Monday, 20 September 2010

On the Silk Road: Uzbekistan Day 4 Samarkand

Hijar Hizar mosque
Today was a full day seeing the sights around Samarkand starting with the Hijar Hizar mosque on a hill top with a view over to blue dome of Bibi Khanym mosque. The mosque was originally built in the 8th century but was burnt to the ground by Gengis Khan. It wasn't rebuilt until the 1850s. The painted ceiling of the aiwan (porch) is colourful and the red and cream minarets make for great photos.

We then drove out of the city a short distance to the Afrosiab archaeological site so see the ruins of early Samarkand. The small museum is worth a visit for a timeline of the work done on the site, but the ruins are very disappointing. They are indeed 'ruined' and while there seemed to outlines of houses and possibly roads, without any information being given or even names on signs, for untrained eyes its impossible to know what you're looking at.

Next stop was the tomb of Daniel. Legend has it that Tamerlane brought the body of Daniel (the one in the lions' den) back from Susa in Iran and interred it in Samarkand. The tomb is 18m long as, legend also has it, Daniel's body continues to grow at half an inch a year. The length of the tomb is covered in green velvet cloth embroidered with Koranic verses and it looks exactly like the long tomb in Salalah, Oman which is supposedly that of either the Virgin Mary's father, or one of the original pre-Islam inhabitants who were at least 20 feet tall – depends on who you ask. From Daniel's tomb we went back to the Registan and visited the Uzbekistan League of Artists' gallery then to a local chaihana (tea house), then back to the bazaar to chase down more bargains.

The evening was spent at a local restaurant where a birthday party was in full swing in the next room. Every type of music was played loudly, Uzbek, Arabic, Persian, Turkish and some local Tajik songs that had the crowd cheering. Babies were thrown into the air, some seemed to also come down again. Shisha is smoked here though not as frequently as in Middle Eastern countries. Meanwhile as Party Central raged next door, we were working our way through 4 courses including giant plates of shashlik (kebabs) chosen from a menu that included such dishes as “Hen in a Fur Coat”, “Mother in Law Language” (a type of salad apparently), another salad that the menu proclaimed included “carbonate”, there was “Herring on Peasant”(poor girl) and, dare I say it, “Luxurious Balls” for dessert. I bet Samia a whole 1000 sum to ask the waiter if he had luxurious balls, but, once she'd stopped laughing, she demurred.

1 comment:

  1. Why doesn't anyone post a comment on yoru wonderful blog? It is brilliant! :-)

    C xxx