In the footsteps of Afrosiab, the ancient Samarkand


Only the mere fact of hearing the word Samarkand evokes in our imagination camel caravans full of jewels, silk, gunpowder or spices traveling routes from west to east and East to West. While our entrance took us through the main attractionswhat to see in the Samarkand current, the one that receives the greatest legacy of the great Tamerlane and that will visit the great Marco Polo,the origins date back 3,000 years back in time, to times of the great Persian Empire, to the legend of King Afrosiab to which his settlement is attributed and to the admiration of Alexander the Great when upon arrival in Maracanda (in Greek) he pronounced the phrase ""Everything I had heard about Samarkand is true, except that it is more beautiful than I had imagined. " Today our route takes us beyond the Timurid dynasty ...

Although the first hours of the day would give room for two special visits, the Bibi Khanum mosque and the Siab Bazaar (current market)

Route of day 2, from the Persian origins to the Russian influence

We do not know yet if in Bukhara or Jiva you will breathe as much Soviet influence as here although we intuit, for all that has been read, that it will not be so.

Large tree-lined avenues, communist concrete blocks and excessively recognizable Russian words (spasiba) appear as soon as you move away from the monumental zone. It is the price paid by the city since in 1865 Tsar Nicholas I conquered the city and would continue a century later with the extinct Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the terrace of Bibikhanum Hotel with the Bibi Khanum mosque in the background it isolates us from all this at this time of the morning

Behind we left the route that took us yesterday through some of the monuments that made this city the capital of the Silk Road, from Registan to the mausoleums of Rukhabad, Guri Amir or Ak Sarai

… But, before going back in time, we cannot avoid entering another of the treasures that gives us good morning (14,000 USZ per person)

Bibi Khanum Mosque (10)

Yesterday we discovered that thanks to its position and rich influence, Samarkand in its time of splendor with Tamerlane became a rich metropolis at an artistic and architectural level that even implanted unique models so far. What you didn't know is that we know a lot about this Turk-Mongolian thanks to a Spaniard?Ruy González de Clavijo, on behalf of Enrique III de Castilla, who was looking for alliances, planted himself in his court in 1404 and wrote of the mosque we were entering now that “It was the most noble of all those who visited in Samarkand

Tamerlane aimed to build the most imposing mosque in the Islamic world and for this it was brought to the best architects of the main cities of Persia, India or Damascus and Baghdad, even transporting huge marble blocks with elephants from India

However, the legend Tell something else. He talks about Bibi Khanum being a wife from Tamerlane who ordered the construction of the mosque to celebrate the return of his campaign in Delhi. However, a kiss with the architect would lead them both to be thrown from a minaret around the cruel Khan. Legend or not, and after suffering a terrible earthquake during the year 1887 in which it collapsed, today it looks in restoration with those turquoise blue domes (some of the largest in the Muslim world)

We are not great understood to detail what our eyes can observe in such a place, what we can tell you is that this place, beyond its sculpted marble, its extraordinary frescoes, its golden mache paper or its incredible mosaics, has a very special atmosphere. Who knows? Perhaps the ghosts of so many historical figures still give soul to the last vestiges of the monuments of an ancient route

As a fact, we read that the great Quran of Osman (Caliph Omeya who made a compilation of the Koran) was deposited by Ulugbek in the center of the courtyard where there is currently a gray marble lectern in Mongolia. After several "trips" of Russian dominance, it seems that it can be seen now in the library of the Madrasa Barak Khan in Tashkent

Ah right in front of the mosque there is a blue dome of the mausoleum of Bibi Khanum from 1397 for who wants to visit it (yes, the sun starts to hit, take a lot of water 2000 USZ and some memory, haha ​​15,000 USZ)

Siab Baazar or Siyob Market (11)

Near Bibi Khanum is the main bazaar in the city, place that replaced the Chorsu (4) that we saw yesterday near the Registan and which focuses much of local life in relation to clothing and food.

It is also here that one realizes that Samarkand, like Bukhara, preserves much of the Tajik-Persian communities of Uzbekistan, where the Uzbeks, that ethnicity coming from the east of the Volga that arrived in their day, is completely influenced by the Russians. Uzbekistan, after all, is still a Tajik country that rebuilt its identity and from which Tajikistan still claims for its territory, with some sense, Samarkand and Bukhara but the Uzbeks know they cannot lose their greatest appeal.

For us, this is the ideal place to get those Photos of tunics, dresses or crafts of the country, buy some souvenirs and know a little more about the products that a country as dry as Uzbekistan, where 2 thirds of its territory are desert and steppes, can give. Also for change money (EYE! Since September 2017 there is no black market, you have to change your money at a bank headquarters)whoever wants it (we have done it at 6,100 USZ per USD -today with a better idea of ​​needs, 100 USD-) or see those golden teeth that uzbekas associate with beauty (and of course buy nuts 5,000 USZ)

Before continuing the route we have returned a moment to the hotel that had already opened its agency part at reception, to try to get a driver for tomorrow. Fact! (These expenses already know that we put them in the final budget, with hotels, flights, etc ...)

