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Uzbekistan – splendour in the sand

SSH assistant editor, Louisa Dyce, recently visited Uzbekistan.

I was very fortunate to be able to visit. This is a photo I took of the Registan in Samarkand at night so I could remember its splendour. All of Samarkand is now listed as a UNESCO site. This occurred in 2001.

The word Registan means “place in the sand”. The empire of the Tumurid, famous for its distinctive architecture, made these monuments.

Within the Registan, there are three schools of learning called Madrasah.

The first school was erected by Uluchbeg, who was a mathematician and astronomer. He built the first of them from 1417 to 1420. It’s named after him as the Ulugh Beg Madrasah.

The second was built from 1619 to 1636 by the ruler Yalangtush Bakhodur. It was named the Sher-Dor Madrasah.

He also built the Tila-Kori Madrasah.

The schools covered a wide range of subjects, from the learning of the Koran to poetry, mathematics, law, languages and astronomy.

The Madrasah are all similar in design. They have a large courtyard with rooms all around the perimeter. This is where the student learned, ate and slept.

Each Madrasah is decorated separately in its own style and covered predominately in blue but also other brightly coloured glazed mosaics, which took my breath away.

The one in the middle with the blue dome also has a mosque.

Then and today the massive square is used. Then, you would have seen market stalls, celebrations, the marshalling of troops and orders by the ruler. Today, we were happy to see wedding photos being taken and learned that performances of musicians, singers and dancers regularly take place.

All of this was nearly lost through the attrition of age, weather, earthquake, and the rise and fall of the city’s wealth and popularity.

Thankfully, the United Soviet Socialist Republic saved these gems of historical buildings and finished them just before the fall of the union.

Would I visit again? Yes, most certainly. The people of Uzbekistan are polite, friendly and helpful.

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