinda necropolis, another essential. If we have time we will approach theUlugbek Observatory
+ The third day we will try to get closer to the market ofUrgut and Shakbrisabz, 50 and 85 km respectively from Samarkand and we will try to negotiate in the same hotel or in the area of shared taxis. As we want to go on the night train to Bukhara, we may opt for the first formula to mark the times.
What not Paula! That we do not enter at the moment through the back door of Registan, hehe. Map and camera in hand, did anyone doubt our first approach? Ahthose who want more cultural attractions, especially museums and theaters, have them marked in red (We already know that with great exceptions, we are not much of museums)
Route of day 1, in a turquoise dream.
A pearl in the desert whose origins lead it to be considered as the oldest city in Turkestan, beyond the first millennium a. of C. Of the then known as Afrosiab, capital of the state of Sogdiana, we will talk to you tomorrow. What would that city, Maracanda already have in Persian rule, that made Alexander the Great himself succumb to his charms? Arabs, Mongols and Tamerlan finally, in the fourteenth century, turned it into that turquoise dream, capital of his empire, whose current monuments allow us to move for a moment through time.
Amir Timur, known as Tamerlane, was able to see why Samarkand had become the most important stop on the Silk Road, the crossroads of civilizations it received from the East and the West, taking it to install the first paper mill outside of China and that again and again ravaged, the last by the Mongols, was reborn from its ashes. The year 1370 made it the center of the world, the capital of its imposing Timurid Empire.
Chorsu, the old bazaar of Samarkand (4)
Just 10 minutes separates us from Registan, but we will pass it by. How can someone come from the other side of the world wanting to know this wonder and resists seeing it? Well there we are. If you have waited for us to come for several centuries, maybe you can wait a couple more hours. We want to see it with the last rays of sun, something that we were clear from the moment we knew we would come, with its maximum splendor. What we do see is theChorsu (4), an old dome-shaped bazaar from the 15th century (rebuilt in the 18th century) that happened to a better life with the new one that we will see tomorrow (Siob or Siyob Bazaar) near where we stayed
Chorsu, whose meaning cannot be more appropriate since it is "crossroads" currently has an art gallery use in case anyone is interested although it is closed today.
And at this point our stomach starts shouting at us, so… time to eat !!!
Beware of the prices of the upstairs, since they differ from those that mark below and add a service and whatever they want. Come on, the upper floor for tourists and the lower floor for locals. We didn't like that deal even though we ate some kebap, salad and beers well (US $ 35,000)
There are street stalls in the area or supermarkets for those with a tighter budget
We may return tomorrow to try some other dish, as it is one of the few to sit a quiet time at 40ºC at noon
Rukhabad Mausoleum (5)
Trying not to fall into temptation (loaded with water 2100 USZ and after going through a public toilet that is so much stretched for 500 USZ), Registan street brings us in just 15 minutes to another important area with attractions to see in Samarkand.
The first one is a smallRukhabad Mausoleum (5), dated from the XIV of which the legend says that it contains seven hairs of the Prophet Muhammad kept in a chest. In any other Muslim country this would have meant a whole pilgrimage (11,000 USZ per person)
Here, however, we barely see that cult. We had already read that, although the population considers itself Muslim, there is not much devotion to its practice. It is also true that this mausoleum is supposed to house the body of Sheikh Burkhan ad-Din Sagardji, top Islamist leader in Beijing at that time and originally from Central Asia, which may not have the meaning we thought at the beginning. If you want some advice ... or enter its current state!
Guri Amir Mausoleum (6)
Another of the jewels of the city It is next to the previous one and was erected by Tamerlane between 1403 and 1404 next to a madrasa and a khanaka with the name of "the tomb of the sovereign" (Guri Amir) in honor of his grandson Mohamed Sultan but an unfortunate campaign against the Empire Chino rushed to become a family crypt although Tamerlane had his wishes placed in Shakhrisabz (in a couple of days we will visit and know the history, so we will tell you the reason why he did not stop there). To enter we had to make a change of 10 USD to a kind lady of a store, since we still do not calculate very well and we have used up the USZ (so better than 50 in 50 or 100 in 100)
We enter inside (14,000 UZS). From its initial construction of a courtyard surrounded by walls with four vaulted iwanes, the ruins of the south wall and main door are preserved but with compositions of mosaics that impose, although the most important thing about the mausoleum was its innovative style for the time.
Such is so It was an architectural model that is said to have influenced the origin of Humayu's Tomb and, therefore, Taj Mahal himself. But the jewel was even more inside, after leaving behind a small museum
We do not know yet what we will find in the Registan but only the fact that we stayed here speaks well of the place we were exploring. We are facing the real entrance, with a unique architecture or because many consider it as the most impressive of the Timurid Dynasty monuments, which is preserved in Central Asia, its blue dome with 64 glazed brick ribs, its yellow or turquoise tones, its small underground crypt with carved marbles or nephrite ...
... or his paintings or ornaments with a predominance of gold, justify this statement
By the way, that Paula is being a success for Uzbeks (especially among the babushkas, the oldest) since we arrived.
We don't know what they think is more exotic but they all smile at her, come to talk to her and ask for photos with her. They are lovely
It was then, already in 1942, when the Russians decided to close again the tomb of Tamerlane invoking Islamic rites and shortly thereafter managed to expel the invaders. Chance?
Here the mortal remains of different members of the Tamerlane family also ended, from Mir-Seid-Bereke, later Tamerlane, his grandson and Ulugbek, of which in Registan we will see their importance.
