Samarkand

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Samarkand from Sogdian: "Stone Fort" or "Rock Town" is the third-largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarqand Province. The city is most noted for its central position on the Silk Road between China and the West, and for being an Islamic centre for scholarly study. In the 14th century it became the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane) and is the site of his mausoleum (the Gur-e Amir). The Bibi-Khanym Mosque remains one of the city's most notable landmarks. The Registan was the ancient center of the city.In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.

The city was known by an abbreviated name of Marakanda when Alexander the Great took it in 332 BC. There are various theories of how Marakanda evolved into Samarkanda. One derives the name from the Old Persian asmara, "stone", "rock", and Sogdian kand, "fort", "town". Others less convincingly derive the name from the old Turkic "Semiz-Kent" meaning "Rich City". Since the name Marakanda was already in existence 2300 years ago and long before anyone had heard of Turks in that region of Transoxiana, this version is likely a folk etymology.

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Along with Bukhara, Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, prospering from its location on the trade route between China and the Mediterranean (Silk Road). At times Samarkand has been one of the greatest cities of Central Asia. Founded circa 700 BC by the Sogdians, Samarkand has been one of the main centres of Sogdian civilization from its early days. It was already the capital of the Sogdian satrapy under the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia when Alexander the Great conquered it in 329 BC. The Greeks referred to Samarkand as Maracanda. 

Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the rab conquest (except at the time of early Sassanids, such as Shapur I). In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks. At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came under Arab control. Under Abbasid rule, the legend goes, the secret of papermaking was obtained from two Chinese prisoners from the Battle of Talas in 751, which led to the first paper mill in the Islamic world being founded in Samarkand. The invention then spread to the rest of the Islamic world, and from there to Europe.From the 6th to the 13th century it grew larger and more populous than modern Samarkand and was controlled by the Western Turks, Arabs (who converted the area to Islam), Persian Samanids, Kara-Khanid Turks, Seljuk Turks, Kara-Khitan, and Khorezmshah before the Mongols arrived in 1220.

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Although Genghis Khan "did not disturb the inhabitants of the city in any way," according to Juvaini he killed all who took refuge in the citadel and the mosque. He also pillaged the city completely and conscripted 30,000 young men along with 30,000 craftsmen. Samarkand suffered at least one other Mongol sack by Khan Baraq to get treasure he needed to pay an army. The town took many decades to recover from these disasters.The Travels of Marco Polo, where Polo records his journey along the Silk Road, describes Samarkand as a "a very large and splendid city..." 

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In 1365, a revolt against Mongol control occurred in Samarkand. In 1370, Timur decided to make Samarkand the capital of his empire, which extended from India to Turkey. During the next 35 years he built a new city and populated it with artisans and craftsmen from all of the places he had conquered. Timur gained a reputation as a patron of the arts and Samarkand grew to become the centre of the region of Transoxiana. During this time the city had a population of about 150,000. Between 1424 and 1429, the great astronomer Ulughbeg built the Samarkand Observatory. The sextant was 11 metres long and once rose to the top of the surrounding three-storey structure, although it was kept underground to protect it from earthquakes. Calibrated along its length, it was the world’s largest 90-degree quadrant at the time. However, the observatory was destroyed by religious fanatics in 1449. In 1500 the Uzbek nomadic warriors took control of Samarkand. The Shaybanids emerged as the Uzbek leaders at or about this time.In the second quarter of 16th century, the Shaybanids moved their capital to Bukhara and Samarkand went into decline. After an assault by the Persian king, Nadir Shah, the city was abandoned in the 18th century, about 1720 or a few years later.

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From 1599 to 1756, Samarkand was ruled by the Ashtarkhanid dynasty of Bukhara. From 1756 to 1868, Samarkand was ruled by the Manghyt emirs of Bukhara.The city came under Russian rule after the citadel had been taken by a force under Colonel Konstantin Petrovich von Kaufman in 1868. Shortly thereafter the small Russian garrison of 500 men were themselves besieged. The assault, which was led by Abdul Malik Tura, the rebellious elder son of the Bukharan Emir, and Bek of Shahrisabz, was beaten off with heavy losses. Alexander Abramov, became the first Governor of the Military Okrug which the Russians established along the course of the Zeravshan River, with Samarkand as the administrative centre. The Russian section of the city was built after this point, largely to the west of the old city.In 1886 the city became the capital of the newly formed Samarkand Oblast of Russian Turkestan and grew in importance still further when the Trans-Caspian railway reached the city in 1888. It became the capital of the Uzbek SSR in 1925 before being replaced by Tashkent in 1930.

 

PLACES YOU SHOULD VISIT:

Registan Square 

Guri-Amir Mausoleum 

Bibi-Khanum Mosque 

Shahi-Zinda Necropolis 

Ulugbek's Observatory and Museum 

The Ancient Settlement of Afrosiab 

The Relic of Three Religions 

Rukhabad Shrine 

The Hazrat-Hyzr Mosque 

The Maturidiy Shrine 

Imam Al-Bukhari Complex 

Tashkent Street – the street of craftsmen 

The Siab Bazaar 

University Boulevard