SamarkandUzbekistan. The city center is a .
Pre-Islamic eraThe site of Samarkand was sporadically occupied in the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. A city was founded in pre-Achaemenid times, between 650 and 550BC. A wall followed the whole circuit of the plateau (5.5 km), complemented by another one which separates the town from the acropolis, situated in the northern part and itself including a citadel raised on an artificial platform. The massive wall, 7-m thick, was made of coarse mud bricks, all of which bear a mark, an indication that labour was strictly organized in groups of workers. Similar building techniques have been noticed at other Sogdian and pre-Sogdian sites during that pre-Achaemenid period.
The city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. It was named Maracanda by the Greeks. Two phases of Greek occupation can be distinguished, the first lasting from Alexander to the second half of the 3rd century BC and a second period of reconquest under the Greco-Bactria king Eucratides (171-145 BC). The pottery differs markedly between these two phases.
The pre-Islamic Sogdia civilization is best documented from excavations at Panjikent, which was the capital at that time; the town is near Samarkand but now across a border in Tajikistan. At Samarqand, the major source of evidence for this period is the aristocratic residence with the famous wall paintings which were commissioned for a reception hall ca. 660AD, probably by King Varkhuman.
It subsequently grew as a trade center on the Silk Road, the great trading route between China and the Mediterranean region.
In 1220 Samarkand was almost completely destroyed by the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan. It flourished again when Timur-i-Leng (known as Tamerlane in the West) made it the capital of his empire in 1369. As his capital Timur put Samarkand on the world map and much of the architecture visible today was built by him or his descendants. The empire declined in the 15th century, and nomadic Uzbeks (Shaybanids) took Samarkand in 1500. In 1784 the emirate of Bukhara conquered it. The city was taken by Russia in 1868 and once again began to assume importance. From 1924 to 1930, Samarkand was the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).
Samarkand International AirportDaily flights to Tashkent ($21) except on Mondays and Fridays. Other destinations are Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kazan all with Uzbekistan Airways. Domestic tickets can only be bought at the airport in US dollars.
Samarkand Railway Stationis 5 km northwest of Navoi Park. Take bus 22 or marshrutka 3,27,35 or 72 that says Вокзал from
Registan stopfor 1,000 som. A taxi from the city centre is about 5,000 som. Train tickets for all routes in Uzbekistan can be also bought at the brand new
Ticket Officein new town. Trains get very crowded so it is advisable to book a few days ahead.
There are a few daily trains to and from Tashkent. Besides the slow local trains there is the super fast Afrosiob and the still fast Sharq train that continues to Bukhara. For Khiva take the night trains to Urgench and hop on a marshrutka or shared taxi. For departure times see the Uzbekistan#Get around section.
The most popular international route is from Saint Petersburg (93 hr) via Volgograd (57 hr) departing every Friday at 07:30 arriving five nights later at 06:26. This train bypasses Moscow, nearest stop is in the town of Ozherelye. There is also a weekly connection from Alma-Ata departing every Sunday at 15:50 arriving 07:59 two nights later.
By carSamarkand is about 4 hours by road from Tashkent; shared taxis leave from Sobir Rahimov bus station.
The distance to Samarkand from Tashkent is 290 km, from Bokhara 270 km, from Khiva 740 km, from Andizhan 610 km, from Fergana 600 km, from Karshi 150 km, from Kokand 500 km, from Nukus 820 km, from Shahrisabz 90 km, from Termez 380 km and from Urgench 700 km.
Yellow taxis can be taken all over. 4,000 som is a standard fare pretty much anywhere in the city. 5,000 for the outskirts. Some will try to overcharge (as much as 10,000), some won't. Don't bother trying for cheaper than 4,000 but it's quite easy to haggle it down from any higher than that.
The only taxi app is TaxiOk, which doesn't allow you to enter your destination and wait times can be more than 10 minutes.
