Thursday, May 18, 2023

[SAMARKAND] Registan and Necropolis


I liked Samarkand more than Bukhara, and I don’t know why. I mean, both are captivating alright but perhaps it is Samarkand’s versatility that I admire? Tashkent is all modern with some hints of its Soviet past. Bukhara, on the other hand, is old. Like, you guys adjust to it being old rather than the other way around. Samarkand feels like it is happy to compromise and wants to prove that it can be both. My first impression of the city was just the right blend of Tashkent and Bukhara.


In any case, both Samarkand and Bukhara have a lot to brag about from sharing the distinction of being the longest inhabited cities in Central Asia all the way to their importance in the Silk Road trade that bolstered their reputation even further as they changed hands from one empire to another. The attractions are pretty much in the same vein, mostly madrassas and mosques with those characteristic rectangular Iwans adorned by glittery tiles, most of the time blue.


Samarkand got the shorter end of the stick in this trip, though, as I could only give it one day as opposed to the two days I had for Bukhara. The plan was just to visit Registan Square in the morning and the evening, but then some skimming of Wikitravel left me intrigued by this attraction named Shah-i-Zinda. And so I decided to give the 9 AM - 11 AM sightseeing slot to it believing that I would only be passing by to take a photo of the facade. Lo and behold, I found myself at the counter paying the UZS40,000 (~PHP200) admission fee. Bye, bye, two hours of my morning.


Fifteen minutes? That’s not enough for all the videos and pictures you will be taking of the mausoleums, of which this necropolis has plenty. Most of them share either the standard blue-tiled or beige-bricked motif, though. Those tiles are what you will be focusing on most of the time, especially at day time when they just glimmer under the sun. Entry is allowed into most of the mausoleums and there are clear signs saying photography is not allowed, yet it is widely tolerated in practice.


Most of the mausoleums belong to Timur’s relatives, but the collection had a wide scope of almost eight centuries. Timur a.k.a. Tamerlane founded the Timurid Empire and lived his life as an undefeated conqueror. His empire spanned almost the entirety of Central Asia during its heydays. Lots of names, places, and dates. I guess this is what I somehow enjoy about traveling. You look at a certain attraction or monument and get intrigued, and then you end up reading about it to satisfy your curiosity, until you just find yourself in a deep ocean of information you are now drowning in. History!


As mentioned, the two-hour morning slot was already consumed entirely at Shah-i-Zinda. Most of the afternoon was spent working, because our source of income is always our priority. Sightseeing resumed as the sun went down at quarter past seven, right after dinner at a restaurant right across Registan. It was the perfect time to go because the sunset blends well with the lit-up facades of the madrassas. Between the square and the main avenue are wide steps made of marble where people usually chill and take photos of the three madrassas.


The madrassas are not restricted and you can enter them. Most of what you will find inside are shops and a cafe here and there. The one in the middle also has a courtyard and a small park as its centerpiece. I no longer explored the other two madrassas facing each other because it's already one heck of a sight to see from the outside. The many people just loitering within the vicinity are an added plus if you are a fan of people watching.


In the end, I’m glad that I included Samarkand in the itinerary and I am still surprised how it snatched the title of being this itinerary’s highlight from Bukhara. Wizz Air flies the Abu Dhabi - Samarkand route and can be a cheap flight connection for you if you can transit without hassles in the United Arab Emirates. Landing in Samarkand puts you in the middle of Bukhara and Tashkent. Where you head to next is totally up to you. Try out the Afrosiyob bullet train to either destination if you could.

[SAMARKAND] Registan and Necropolis

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