Samarkand ( , , , ) is the
second-largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarqand Province.
The city is most noted for its central
position on the Silk Road
and the West, and for being an Islamic centre for scholarly study.
Mosque remains one of the city's most famous
landmarks. The Registan was the
ancient centre of the city.In 2001, UNESCO inscribed
the 2,750-year-old city on the World
Heritage List as Samarkand - Crossroads of
Samarkand derives its name from the Old
, "stone", "rock", and Sogdian kand
In 1939 Samarkand had a population of 134,346, and in 2008 an urban
population of 596,300. They are mostly Persian-speaking Tajiks
. Along with Bukhara, Samarkand
is one of the historical centers of the Tajik people in Central
is one of the oldest inhabited
cities in the world, prospering from its location on the trade
route between China and the Mediterranean (Silk Road).
At times Samarkand has been one
of the greatest cities of Central
Founded circa 700 BC by the Persians it was already the capital of
the Sogdian satrapy
under the Achaemenid dynasty
Persia when Alexander the Great
conquered it in 329 BC
Samarkand has been one of the main centres of Persian civilization
from its early days.
Downtown with Bibi Khanym mosque
View of the Registan at night
Although a Persian
it was not united politically with Iran between the times of
Alexander and the Arab conquest. The Greeks referred to Samarkand
. In the 6th century it was within the
domains of a Turkish
At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came under Arab
control.Under Abbasid rule,
the legend goes , the secret of papermaking was obtained from two Chinese prisoners from the Battle of Talas in 751, which led to the first paper mill in the Islamic world to be founded in
The invention then spread to the rest of the
Islamic world, and from there to Europe.
From the 6th to the 13th century it grew larger and more populous
than modern Samarkand and was controlled by the Western Turks
(who converted the area to Islam
), Persian Samanids
Turks, Seljuk Turks
, and Khorezmshah
before being sacked by the Mongols
in 1220 . A small part of the population survived, but
Samarkand suffered at least another Mongol sack by Khan Baraq
to get treasure he needed
to pay an army with. The town took many decades to recover from
- 14th century
In 1365 a revolt against Mongol control occurred in
Timur the Lame, or Tamerlane, decided to make
Samarkand the capital of his empire, which extended from India to Turkey.
During the next 35 years he built a new city and populated it with
artisans and craftsmen from all of the places he had conquered.
Timur gained a reputation as a patron of the arts and Samarkand
grew to become the centre of the region of Transoxiana
. During this time the city had a
population of about 150,000.
1424 and 1429, the great astronomer Ulugh
Beg built the Samarkand Observatory.
- 15th century
metres long and once rose to the top of the surrounding three
storey structure although it was kept underground to protect it
from earthquakes. Calibrated along its length, it was the world’s
largest 90 degree quadrant, at the time. However, the observatory
was destroyed by religious fanatics in 1449.
In 1499 the Uzbek Turks took control of Samarkand. The Shaybanids
emerged as the Uzbek leaders at or about this time.
16th century, the Shaybanids moved their
capital to Bukhara and
Samarkand went into decline.
After an assault by the Persian
king, Nadir Shah
, the city was abandoned
in the 18th century, about 1720 or a few years later.
1784, Samarkand was ruled by the emirs of Bukhara.
came under Russian rule after the citadel had been taken by a force
under Colonel Alexander Abramov in
Shortly thereafter the small Russian garrison of 500
men were themselves besieged. The assault, which was led by Abdul Malik
Tura, the rebellious elder son of the Bukharan Emir, and Bek of Shahrisabz, was beaten off with heavy losses.
now a general, became the first Governor of the Military Okrug which the Russians established along the course
of the River Zeravshan, with Samarkand as the administrative
The Russian section of the city was built after this
point, largely to the west of the old city.
The city later became the capital of the Samarkand Oblast
and grew in importance still further when the
the city in 1888. It became the capital of the Uzbek SSR in 1925 before being replaced by
Tashkent in 1930.
The climate is sharp continental. Summers are dry and hot, whilst
winters are cold. July and August are the hottest months of the
year with temperatures reaching, and exceeding, . Most of the
little annual precipitation is received from December through
Notable people born in Samarkand
- Amoghavajra, an 8th century Buddhist
monk who translated Vajrayana scripture,
became a powerful figure in the Tang court, and is remembered one
of the three founders of Chinese esoteric Buddhism.