City buses (white minibuses) are tired and wheezy. Catching them is a slow and frustrating experience. You can plan your travel using WikiRoutes app, but it is not completely accurate. You might not be able to exit at desired station if the bus is tightly packed. Standard fare is 1400 som which you pay upon leaving.
Registan EnsembleRegistan became the city square when the life in Afrosiab stopped. Since that time Registan was reconstructed several times. Today it is surrounded by the three medreses Ulugbek, Shirdor and Tilla Kari. At night the guards will let you in for $5 or $10. They may suggest you climb up onto the roof of one of the Madrasah, which is not advisable, dangerous, dusty and with limited interest.
Shirdor MadrasahMedrese Shirdor repeats the facade and composition of Ulugbek medrese opposite. In Shirdor medrese the first floor is preserved, whereas it is destroyed in Ulugbek medrese. The entrance portal has images of a tiger (“shir”, hence the name Shirdor). Ornaments and decorations are very rich, but its quality is worse than of Ulugbek medrese. Shirdor medrese was erected by order of Uzbek feudal lord Yalangtush in 1619-1632. Inscriptions of medrese show the names of the masters Abdaldjabbar and Muhammad-Abbas.
Ulugbek MadrasahThe oldest medrese on Registan, is a large rectangular building with monumental portal and a yard with four-verandahs, surrounded by cells for students and with four classrooms in the corners. In the western part is a winter mosque. The corners of the building are decorated with high minarets. The decorations consists of glazed and unglazed bricks, mosaics, majolica, carving marble. The most beautiful decorations are those of the main portal, where geometric, vegetative and epigraphic decorations were used. Inscriptions mention Ulugbek and several dates relating to the stages of construction. Construction of the medrasah finished in 823 (1420).
Tilla Kari MadrasahIn 1660 the Tilya-Kori ("Gilded") Madrasah was built. It was not only a residential college for students, but also played the role of grand mosque. It has a two-storied main facade and a vast courtyard fringed by dormitory cells, with four galleries along the axes. The mosque building is in the western section of the courtyard. The main hall of the mosque is abundantly gilded.
Gur Emir Mausoleumaddress: AkhunbabayevTomb of the conqueror Tamerlane, built and beautifully reconstructed from 1404-1405 and 15-17th centuries. Includes the largest piece of jade (greenstone) in the world.
Shakhi-Zinda EnsembleAn ancient necropolis (9-14th, 19th centuries) situated on southeastern mound of Afrosiab. Consists of 44 tombs in more than 20 mausoleums. Shah E Zinda was the first cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and resembled the Prophet the most. (Hadrat Hissam Ibne Abbass or Kissam Ibne Abbass)
Afrosiabaddress: Tashkent kochasiThe ruined site of ancient and medieval Samarqand in the northern part of the modern town. A museum is in the center of the remains, housing a wall mural showing proof of diplomatic relations with the Chinese. The famous Persian Pehlvan Rustam and Sohrab belonged to the Afrosiyob.
Tomb of Prophet Danieladdress: AfrosiabThe reputed tomb of the Hebrew Prophet Daniel, in the cemetery section of Afrosiab next to a pleasant stream. For a small fee you may enter the tomb, which contains a burial chamber around 18 meters long. Muslim men will offer prayers while you listen respectfully. After the conquest of Syria the grave was transported to Samarkand under the orders of Amir Temur.
Al-Bukhari MausoleumAl Buxori was a collector of the sayings of prophet Muhamed, and compiled them into a book known as Hadith Bukhari Sharif or Bukhari Sahih. He was buried in the place where his mausoleum is located now. The present building was constructed on top of the original grave of Imam Al-Bukhari in 1997 (1225 years after the imam's death) by the Uzbek government with support from other Muslim governments - the bricks were delivered from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, green marble from Pakistan, financing from Iran, and builders and artists from Uzbekistan and Iran. Visited daily by about 1,000 visitors from all over the world. The complex consists of Al Bukhari's mosque and grave and a museum exhibiting Qurans from some Muslim countries.
