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The 5 Stans of the Silk Road

RooFlyer

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Back to our drive from Bukhara to Samarkand, about 270km, but which would take about 5 hrs driving because the road is atrocious. Rough!

On the outskirts of Bukhara is the Emir's summer palace, built about 100 years ago. As in Turkey, the rulers were liking the European architecture, and the Emir of Bukhara had had schooling in Russia, so the style is very Russian but with Islamic flourishes.

There are a seriues of buildings - the palace, a guests's lodge and a harem, spread over a few acres. None of the buildings are 'grand' in the European style.

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Reception hall:

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A row of enfilade rooms, just like you'd see in any of the Tsar's palaces (but at a much more modest scale :) )

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The following pics are of the ceiling and wall decoration.

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Meet the family ...

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Women wore these horrid, heavy burkas until the Soviets outlawed them.

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RooFlyer

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The road between Bukhara and Samerkand was a main trunk of the Silk Road and the Royal Road for the Bukharian Emirs. It's a green strip within an otherwise arid environment.

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A dome covered water hole/ cistern for travelers

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And opposite, the remains of a caravanserai, with only the entrance portal intact

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Ruins behind the portal

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Lunch at a road side cafe. Plov ( lamb, rice, garlic, spices) or vege ( tomato) skewers. The lamb here is great. I'm eating much more than at home and it's very, very cheap ( my serve of plov was A$1)

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RooFlyer

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Then out at 6pm to see the tomb of Timur, sometimes known as Tamerlane. It was only 5 mins walk from our hotel.

Timur (1336-1405) was the last of the great nomadic conquerors of central Asia. This was his empire at its peak; Delhi to the Bosporus, all through Iran to the south and the lands to the north. He campaigned to Moscow, but there wasn't much there at the time to worry about.

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He was appropriately called the 'Sword of Islam' and is 'credited' with the deaths of up to 17 million people during his creation of the Timurid Empire. He was the ancestor of Babur, the founder of the Indian Mughal Islamic empire which lasted from 1526 to 1857.

A local Uzbek boy, born in Shahrizabz (we visit it tomorrow I think) he is celebrated here in spite of the brutal nature of his conquests. He died at about 70 on a campaign and was brought to Samarkand for burial, in the grand tomb he had built for his favorite grandson.

The view on approach:

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There appear to be a number of tiles missing from the dome ... possibly too difficult to replace!

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There used to be 4 minarets, but two collapsed. This is an earthquake zone, so its no small miracle that the others, and indeed the whole dome, has survived.

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RooFlyer

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More from the tomb inside. He's buried well below the black marker, typical of Islamic tombs (think the Taj Mahal, which may have been based on this structure). Others of his family are buried with him.

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Like most domes here, its a double - a smaller dome exposed inside and a larger, covering dome on the outside.

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Some detail from outside:

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And some parting shots. It was a sublime experience in the early evening.

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RooFlyer

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Then off to dinner, in a somewhat up-market place called Platan. We were in the (fake) Library Room.

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It was some-one's birthday, so in lieu of a cake (too hot to transport), we had a red wine or vodka tasting. After tasting the local merlot, JohnM and I were content to buy a bittle - the first of the trip - an apparently 2008 bottling for the equivalent of A$17 - which our guide was shocked we paid!!

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Some menu pages (just a few - its very extensive). Currency is the Som, and 9,000 Som = US$1.

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Started with eggplant rolls (half already scoffed, sorry)

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Most of us had variations on lamb and potatoes or rice. Mine was the 'House kebab', with potatoes and was wonderful

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Then, the bill settling ceremony. Everywhere so far has allowed individual bills. This was the table's payment - my share was A$20, including half the wine, which was great value.

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RooFlyer

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But we were not yet done!! Last item was a visit to the 'Registan' - more on ths later, but this was a night viewing of the highlight of Samarkand. Unfortunately, they are setting up for a music festival, so there is some light gantries and other obstacles, but it was spectacular to view it from the side!

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RooFlyer

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But we were not yet done!! Last item was a visit to the 'Ragistan' - more on ths later, but this was a night viewing of the highlight of Samarkand. Unfortunately, they are setting up for a music festival, so there is some light gantries and other obstacles, but it was spectacular to view it from the side!

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RooFlyer

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Maybe we could interest him if we took some avocado smoothies, and a box of aloe vera tissues....... :)
Like I've said before. I used to do that stuff for a living ... Got paid for it. If I'm paying, it's at least a Kyrgyz yurt 😊
 

RooFlyer

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Its day 8 of the tour and we are in Samarkand all day, which is woefully inadequate, but what can you do ...

The city is one of the oldest continually occupied cities in central Asia ... probably started in the neolithic (40,000 years ago), certainly settled by the 7th or 8th centuries BC. Usual stiry - captured by Alexander the Great in 329BC, then occupied by various 'foreign' powers - Iranian, Turkic etc . Genghis Khan captured and virtually destroyed it in 1220. Ho-hum.

It was rebuilt by Timur (Tamerlane) and was the centre of his empire from the late 1300s until it started crumbling after his death in 1405. His son and grandson couldn't keep up the violence that marked Timur's reign.

Timur's grandson and Emir Ulugh Beg was highly educated and was more of a scientist than a warrior. he built an 'observatory' in the mid 1400s but this was destroyed by fundamentalists shortly after his death. It was in where he built his 'observatory' - a multi-storied building with a massive (11m long) 'meridian arc', by which he measured the position of over 1,000 stars etc. his measurement books are preserved today.

Here is Ulugh:

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A model of his observatory:

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And a cut-away of his 11m long meridian arc, half of which was below the ground:

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And, amazingly, half of it was discovered, buried b y Soviet archaeologists last century. Funny colours due to the lighting:

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There is a museum on site worth a visit. Ulugh was a big name in astronomy circles in the 1400s-1600s.

Nice views also from the hill to other monuments in the city.

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RooFlyer

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Nearby the observatory hill is Afrosiab, a very large, virtually un explored area of an ancient city. This will be amazing in the future.

We then went on to a necropolis, with about 90 mausoleums - none of them small. They are arranged along a narrow street, making pictures difficult. As with other sites, its all abut the scale of it - difficult to convey here.

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On of the mausolea:

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The structures date from the Tamurid period - late 1300s - 1500s.

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RooFlyer

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Is there any significance attached to the use of blue tiles @RooFlyer ?
This turned into a more interesting question than I expected. Green is the colour of Islam.

It is thought that the love of blue originated in the earliest days of the Turkic peoples, from Mongolia or even north of there. nomads, with the blue sky above them. Those people migrated west and south from about 900 taking the blue with them, and eventually this was married with Islam.

The use of colours in the various structures in Iran and here has meaning - yellow is unusual, blues are very common, turquoise is preferred sometime.

Blue colour can be given by cobalt, or copper or sometime lapis rocks.
 

JohnM

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It’s OK - most people ignore it and nobody chases it.
 

henleybeach

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Great stuff guys. Bringing back some memories. It’s good going from Bukhara to Samarkand, Bukhara teases you and then Samarkand delivers.
We just loved Samarkand, we didn’t get the coloured lights at registan square tho!
 

JohnM

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They are setting up for a major international music festival - hence the lights and staging gear. It also meant that the square is only open for a shortened periods at present.
 

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