- Babur Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan
al-Mukarram Zahir ud-din Muhammad Jalal ud-din Babur Padshah Ghazi,
founder of the Mughal Empire.
- Qulich Khan Siddiqi (Nawab Khwaja Abid Siddiqi) and Ghazi Uddin
Khan Siddiqi, father and grand father of Qamar-ud-din Khan, Asaf Jah I
(Nizam I). Nizam I founded the dynasty that ruled Hyderabad (India)
for over 200 years.
- Islom Karimov, President of
- In The Arabian
Nights (ca. AD 900), King Shah
Zaman is king of Samarkand.
- In Jinyong's wuxia novel
The Legend of the
Condor Heroes (1957), the Mongol conquest is mentioned in
- Samarcande (1988) is the title of a novel by Amin Maalouf, about Omar Khayyám's life.
- Samarqand is the center of the Islamic Renaissance in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and
- Angela Carter's short story
The Kiss discusses the legend of Tamburlaine's mosque in
- For part of the history espoused in Clive Barker's Galilee, the city of
Samarkand is held as a shining light of humanity, and one of the
characters longs to go there.
- The markets of Samarkand are referenced to more than once in
the 1920 Edith Wharton novel
The Age of
- "Thirty Days In The Samarkand Desert With The Duchess of Kent"
by A. E. J. Elliot.
- The Amulet of
Samarkand is the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy written by Jonathan Stroud.
- From W. Somerset Maugham's classic novel
Of Human Bondage: "O, my
uncle, this cloth knew not the weavers of Samarkand, and those
colours were never made in the vats of Bokhara."
- Robert E. Howard wrote a short story in 1932 for
Oriental Stories titled "Lord of Samarkand".
- In Iris Murdoch's The Nice and The Good, Kate Gray
wants to go to Samarkand for holiday but knows nothing about
- In the Jonas Wergeland Trilogy by Jan Kjærstad Samarkand plays a significant
role in the first volume The Seducer
- The second novel in author Janeen
Webb's young adult series, the Sinbad Chronicles, is called
The Silken Road to Samarkand.
- In Leon Uris' novel QB VII, San Francisco is referred to as
America's Samarkand, a city well-known as a cultural center.
- Samarkand (Maracanda) and its environs are central to the
events in Stephen Pressfield's
historical novel The Afghan
- The Road to
Samarcand is one of Patrick
O'Brian's early novels (1954) about an American teenage boy,
the son of recently deceased missionary parents, who travels from
China with a small party on the Silk Road en route to the
- In Dnevnoy dozor aka Daywatch (2006), Timur Bekmambetov's epic tale of Good
versus Evil, one of the main characters, Anton, sets himself on a
mission to find the Chalk of Destiny which he believes is hidden in
Timerlane's grave at the city of Samarkand.
- In Corto Maltese
graphical novels by Hugo Pratt one
episode is titled The Golden House of Samarkand.
- In The Venetian
Betrayal suspense novel by Steve
Berry, the much of the plot involves a fictional Central Asian
Federation composed of a united Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan,
Turkmenistan and the threat its despotic ruler poses to the area
fueled by biological weapons and the mysterious final resting place
of Alexander the Great.
- In the epistolary novel It's Getting Later All the
Time, by Antonio Tabucchi,
the letter/chapter entitled "Books Never Written, Journeys Never
Made" begins with the line, "Do you remember when we didn't go to
- In JG Ballard's last novel, Kingdom Come (2006), the
suburbs of Surrey are as remote as Atlantis and Samarkand to
the inhabitants of Chelsea and Holland Park
In poetry, drama and film
- Samarkand can appear as an archetype of romantic exoticism,
notably in the work by James Elroy
Flecker: The Golden Journey to Samarkand (1913).
- Samarkand is one of the cities Audre
Lorde describes visiting in her collection of essays and
- The flowers of Samarkand are mentioned in the Douglas Fairbanks Jr. movie,
- The Nightingale of Samarkand is a character in the Broadway
musical Once Upon a
- In Islamic literature and discussions, Samarkand has taken on a
semi-mythological status and is often cited as an ideal of Islamic
philosophy and society, a place of justice, fairness, and righteous
- Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka,
winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize
in Literature, explores the metaphysical significance of the
marketplace in a volume of poetry entitled Samarkand and Other
Markets I Have Known, 2002.
