What You Need To Know
Samarkand is a city in modern-day Uzbekistan and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. There is evidence of human activity in the area of the city from the late Paleolithic era, though there is no direct evidence of when exactly Samarkand was founded; some theories propose that it was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Prospering from its location on the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean, at times Samarkand was one of the greatest cities of Central Asia. By the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, it was the capital of the Sogdian satrapy. The city was taken by Alexander the Great in 329 BC, when it was known by its Greek name of Marakanda. The city was ruled by a succession of Iranian and Turkic rulers until the Mongols under Genghis Khan conquered Samarkand in 1220. Today, Samarkand is the capital of Samarqand Region and Uzbekistan’s second largest city. The city is noted 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 (a modern replica) remains one of the city’s most notable landmarks. The Registan was the ancient center of the city. The city has carefully preserved the traditions of ancient crafts: embroidery, gold embroidery, silk weaving, engraving on copper, ceramics, carving and painting on wood. In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.
Area: 108 km²
Uzbek is the official language.
According to various independent sources, Tajiks (Persian-speaking people) are the major ethnic group in the city, while ethnic Uzbeks form a growing minority. Exact figures are difficult to evaluate, since many people in Uzbekistan either identify as “Uzbek” even though they speak Eastern Persian as their first language, or because they are registered as Uzbeks by the central government despite their Eastern Persian language and identity. As explained by Paul Bergne: During the census of 1926 a significant part of the Tajik population was registered as Uzbek. Thus, for example, in the 1920 census in Samarkand city the Tajiks were recorded as numbering 44,758 and the Uzbeks only 3301. According to the 1926 census, the number of Uzbeks was recorded as 43,364 and the Tajiks as only 10,716. In a series of kishlaks [villages] in the Khojand Okrug, whose population was registered as Tajik in 1920 e.g. in Asht, Kalacha, Akjar i Tajik and others, in the 1926 census they were registered as Uzbeks. Similar facts can be adduced also with regard to Ferghana, Samarkand, and especially the Bukhara oblasts.
Historically, Samarkand was a diverse religious community. Since the 8th century when the Arabs entered Central Asia, Islam has become the main religion. According to some sources, approximately 90% of people are Sunni while Shia Islam, Christianity and Judaism are minor religions.
Minibuses (900S) run from about 6am until 8pm or 9pm. To get between the Registan stop and Navoi in the heart of the new town take any vehicle marked ГУМ (GUM), such as bus 3, 22 or 32, or marshrutka 6 or 35. From the Bulvar stop take bus Nos 14 or 74 to the Registan, or Nos 1,10 or 54 to the Shah-i-Zinda. A taxi between the old town and new town costs around 3000S, the standard charge for cabs in Samarkand. A electric cart (1000S) shuttles up and down pedestrian Toshkent street from near the Registan to Siob Baaar.