Khazret Khizr Mosque (12)

Although it is not a must that has great historical value, our walk to another of the treasures of Samarkand leads us to this Mosque dedicated to Elijah, patron saint of travelers, built in one of the oldest and most sacred sites in the city on the other side of a large avenue

This is where the Afroisab water supply channel passes through, where Zoroastrian priests were responsible for irrigation. Of course, the entrance costs 11,000 USZ, something expensive compared to other monuments visited these days

Your iwan and entrance to the Dome dates from 1854 and later, in 1919, the gate and minaret was made. Precisely to the latter we will climb since from him, after usual bribe (5000 USZ) you get good views of several points of the city

There are very few stairs and it is wide (not like others), so whoever wants to try the experience can do it in this first

In the distance, in addition to the municipal cemetery, our sight will reach to see Shah-i-Zinda, the crown jewel of this day. On the other side Bibi Khanum, beautiful from any perspective

It is precisely to the necropolis where we go after replenishing water (2000 USZ). Surely if we count it at the end of the trip, we have drunk the equivalent of an entire river.

The Samarkand of King Afrosiab and Shah-i-Zinda

It is said that theJericho Palestine that we met in its day, with more than 10,000 years old, is the oldest city in the world always inhabited. There is also talk of magicDamascus of that trip, now impossible, but not always inhabited.Byblos in Lebanon,Susa in Iran,Fayun in egypt and thracePlovdiv In Bulgaria we met last year, there are many others where each stone breathes history. However, possibly none of them has been in a strategic point as important as Samarkand ... and is that to understand the current city you have to go back to the past ...

At that time, Samarkand is located on the banks of the Zeravshan River, in the northernmost area we saw yesterday and where we are walking now, in a walled city on a hill, proud to be one of the oldest in Central Asia. The origins date back to the period in which the Persians conquered the area and are associated with the legend of King Afrosiab, when in the first millennium B.C. It existed as a great slave trade center. Maracanda, heleno name, would fall before the great Alexander the Great, but it would be reborn from its ashes again and again. Sasanids (Persians), the Umayyads of the East who Islamized the city to this day, Turks, Samanis and bloodthirsty Mongols transformed a city that already received the influences and inheritances of both sides of the planet. Paper, gold, spices, silk, gunpowder, food ... it was the capital of the Silk Road and Tamerlane, from 1370, would be responsible for making it the capital of his Empire.


Me love girls costumes. Especially when they are arranged for all the weddings we are seeing these days. The brides, of course, seem to have the same dress (the one who designed it will be lined, haha). They also go with their faces painted white ... how curious

By the way, no matter how much I drink and drink and drink ... I don't go to the bathroom. Could it be that I sweat everything at 40? hehehe

We have been excited !!! Haha, while we tell a story as exciting as it is brilliant, before us the visit that has impressed us most of all Samarkand… Shah-i-Zinda

Shah-i-Zinda (13), the most impressive necropolis ever seen

Perhaps we will exaggerate and we should put in the same bag the Egyptian funerary enclosures, of the Mount of Olives and some other around the world but, so hot, delving into Shah-i-Zinda supposes put on that Indiana Jones hat that always inspires our adventures and page logo and get lost in an enclosure of graves, temples and pantheons simply majestic

After paying the entrance fee (14,000 UZS each and 5000 USZ photo permit), we climbed some stairs in which a street is filled with color thanks to huge mausoleums of turquoise and indigo blue tones that form a necropolis born beyond the Middle Ages

We enter the complex through the Ulugh Beg portal, grandson of Tamerlane recognizable?

The current aspect is, of course, due to the Timurid influence, built under the reign of Ulugbek in the years 1434-1435 on behalf of his son Abdalasis. Thus the staircase leads to the two blue domes of the mausoleum of Qazi Zadeh Rumi, the largest, which is attributed to the two grandsons of Ulugbek, while you walk through beautiful greenish-blue majolica tiles.

The impressive main street is the one that houses the mausoleums of the 14th century with some of those that we have indicated on the map (with the information found on the internet) such as that of Amirzadeh and Shirin Biqa Aqa, sisters of Tamerlane, Emir Husseín, general of this one and his son. It is especially impressive Tughlu Tekin (also Amir Hussein)

Further on, it also highlights the stars and other decorations of the Alim Nasafi or Ulug Sultan Begim mausoleum, but beyond the protagonists, one feels within part of the story, embedded in narrow streets of a spectacular complex, where the silence required by the place transfers a special atmosphere to the feet of domes, mosaics and interiors no less impressive

But Shah-i-Zinda is not only an essential visit but it is the most important sacred place in the city, where here we can see religious motives. Legend has it that in the seventh century the Arabs who had brought Islam to Samarkand were surprised by an attack and Qusam Ibn-Abbas, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and promoter of the campaign was wounded and hidden underground where he remains alive for eternity and attracts pilgrimage year after year. In fact, Shah-i-Zinda means "Tomb of the Living King" in allusion to that legend

At the end of the road we reach the most important and ancient, the Qusam Ibn-Abbas mausoleum, at whose doors you can read a quote from the Quran that says "those who died on the path that leads to God are not dead; really still alive".