Abu Mansoor Al Matrudi MausoleumThe Mausoleum of great Sunni Faqi is in Mirza Zaheer. Ud Din Babur, in his book Babur Noma, praised the knowledge and Command on Fiqah of Abu Mansoor Al Matrudi.
Rukhabad Mausoleumaddress: AkhunbabayevThis is a central square mausoleum without portal with four identical facades. The arch entrance is decorated by blue glazed tiles and eventually the cupola was also covered by glazed tiles. According to manuscripts Rukhabat mausoleum ("place of spirit presence") was the burial place of the Samarkand sufi Burkhan ad-Din Sagardji, who died in 1380s. The mausoleum was built at a time, when central compositions were not popular and decorations of burial architecture was very rich. On the occasion of anniversary of Amir Timur in 1996 all buildings, which were not related to the monument, were destroyed and the ruins of constructions of Rukhabat complex – the mosque, khidjras, medrese and minaret came to light.
Abdi Darun EnsembleThe mausoleum was erected over the grave of famous lawyer. It has been reconstructed for several times. A 'ziaratkhana' was built in front of mausoleum during the reign of Ulugbek. The portal and cupola drum are decorated with geometric ornaments and inscriptions from glazed bricks. In the cemetery are 'dahmas' (large grave constructions), dating to the 15 cent., covered with glazed tiles. The mosque was constructed at the beginning of 20 cent. It consists of a winter room and a summer column aivan, decorated by pottery carving and colored paintings. A small medrese was added at the end of 19th century.
Ishrat-khana Mausoleumaddress: Sadriddin AyniyRuined and atmospheric with no people at all.
Khodja Ahrar EnsembleThe grave of the famous religious and state benefactor of 15th century. Nakshbandi Ubeidallah Ahrar is decorated by white marble tiles covered by inscriptions. The Medrese of Nadira divan-begi is a one floor building with a traditional four-aivans yard composition. The main entrance is decorated by portal, two khudjras are situated on the both sides of it as well as in the north and south parts of building. The western part of building is a mosque with a huge portal, main hall (mikhrab) and four rooms. The mosque was probably built in the 15th century, but the medrese was erected in 1040-1045 (1630-1636) according to the order of well-known official Nadira divan-begi by architect Dust-Mukhammad. The decoration are very typical for 17th century: majolica, mosaic of high quality. The decorations of entrance portal are illustrating tigers and does. The summer mosque was built in 17th century in the south from medrese. The decorations of mikhrab niche of this mosque are very similar to medrese. The column aivan (verandah) between medrese and summer mosque was constructed or reconstructed in later period. At the beginning of the 20th century ceiling of aivan was covered by vivid paintings. A small minaret, which is situated opposite to aivan, was erected in 1909 by Sadulla architect.
- Visit a spa/banya for a Samarkand deep tissue massage.
One ATM which dispenses som directly (albeit with a 4% transaction fee) can be found next to "Art Cafe" near Siob marketplace. It only accepts Visa. MasterCard is far less widely accepted.
- Samarkand Zeera (black cumin) is famous all over the world for its aroma.
- Samarkand Pistachio, smaller in size but very popular.
- Samarkand Shafran Or Zafran is famous but inferior in quality as compared with Iranian saffron.
Local restaurantaddress: Suzangaron streetGreat real local restaurant in a side street only a few meters from the Registan. They offer good shashlik and other Uzbek food. Beer and vodka are available too.
Cafe Nuraddress: Registan 9Ordinary clean local cafe selling pizza (3,500 som), including vegetarian options. Good for travellers because of the location and because the owner speaks excellent English.
Exclusive Restaurantphone: +998 66 233-6090address: #92, Amir Timur StArmenian food in Samarkand. Well frequented by local Armenians of all ages.
