After breakfast we start our full day tour of Samarkand. There lots to see in this famous Silk Road City. We start with a visit the Afrosiab Museum. The museum is built on the excavation site of Marakanda (old Samarkand). The museum houses an interesting display of the remains from the past few millennia. We also visit the nearby Observatory of Mirza Ulug Baig. Although there is not much of the original building left, this is a place of great scientific discoveries. Here, from his observations, Ulug Baig produced the Zij-e-Sultani, the comprehensive star catalogue with astronomical tables. These measurements were later used by various other scientists, including Copernicus. To honour his work, German astronomer Johan Heinrich named the Ulug Baig crater after him on the Moon. Our next stop is a visit to a very interesting paper making factory. This little environmentally friendly traditional paper mill exists on the outskirts of Samarkand and uses no electricity whatsoever. The only power tool here is run by a watermill. The visit will provide a great insight into how silk paper was produced centuries ago. For dinner we will find a local restaurant that will give us the opportunity to savour some local flavours. Overnight at hotel. Our next stop is the visit to Samarkand’s most impressive monument – The Registan Square, one of the grandest ensembles of monuments in all of Central Asia. The intricate exteriors of these edifices are the most unique in the world.
In fact, this is also the precursor of the art and architecture of the world famous Mogul Art that created the Taj Mahal. The square’s three Madrassahs face each other with glory and pride. The Madrassa of Ulug Baig was completed in 1420. It is believed that Ulug Baig himself taught Mathematics and Astronomy here. Right across from it is the Sher Dor (lion’s door) Madrassa. Its grand entrance depicts two lions, one of the very few examples of Islamic art depicting an animal. The third Madrassa is Tilla Kari (gold covered), finished in 1660. It also houses a mosque that is intricately decorated with gold.
After a visit to this world famous site, we head on to visit Bibi Khanum’s Mosque. Bibi Khanum was Taimur’s (Tamerlane’s) prominent Chinese wife. She had an appreciation of art. She herself ordered the construction of this mosque as a surprise for her husband while he was away on a conquest. The mosque was one of the grandest of its time. The entrance alone is 35 meters high. Its massive dome is visible from miles away. As our guide will take you through the inner parts of the mosque he may (if you insist) share the story of the architect’s romance with Bibi Khanum, who dared to ask for kiss. We won’t spoil the story here, but your guide will tell you what happened to him when Taimur returned. We head on to explore the Shah-e-Zindan (living king). The name refers to the shrine of Qussm Ibne Abass who in the 7 th century is credited with bringing Islam from Mecca. There are many other shrines belonging to the close family of Ulug Baig and Emir Taimur, some of them worth the visit to this exquisite graveyard. We will take our lunch break in a local style restaurant, maybe try out some Pulau (Pilaff in Turkish), a rice dish cooked with meat and nuts. We can spend our afternoon exploring the bazaar near Bibi Khanum’s mosque A walk in this market will give a great insight into the culture of this part of the world. From fruits to cleaning brooms, everything is sold here. Try some bargain deals just for fun.
SAMARKAND – TASHKENT on local fast train – 5pm
This evening we will take you to the local train station for your train to Tashkent. Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to your hotel for overnight.