Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Magnificent Samarkand

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:00 PM
The bathroom at the Regal Palace hotel was spacious and the fixtures looked almost new. but dont let that deceive you because the shower door didnt go all the way down to the shower floor and the water shot out from under the door and flooded the bathroom soaking the footmat. I was standing in ankle deep water shampooing my hair when the shower head fell off. soapy and dripping, I ran to announce my misfortune to the reception. they let me finish my shower in another guest room. I've made sure to tell them to fix the shower. so much for brand new hotels.

Today we first visited the Historical museum. There were so many ancient ceramics on display and I took a picture of each piece. Glorious ceramic heaven. So many wonderful ancient artifacts, a museum wonder. It's one of the best museums I've visited.


The day was gorgeous, the sky blue and the morning cool when we visited Ulugbek's Observatory. All that remained of the observatory was the stone rail that curved upwards where the telescope rolled, and stairs going down to the chamber. Didnt know Timur's grandson was an astronomer/philosopher/mathematician.

The site in Samarkand that blew me away was the Shahi-Zida necropolis. What a magnificent place in a magnificent location on the slope of the Afrasiab hill. You entered through the southern portal and up the staircase into a narrow passage where the Timur mausoleums with uniquely painted portals one after another flanked both sides of the passage. Then the passage opened up to a wider area where the Central Group of mausoleums appeared and it ended in the Northern Group, and upon the hill a modern cemetery, with highly decorated and well maintained tombs. Some members of the group said it was more beautiful than Ricoleta. Mmm. Couldnt really agree.

Next finally we reached the Registan. Judy said that was the 'wow' factor for her. But I wasnt totally impressed. 3 madrasas formed the square (registan = sandy place) and there were rows of benches in front of the square for spectators as the square itself was roped off and one needed to pay to get in. While the rest of the group went to a restaurant across from the square for lunch, some of us went ahead to admire the place. It's really not as big as I've imagined. Maybe because by now I had quite enough of the Persian Islamic architecture, with the same colors on the same arches, over and over throughout the trip, the Registan, probably the highlight of the entire trip, wasnt too impressive to me. I've enjoyed smaller scaled Khiva and Bukhara so much more. Nonetheless sitting there on a bench with a full view of the entire ensemble was quite a nice way to take it all in. After visiting the Registan's Madrasas, we were finally given free time to shop. The pedestrian only shopping avenue was just a block from the Registran. Modern shops lined both sides of the modern wide avenue. Every shop was the same, offered the same souvenirs. Only the prices were different because it depended on how much you could barter. Soon all of us were carrying plastic bags filled with tshirts, scarves and other goodies. The avenue ended at the Bibi-Khanym Mosque and behind it the bazar. For the rest of our free time, we sat on the benches and compared shopping notes in the presence of the 3 imposing monuments of the infamous silk road city, the world renowned Samarkand.

Dinner was at a local house on the edge of town, whose owner opened up his house to feed the tourists. We had the famous Plov which wasnt too good. Rice with 2 big pieces of meat and carrots, and how could that be their famous dish? The salads were exquisite but the house wine was poor. The dinning hall is an open room with a canopy, and the night was cold and we were freezing. and therefore couldnt really enjoy the meal.

the registan

Samarkand photos

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