Regal Palace Restaurantaddress: Regal Palace HotelIndian food prepared by Indian chef, including vegetarian options. The only restaurant offering Indian food.
Istiqloladdress: 157, Amir Temur StServing shurpa, lagman, mastava, homemade noodles, guj, plov, manti, shashlik, pelmeni, dul or barra.
Karim Bekaddress: 194 Gagarina Stserving variety of food. The restaurant hall turns into a disco at 20:00 with number of difference dance shows at 21:00.
Cafe Magistrphone: +998 66 266 00 20, +998 66 250 15 51address: 30/45 Buston SaroyExcellent pizzas, vegetarian options, reasonable prices and friendly staff (the manager speaks excellent English) makes this place one of the best eateries in town. Ask for both the English and Russian menu as the English is old and is wrongly priced. Beer served but not on menu. Free WiFi.
Aziz Supermarketaddress: Pochta 6The only super market in town
Sikhookyung Korean Restaurantphone: +998 66 378 12 11A good Korean restaurant with friendly service
Super Osh Cafeaddress: Orzi Makhmudov StSamarkand style "Osh" or "Plov" with sweet carrots. Somsa also available, prepared in external ovens. Go early, can get full. Super Osh was once an Italian restaurant hence the anachronistic decor.
Anjiraddress: Beruniy 56b 703000True local restaurant. No English menu but pictures are enough. 7500 som for two kebabs, twice that for a dish. Very good quality food, popular with locals.
Teahouse-cafe Oriental sweetsaddress: Tashkentskaya Str.The building was constructed at the end of 19th century as a caravansarai.
Bahodir B&Bphone: +998 (83) 66 235 85 29address: Mulokandov 132This place seems to be the main meeting point for backpackers in Samarkand. The courtyard with teabeds makes a nice place for few beers and sharing travel stories. The staff is friendly, honest and willing to sell beer from their fridge. However, if staying in the dorm, the shared bathroom and toilet is a bit claustrophobic, but not bad. There is Wi-Fi but had some kind of problem.
phone: +998 66 391-9244address: Chirokchi #4Jahongir B&B is in the heart of historical part of Samarkand within 5 minutes from Registan Ensemble. Comfortable rooms with modern amenities. Services include: dinners on request, wireless internet, taxi on call, guide services, laundry & dry clean.
Hotel Zarafshanphone: +998 662 333 372address: 65 Sharaf Rashidov StA renovated old Soviet hotel with loads of moody charm. Rooms are variable, so ask to see more than one if the first isn't to your liking. The front desk staff were very helpful.
address: Samarkand,Republik of Uzbekistan,Ali Kushchi st.43B&B with rooms set around a courtyard. They also do dinners on request which are a delicious and massive spread and very reasonable. The son of the owner speaks English.
phone: +998 97 916-66-77address: A.Djomiy Str. 45Opened in 2017. Has clean facilities, friendly and outgoing owners and feels homey. Basic dormitories but new beds, lockers and privacy curtains. Good wifi.
phone: +998 97 4431080address: Kunaev Street, Samarkand Airport
phone: +998 662 330197address: 37, Khamraev St
phone: +998 66 2334086address: 53, Shokhrukh StrFour-star hotel opened 2004, centrally located, restaurant, swimming pool
Orient Star Hotelphone: +998 66 2322906address: 33. Daghitskaja Str.Opened 2001, in the heart of the old town, restaurant, swimming pool.
Railways Stationphone: +998 66 291532address: Beruny Str
Airportphone: +998 66 321102, +998 66 352894, +998 66 2308641address: Abdullaev Str
- Shakhrisabz, 100 km from Samarkand
- Penjikent (Tajikistan), 60 km from Samarkand
- Urgut, 30 km southeast of Samarkand, spectacular bazaar
- To Tashkent, shared taxis leave from Ulughbek bus station. As of April 2019 they should cost no more than 50,000 and take about 4-5 hours. Bargain hard and ask around, some will take you for 40,000.