Sights of Samarkand

Samarkand is one of the most ancient cities of the world which is peer of Rome, Athens and Babylon. Samarkand indeed entitled as “Heart of the Silk Road” being located on the crossroads of the Great Silk Road.

Unique monuments of ancient architecture on its territory, invaluable scientific heritage, and centers of handicrafts lead Samarkand to be mentioned in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. In the East in ancient time Samarkand was frequently mentioned as “Jewel of Isam” or “Mirror of the world”. Samarkand still challenges to be the most beautiful city of the orient.

Registan Square

uare is indisputable main sight of the Central Asia. It means sandy place and consists of three masrassahs: Ulugh Beg Madrasa in the west of the square, Sher-Dor Madrasah in the east and Tilla-Kari Madrasah in northern side of the square.

Ulugh Beg Madrasah

Ulugh Beg Madrasah is most ancient amongst the other madrasahs located in the Registan Square. Erection of this madrasah and later Observatory made Samarkand significant scientific center of the orient.

There were rooms for lectures, dormitory cells for students to dwell in and a mosque. It was built under sponsorship and initiative of governor of Samarkand and scientist Ulugh Beg in 1417—1420.

adrasah was built on the western part of the square later on Khanaka Ulugh Beg on the opposite of Madrasah and Caravan-Sarai in the north. The last two buildings have stood for about two centuries, and then onto its place in the early XVII century there have been built Sher-Dor madrasah and Tilla-Kari madrasah.

According to legend, Abdurrahman Jami the famous poet, scholar and philosopher learned at the madrassah. Lectures on mathematics, geometry, logic, science and theology were given by well-known scholars of the time: Kazi-zade ar-Rumi, Jemshid Ghiyath al-Din al-Kashi, al- Kushchi, as well as Ulugh Beg himself.

Sher-Dor Madrasah

Sher-Dor Madrasah was built on the site of Khanaka Ulugbek, built in 1424 in the eastern part of the square in front of Ulugh Beg Madrassah. By the beginning of the XVII century Khanaka along with other buildings began deteriorating. By order of the governor of Samarkand Yalangtush Bahadur construction of madrasahs Sher-Dor and Tilla-Kari began. Sher-Dor Madrasah were built by the architect Abdul-Jabbar and a master of decor Muhammad Abbas.

Sher-Dor Madrasah is almost a reflection of Ulugh Beg Madrasah standing in front. It is distinguished by an excessively large-sized dome that could cause the gradual destruction of a building within a few decades after its construction. On the walls quotations from the Koran could be found, entrance portal was decorated with the emblem of Samarkand - the tigers with the sun on their backs, in the center of the arch a swastika are placed, at the top with special Arabic script it is written, "God Almighty". Decoration of interior and exterior facades is made of glazed bricks, mosaic murals and kits with lots of gilding.

Sher-Dor madrasah is noticeably inferior in elegance to Ulugh Beg Madrassah, erected in the XV century, which coincided with the "golden age" architecture of Samarkand. Nevertheless, the harmony of both, large and small forms, elegant design mosaics, monumental, symmetry, clarity - all of these make madrassa one of the best architectural monuments of the city.

Tilla-Kari Madrasah

Tilla-Kari Madrasah was built in the northern part of the area ten years after the Sher-Dor madrasah, on the spot caravanserai in 1420-ies. The main facade of the square in terms of the building is symmetrical and consists of a central portal and the two-story front wing with arched niches and corner towers. The spacious courtyard is built up around the perimeter of small residential cells. On the west side of the yard domed building of the mosque is located with two adjacent galleries at the poles.

Madrasah was decorated by mosaic and majolica with geometric and floral ornaments. Lush gilds were used in decoration of interior. That is how it is called “Trimmed in gold”. In the mosque mihrab and minbar are gilded

Gur Emir Mausoleum

his masterpiece of Central Asian architecture is important in the history of the world of Islamic architecture. Gur Emir means “Tomb of the King”. The construction of Gur Emir began in 1403 after sudden and unexpected death of Tamerlane’s beloved grandson Muhammad Sultan.

At first sight the Gur Emir Mausoleum is a one-cupola construction. It is well known for its simple construction and for its solemn appearance. It is an octahedral in shape crowned by turquoise fluted dome. The outer decoration of the walls consists of the azure, light-blue and white tiles organized into geometrical and epigraphic decorations against a background of terracotta bricks. The dome is of a bright azure color with deep rosettes and white spots. Heavy ribbed fluting gives an amazing expressiveness to the cupola.

Gur Emir served as a prototype for the famous monuments of the Baburids: the mausoleum of Emperor Houmayun and the Taj Mahal mausoleum, built by descendants of Emir Timur, who had once been the ruling dynasty in Nothern India.

