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The Re-birth of Samarkhand

sunny 19 °C

Until 1921 Uzbekistan was ruled by the Emir even though it was under Russian influence, but when the Soviets took control the Emir fled across the border to Afghanistan with his four wives and many concubines. He left behind his summer palace in Bhukara. This was the concubine's harem..

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The next stop on the Silk Road is Samarkhand. The name conjures images of an oasis in the heart of the central Asian desert: endless caravans of heavily laden camels accompanied by flambouyantly attired Persians, Arabs and Mongols, seeking refreshment and relief from the scorching sands as they make the lengthy journey to Constantinople carrying the riches of China and Southeast Asia. It's a very exotic notion - but we came by high speed train...

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We 'flew' across the desert from Bukhara at 200 kilometres an hour and landed in the ultra-modern city of Samarkhand in less than two hours. But if our time machine could transport us back 2,300 years, here we would witness Alexander the Great conquer this city that was already 500 years old. Wars, wars and more wars have left deep scars in this part of the world. The Iranians, the Turks and Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes ravaged this land to control the trade routes of Central Asia and pillage its gold and treasures and then came the Russians in 1876 and the Soviet era beginning in 1921. And with the Soviets came destruction...

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Under communism, the madrassas and mosques were bombed and defiled and religious practice outlawed. By the time of the fall of the USSR and independence in 1991 the religious monuments of Uzbekistan were in a sorry state. But today...

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This is the Registan in the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand of the Temurid dynasty. The name Rēgistan means "Sandy place" or "desert" in Persian. It was a public square where people gathered to hear royal proclamations heralded by blasts on enormous copper pipes called dzharchis, and a place of public executions. It is surrounded by three great madrassas dating back 600 years to the time of Tamerlane, (a.k.a. Temur the Great). However, what we see today has mainly been reconstructed from ruins in the past 30 years. This is a ceiling of a madrassa..

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And this is the mausoleum of the great hero, Temur. He is credited with unifying and pacifying Central Asia at the end of the 14th century (though little is made of the fact that he killed millions of people in the process).

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And this is just one of the beautifully restored tiled domes...

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However the Great Bukhara Bazaar isn't a match for the Mammoth Samarkhand Marketplace. Every historic building is a shopping experience; every nook and cranny a display space; every exit an opportunity for one final shot at selling some 'handmade' bauble.

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However, unlike the trinket pushers in some countries, the Uzbek salespeople are generally not pushy. In fact they are very polite. Men and women sit quietly making handicrafts while we are encouraged to believe that they are snowed under with their handiwork. C'est la vie...

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Posted by Hawkson 21:31 Archived in Uzbekistan

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Comments

The items sold in this market remind me of shirts worn by Ukrainian dancers. I love the colours and it does look peaceful.

by Janet

The piece of the embroidery the woman is working on in the bottom photograph is beautiful. Are you sure you do not want to rent a camel to carry many desired purchases for you on your journey along the Silk Road?

by Sue Fitzwilson

Gorgeous tile work. Love the colours. Taken too by the cat pillow case lower left. High speed trains everywhere but here!

by Tom

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