Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 79, Samarkand and Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Wow, Russia was absolutely amazing, and Valery has graciously invited us to return for another guided tour. Yippee!! Thanks Valery see you soon.

Now, Marti, no more detours........we are heading for Uzbekistan.

From the air our eye locks onto the domes and minarets of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. As the sunlight reflects of its richly decorated mosques and minarets, the city gleams like a golden beacon that can be seen for miles over the surrounding plains.....WOW!!

Samarkand (Marakanda to the Greeks), one of Central Asia's oldest settlements, was probably founded in the 5th century BC. It was already the co
smopolitan, walled capital of the Sogdian empire when it was taken in 329 BC by Alexander the Great, who said, 'Everything I have heard about Marakanda is true, except that it's more beautiful than I ever imagined.'....so let's pay this magical city a visit.

A key Silk Road city, it sat on the crossroads leading to China, India and Persia, bringing in trade and artisans.From the 6th to the 13th century it grew into a city more popu lous than it is today, changing hands every couple of centuries – Western Turks, Arabs, Persian Samanids, Karakhanids, Seljuq Turks, Mongolian Karakitay and Khorez mshah have all ruled here – before being obliterated by Jenghiz Khan in 1220.

This might have been the end of the story, but in 1370 Timur decided to make Samarkand his capital, and over the next 35 years forged a new, almost-mythical city – Central Asia's e conomic and cultural epicentre. Timur's legacy is a mixed one. While Central Asia blossomed under his reign, other places such as Baghdad, Damascus, Delhi and other Arab, Persian, Indian and Turkic cities were sacked and destroyed. Thus, while Timur still retains a positive image in Central Asia, he is vilified by many in Arab, Persian and Indian societies.

Amit says that as per Malfuzat-i-Timuri, Timur targeted Hindus!!!
In his own words, "Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the 'ulama and the other Musalmans [sic], the whole city was sacked". In his descriptions of the Loni massacre he wrote, "Next day I gave orders that the Musalman prisoners should be separated and saved."

Bloody monster!!

; http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h13tm.htm

Around 1396 Timur was back in Samarkand. During his stay he heard news from India. With the excuse that Muslim rulers in India were being too tolerant toward Hindus he led his army there. He destroyed the Islamic kingdom centered at the city of Del hi, and he created more carnage and devastation. He is described as having been pleased that he had penetrated Ind ia more deeply than had Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. He returned from India with prisoners who were Indian artists, craftsmen, and booty.

Sita says that when Timur returned from India he began more building, ordering work on a great mosque. 200 masons worked on the building. 500 hundred others cut the precious stones looted from his conquest of India, which were transported to Samarkand by 90 captured elephants. He used the stones in the construction of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, whose name comes from his wife.

The outer walls are 167 metres (182.63 yards) in length and 109 metres (119.20 yards) in width. The cupola of the main chamber reaches a hei
ght of 40 metres and the entrance way is 35 metres high. Construction was completed between 1 399 and 1404. However, the mosque slowly fell into disuse, and crumbled to ruins over the centuries . Its demise was hastened due to the fact it pushed the construction techniques of the time to the very limit, and the fact that it was built too quickly.

Prasad says that the Bibi-Khanym Mosque was the largest mosque in Central Asia at that time and one of the largest in the Muslim world, but Allah was apparently not pleased w
ith Timur. Samarkand was in a region of frequent earthquakes, and Timur's great mosque was not constructed in a way that could endure intact.
It eventually partially collapsed in 1897 when an earthquake occurred!
In 1974 it began to undergo reconstruction by the Government of Uzbekistan, although the current mosque is effectively a brand-new building, as no origina
l work remains.

There is the Khazrat-Khizr Mosque is one of the most ancient edifices of Samarka
nd, which was destroyed by Genghis Khan's hordes.

It was rebuilt in 19 century.

And there is the Gur-e Amir, the Timur's mausoleum.

Wow!!!You simply have to see this place with your own eyes in order to appreciate its beauty........

It occupies an important place in the history of Islamic Architecture as the precursor and model for later great Mughal architecture tombs, including Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Timur's descendants, the ruling Mughal dynasty of North India.

Mohammad Taragae Uluğ Bēg was Timur's grandson who ruled until 1449 ( who by the way is buried in Gur-e-Amir too) and made it an intellectual ce

Between 1417 and 1420, he built a madrasa ("university" or "institute") on Registan Square in Samarkand, and he invited numerous Islamic astronomers and mathematicians to study there.
There is that madrasa ...

with its fancy arches, high well-proportioned minarets, mosaic panels, geometrical stylized ornaments.
This madrasa was one of the best clergy universities of the whole Moslem Orient of the 15th century.

We are now off to Central Asia's holiest city, Bukhara. It has buildings spanning a thousand years of history, and a thoroughly lived-in old centre that probably hasn't changed much in two centuries.

It was as capital of the Samanid state in the 9th and 10th centuries that Bukhara blossomed as Central Asia's religious and cultural heart, and simultaneously brightened with the Persian love of the arts. Among those nurtured here were the philosopher-scientist Ibn Sina and the poets Firdausi and Rudaki – figures with stature in the Persian Islamic world that, for example, Newton or Shakespeare enjoyed in the West.

There is the Samanid mausoleum.


It is located in the historical urban nucleus of the city of Bukhara, in a park laid out on the site of an ancient cemetery.
This mausoleum, one of the most esteemed sights of Central Asian architecture, was built in the 9th (10th) century (between 892 and 943) as the resting-place of Ismail Samani - the founder of the Samanid dynasty, the last Persian dynasty to rule in Central Asia, which held the city in the 9th and 10th centuries.

For many years the lower part of the mausoleum remained under a two-meter high layer of sediment.
Now the foundation has been cleared of these obstacles and the mausoleum is fully restored, so we can view it from all sides. The monument marks a new era in the development of Central Asian architecture, which was revived after the Arab conquest of the region.
The architects continued to use an ancient tradition of baked brick construction, but to a much higher standard than had been seen before.
The construction and artistic details of the brickwork , are still enormously impressive, and display traditional features dating back to pre-Islamic culture.

And there is Kalyan Square....wow, more magnificent buildings


As we leave Uzbekistan, we have very mixed feelings. For all its brutality, the dynasty founded by Timur was responsible for the great artistic and intellectual renaissance in the area in the 14th and 15th centuries....

It is no wonder that many of these monuments were declared UNESCO world heritage sites.

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