The final part contains some of the mausoleums that transmit more magic, perhaps because of its proximity or the enclosure they enclose. We would not know how to say it. It's about what they form Qutlugh Ata, Khawja Ahmad and Tuman Ata, some of the oldest in the complex but no less decorated.

From here you can climb some stairs and have access to the rest of the necropolis without much history and still used in the current times that extends over a few tens of hectares throughout Afrosiab. For travelers it may already have less interest and it is a good point to set course back on our steps ...

... although that means Paula will fall back into the nets of some babushka, haha, said with all the love because at this point of travel we have already realized how charming the Uzbek people are with the traveler. !! What a love with which they treat us !!

Are we still investigating this area Paula? Let's go there

Afrosiab enclosure and Ulugh Beg observatory (14)

The Afrosiab enclosure also has a museum of some interest (we thought it was expendable) and the Daniel's Tomb, but we had already set course since we read it at breakfast in the morning. He Ulugh Beg observatory is not near precisely and after walking a little we have decided to stop a taxi to get closer (40ºC are many degrees) for 5000 USZ after taking more water (2000 USZ). The funny thing is that he was carrying a local girl in the other direction (very pretty by the way) and has asked permission to take us first so he has come with us, haha.

Ulugh Beg ... but who is this man who appears even in the soup? Well, we are facing one of the greatest astronomers in history, as well as poet and mathematician.

In addition to a wedding (we do not stop seeing them these days), the greatest interest of this pleasant enclosure surrounded by gardens is to visit the biggest stone sextant in the world which can still be seen today (USZ 14,000 per person and 5,000 USZ photos)

Its construction dates from the beginning of the 15th century for which he was grandson of Tamerlane and you can visit a small museum although the one that is being visited again is Paula (!! often successful !!), this time for the little ones

Hunger squeezes so it can be a good time to stop again for a taxi and go find a place to eat. What do you think if we do it where yesterday? Terracita, near the Registan. We have been a little sorry not to get in with a couple of old ladies who were stopping to take us but we were already getting in an official taxi (5,000 USZ). From Labi Go'r we already told you yesterday when we visited the main attractionswhat to see in the Samarkand. Today some more shashlik fell and a cool beer that we are quite enjoying (47,000 USZ)

In practice and with a very calm rhythm, in 1 day and a half you can visit Samarkand. Now it would be a mistake to leave it there. Samarkand you have to live it, enjoy it, decipher it ... well it deserves one more day (we would have even stayed a quarter)

The spell of Registan: minaret and night

! Objective to visit the Registan from the top! It's possible? !Yes! From one of the minarets. And legal? As you look. As yesterday, we went to the back door, this time without surveillance. However, we go crazy and in the presence of a policeman we start talking about the minaret. How clever they are! They know which one is best according to the time of daylight. It has touched me (Paula prefers not to climb in case it is very claustrophobic) on the right as you look at the madrassa of Ulugbeg (1). They ask us for 10 USD, something exaggerated, but that after a couple of squeezes ends at 25,000 USZ. I am convinced that I could even lower more. The police scold me for teaching the money and until we arrive at a kind of store that gives access to a door It does not let me pay. Here we go ... alone up!

After quite a few stairs and perhaps something narrow, I finally reach its top. The views of the square are improvable since they are obstructed by a kind of protective plate. However, there is no better place to observe the decoration of the beautiful madrassas and their turquoise domes

In the distance, imposing, the Bibi Khanum mosque is spectacular. No wonder it is considered one of the largest and most beautiful in all of Central Asia.

There, enjoying and taking pictures, I remain until a Chinese interrupts my silence. It's funny how, so far, all we see are oriental tourists. Europeans hardly any French and Italians. In fact, the flights that arrived with us from Frankfurt were from Tokyo and Seoul. The descent also gives me access to a second floor of the Ulugbeg Madrasa from where I see its inner courtyard from a privileged position. What a wonder of constructions! What would this place be like centuries ago?

GREAT TRAVELERS: Do you remember Joan who recognized us yesterday in this same place? We have been meeting today by Samarkand and we have stayed for dinner (where we did yesterday). We must recognize that on the trip you meet wonderful people. He is one of those travelers who takes his backpack as soon as he can and soaks himself in that spirit of the scout backpacker and does not waste a minute of his life.

He comes from being in Kyrgyzstan and is improvising on the march although we believe that we are going to match him again these days as he goes to Bukhara and Jiva

The Bibi Khanum Chaikana, after refueling (4000 USZ), offers us again a nice dinner with Joan Today based on the famous Plov (rice with vegetables and meat) and fried chicken. Psee The food does not just convince us although it is a process for our next image ...

No one should leave Samarkand without seeing the enlightened, beautiful, magical Registan… awesome!

RESTAURANTS IN UZBEKISTAN | SAMARCANDA:More recommendations for those looking for gastronomic experiences ("made" in Alexa, Emma and other travelers) can be:
- Platan
- Samarkand Restaurant
- Besh Chinor
- Karimbek
- Cafe Nuren

Domes, minarets, arches, iwanes ... everything lights up leaving a stamp of those that stop time and is always stored in the retina