Ulughbek Observatory

The great astronomer Ulughbeg was called as an outstanding scientist of the East, enlightened ruler, "the greatest observer". Ulughbeg built an observatory, which did not have analogue, neither in the West nor in the East.

Ulughbek is not only the founder of Ulughbek observatory, but also the creator of the astronomical school in Samarkand, where worked talented astronomers. This is primarily a teacher of Ulughbek Kazi-zade Rumi, whom contemporaries called "Plato of his age," Ghiyath ad-Din Jemshid - author of a number of astronomical and mathematical works, Ali Kushchi a talented pupil of Ulughbek ("Ptolemy of his age").

According to the researchers, construction of the observatory was completed in 1428-1429 years. Ulughbek Observatory is graphic evidence of the high development of architecture, science and culture in the XIV-XV centuries in Central Asia.

An outstanding achievement of Samarkand astronomers was their catalog of stars, the so-called "Zij Guragani" (Zij - star catalog). " The value of the "Star Catalog" Ulughbek is very significant because it defines the coordinates of 1018 stars. Ulughbek was the second astronomer only to Hipparchus, who compiled a fundamental star catalog.

This work is valuable because it defines the position of stars, determined during 20 years in the Samarkand observatory. After his death in 1449 Ulugh Beg observatory ceased to exist. Ulughbeg’s disciple Ali Kushchi left Samarkand to Constantinople and completed the work of Samarkand astronomers.

It is known that in 1456 a copy of the astronomical tables of Ulugh Beg was donated to the governor of Herat Abul Kasym Babur.

The significance of the works of Ulugh Beg can be judged by saying of the famous French astronomer Laplace: "He compiled a new catalog of stars and astronomical tables, the best of those that existed prior to Tycho Brahe." A small part of the "Zij Guragani" was first published in Europe (Oxford) in 1648. Since then famous work was published in Europe and America more than once. By the beginning of the XX century not only preserved the traces of this unique structure, even it was not known where there was an Ulugh Beg Observatory. Only in 1908, based on the document found by an unsurpassed connoisseur of rare manuscripts of Abu Said Mahzuma, archaeologist Vyatkin defined the location of space observatory. Archeologist made clearing in the area of the hill, found the lower masonry of the building foundation with a diameter of 50 m and the arc of the protractor.

To protect against destruction of preserved tools found in 1915 was made a vaulted ceiling. Researchers believe that the Ulugh Beg observatory was an outstanding architectural structure of the XV century. Building of the Ulugh Beg observatory was to be insensitive to the earth tremors, so frequent in the region of Samarkand. That's why the architects chose rocky foot of the hill of Kuhak for construction of the observatory. Lined with blue, turquoise, white and black tiles the building of the observatory, towering on a hill and open for inspection, was to produce a majestic impression. Largest in terms of a three-tiered building was a unique integrated unit, which included a horizontal calibrated instrument - a sundial and a unique vertical - "Fakhri judges" - goniometer with diopters.

parallel arches, built of brick and marble. On a marble slab, close to the inner margin, there is a groove, once filled with bronze arc and designed to establish and promote it on the instrument. Its total height is not less than 30 meters. In the XVII century in the European written sources it is compared with the height of the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople. In the XV century, when the astronomical observations made with the naked eye, the scale and design of astronomical instruments have played a very important role, and different maximum accuracy. Surprisingly, the duration of the star, in comparison with modern observations of the difference in 1 minute.

Legend of the library Ulugbek

Historians and contemporaries have reported that the library of Ulugh Beg was extremely rich. The basis of its fund amounted to a book brought out by Temur from conquered countries. While the reign of Ulugh Beg library continued to expand - manuscripts were bought in other cities and copied in the court of the studio - Kitab-khana. It is believed that Ulugh Beg was a librarian in person. How many were they and what books were in the library is unknown. However, after the tragic death of Ulugh Beg traces of libraries are lost. Excavations at Ulugh Beg Observatory did not give any result, which presumably Ulugbek library was there.

There are broad array of opinions on the fate of the missing library. According to one of the versions, the Ulugh Beg library was moved to Afghanistan by close friend and disciple of Ali Kushchi. However, we know that he was leaving town in a hurry, secretly, that made it impossible to bring such an enormous number of books and manuscripts. Another version says that the destruction of the observatory by the authorities in Samarkand residents dismantled all the books, knowing their value. Perhaps the books are still in the trunks, basements or forgotten recesses of Samarkand. According to another legend, by order of Timur, library was housed in the basement of one of the many palaces that have not survived to our days. Find the legendary library - a long-standing dream of scientists, collectors and hunters.

By Dilshod Eshmurodov