Ak Saray Mausoleum (7)
Perhaps surpassed by the beauty of Guri Amir, we approach theAk Saray Mausoleum (7) located in a quiet parallel street in a more suburbial area but full of charming doors
However, it is a monument that has just been restored, which is not worth it beyond visiting its underground grave (5000 UZS)
Its construction dates from 1470 and breathes a lot of tranquility, like everything we see in Samarkand that we are finding.
The Registan square of Samarkand, the center of the world
The best time of day arrives and we know where our feet are going to take us. We start from the modern area of the University Boulevard, quite lively at this time, to return to our steps (the photos are two days since we returned to the next but we summarize it in one to not mix stories)
Whoever looks for the "city of a thousand and one nights" in Samarkand may be disappointed. An intense Soviet era ended the legend of a city that no longer has the soul of ancient times and whoever wants it must opt for Bukhara or Jiva for it. However, although distributed, now the city has perfectly communicated the heritage and is spectacular and only the fact of being able to enjoy the Registan or the Guri Amir Mausoleum takes you for a moment to its time of greatest glory. Samarkand, contrary to what we had read in some account, we were very pleasantly surprised
It is just turning on the street of Registan when we realize whySamarkand stood proudly in the middle of the desert and was the center of all those roads, roads and corridors coming from Europe, Persia, India or China. To the southwest of Afrosiab, place that we will meet tomorrow, madrasas, palaces, mosques, squares, or bazaars gathered the most exceptional architecture ever seen that left impossible domes, turquoise tiles and huge gates where Marco Polo or Ibn Battuta would pass, leaving testimony in His chronicles
We admit that we are one of those who consider the Naghsh-i Jahan square of Isfahan (Iran) as the most beautiful in the world we have known but, being fair, we talk about constructions after 1600 and clearly influenced by the art that the Timurid Dynasty began with Timur's grandson, Ulug Beg, who gathers the best of Persians, Arabs, western and eastern world, leaving perfect contours of shapes, of beautiful beauty, with spherical domes or ogival arches that leave you speechless as you look at the square from a distance
That same one that was extended during the centuries after Bukhara, Jiva and, above all, Iran, where these same places are history in life, with a use beyond the tourist interest. Here only the stones speak. There are no more students or passersby but that turquoise blue to which the sun gives special intensity a day like today, with three imposing madrasas, domes and minarets in what was the center of medieval trade roads that converged under the dome of a Bazaar
We don't think about it anymore and we enter. The entry time is from 9'00 to 18'00 and for a price of 20,800 UZS each, with which we have access to the interior of the madrasas and the esplanade. For the general photo it is not necessary to enter. Of course, Uzbekistan's number one rule: All police are a "bit corrupt" and if you enter through the back door they charge you 15,000 UZS and some people skip it when they don't look. It is not very ethical but the official price also seems abuse. Said and done.
The origin of theMadrasa Ulugh Beg (1), the one on the left and oldest (the tiles mark 1417, 1419 and 1420), it has nothing to do with the current constitution, since it was accompanied by a khanaka of the same name, a caravasar and two other mosques (Kukeltash and Mukat) . With 4 minarets, a large arch that calls you to enter your inner courtyard and two floors With 56 rooms for students, it is impressive. On the other side is the entrance to the Winter Mosque
As we approach it we can observe Ulugbek, the astronomer grandson of Tamerlane intended a use as Islamic schools of theology, astronomy, philosophy or mathematics and that is intuited on the facade with geometric drawings and beautiful blue stars contrasting with the background marbles.
Obviously, today, its interior has a purely tourist use where to buy souvenirs or handicrafts (in fact, some falls for 43,000 UZS - the first gifts family! -)
We leave the patio and go to the other side of the square, to theMadrassa Sher-Dor (3) built between 1619 and 1636 built by Governor Yalangtush on the foundations of the buildings that accompanied the previous one.
If the legends about Tamerlan are curious and varied, What do you think about finding two animals (they say they are lions although they look more like tigers) attacking some deer in the ornamentation of this madrasa? This type of decoration is prohibited in Islamic art as well as people and centuries later it is preserved in its facade. Why? The reason is that Amir Timur's ambition to achieve a unique architecture led him to leave absolute freedom of creativity to his architects who used great oriental influence for their creations.
In this madrassa is the tomb of Saint Imam Muhammad ibn Djafar.
Finally, in the center of the square and second that was built between 1646 and 1660, is theMadrasa Tillia Kari (2) what seems to be that It also had a mosque function.
His name is easily identifiable at the time you enter its interior, possibly the most striking, where behind a courtyard there is a small mosque with a golden dome, hence the meaning of "gold cover"
We will talk about the ascent to one of the minarets tomorrow, while the afternoon falls in the Registan ...
By the way, after a piscolabis (5000 USZ) in a small kiosk in the front garden that is very nice to see people pass by (it's called Muzqaymoq Kafesi), Joan (a majestic Catalan who comes from Kyrgyzstan and we will talk to you tomorrow will recognize us ). Above we see some small green strollers that for barely 1000 UZS they take you from Registan to Bibi Khanum (or what is the same, to our hotel that could not be better located) and at 40ºC it is appreciated to pay those 20 cents of EUR
We had a luxury dinner for 50,000 USZ, although we asked each other… There is everything and the menu has a menu with photos. It's one of those places for dinner that we would recommend to anyone
Night falls on Samarkand and the main monuments light up. The atmosphere of our charming accommodation is also transformed
Isaac and Paula, from Samarkand (Uzbekistan)
EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 211,100 UZS (approx. 34.48 EUR) and GIFTS: 43,000 (approx. 6.61 EUR)