We travel not for trafficking alone
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned
For lust of knowledge what should not be known
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.
These words of the early 20th century poet James Elroy Flecker capture the magic of Samarkand that captivated Alexander the Great who spoke of Samarkand as a city with a beauty beyond imagination.
From that time on the very mention of the name of Samarkand or Marakanda as the Greeks would say, evokes the the same response as Shangri-la or Timbuktu in the mind’s imagination.
On the way to Samarkand we stopped at the Emir’s summer palace built by Russian architects in the early 20th century for the last emir. This was the first electricity that the Khanate had ever seen. From there we began a 5 to 6 hour drive that followed the old commercial trade road and stopped by a Sardoba from the 16th century which was a reservoir that provided water for the carvanserai. Across the road you can see the remains of a large caravanserai.
There has been a settlement here since the 5th century BC which was the walled capital of Sogdiana taken by Alexander in 329 BC. Samarkand was a key city on the Silk Road however it was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1220. Timur, that is Tamerlane in 1370 made it his capital and within 35 years it was an economic and cultural center. And his grandson Ulugbek promoted its development as an intellectual center.
When I arrived I went immediately to the mausoleum of Tamerlane. The blue dome is amazing
and under the dome is the stone marker under which is his crypt. My guide remarked that on the stone of Tamerlane is inscribed: whoever opens this grave will be defeated by an enemy more fearsome than I. The Soviets opened the crypt in 1941. And the next day June 22 Hitler attached the Soviet Union.
Tomorrow I will spend more time at the Registan however to see it even if for a brief moment was like a dream.
This is one of the most awe-inspiring complexes in central Asia. These three madrassas are some of the best preserved in the world.