- In the American film classic It's a Wonderful Life, the
character George Bailey (played by James Stewart) shops for a suitcase,
saying, "I want something for a thousand and one nights, with
plenty of room for labels from Italy and Baghdad, Samarkand... a
great big one."
- In the Technicolor movie The
Golden Horde, the main character, played by David Farrar, defends Samarkand against
the Horde. He utters the memorable line, "He who comes to destroy
Samarkand shall himself be destroyed."
- Samarkand has been cited as an inspiration for the fictional
city of Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X
- In the song "Sheherazade," on his 1988 album One More Story, Peter Cetera refers to the "Sultan of
Samarkand" as the enchanted king of the One Thousand and One
- In the 2000 TV miniseries, Arabian Nights, starring Dougray Scott and Mili Avital, Samarkand serves as the
setting for Scheherazade's telling of the Aladdin tale.
- The city of Zanarkand in
the 2001 console role-playing
game, Final Fantasy X,
was inspired by Samarkand.
- In the 2008 action
role-playing game, Fable 2, one of the
main characters is said to have come from a place called
- In the Battletech universe one of the
key planets in the Draconis Combine
is called New Samarkand.
- In the novel "The Storyteller's Daughter", a retelling of the
Arabian Nights / The 1000 Nights by Cameron Dokey, it is the home
of a ruler.
- See No
Evil by Robert Baer is an
autobiography about the author's experiences working for the
CIA, at one point
visiting Samarkand while serving in Tajikistan in the early 1990s.
- Ibn Battuta the great traveler of
the 14th century spent time in Samarkand in the 1330s (see Ross
Dunn The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the
- Robert D. Kaplan's 1996 political travelogue The
Ends Of The Earth has him traversing through a number of
places in Africa, Europe, and Asia. In that book, one of the countries is
Uzbekistan, and Samarkand is one of the places in Uzbekistan
he visits, along with a young translator whose namesake is Ulug Beg.
- Murder in Samarkand
by Craig Murray is a book about the UK
Ambassador to Uzbekistan's experiences in this role, until he
resigned over human rights abuses in the country in October
- In The
Travels of Marco Polo, where
Polo records his journey along the Silk Road, Samarkand is
described as a "a very large and splendid city..." Here also is
related the story of a Christian church in Samarkand, which
miraculously remained standing after a portion of its central
supporting column was removed.
- In 1977, the Italian singer and composer Roberto Vecchioni issued a LP titled
Samarcanda. It contains
the eponymous song, which tells the story of a soldier riding to
Samarkand to escape the image of death.
- In 1987, dance music group The Beyond, signed to Midnight Music
Records, released the album Episcense which includes the
song "Samarkand Sunrise".
- In 1994, the Spanish rock band La Frontera released the album
La rueda de las armas afiladas which includes the song
"Arenas de Samarkanda". It was released as a single.
- Also in 1994, the Esperanto folk duo Nataŝa & Ĵomart
released the album Samarkand.
- In 2004, violinist Lucia
Micarelli released the album Music from a Farther
Room, which includes the song "Samarkand".
- In 1972, Swedish composer Thorstein Bergman wrote "Om du någonsin
kommer fram till Samarkand" ("If you ever reach Samarkand") made
famous by Swedish singer Lill Lindfors
These cities were major cities of Greater Khorasan
Other sister cities
at Registan - Samarkand - 15-10-2005.jpg|A man seated before the
RegistanImage:SamarkandBibiKhanym.jpg|Façade of the
inside Tilla-Kari MedressaImage:SamarkandGuriAmir.jpg|Muqarnas decorations inside the Gur-e Amir
Image:Storks samarkand.jpg|Colour photograph
of a Madrasa taken in Samarkand ca. 1912 by Sergey
SamarkandImage:Prokudin-Gorskii-54.jpg|Jewish children with their
teacher in Samarkand, before 1915Image:Minaret in Samarkand.jpg|A
minaret in Samarkand
- Columbia-Lippincott Gazeteer. p. 1657
- D.I. Kertzer/D. Arel, Census and identity, p. 187, Cambridge
University Press, 2001
- Columbia-Lippincott Gazeteer (New York: Comubia
University Press, 1972 reprint) p. 1657
- Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1984) Vol. 16, p. 204
- Quraishi, S. "A survey of the development of papermaking in
Islamic Countries", Bookbinder, 1989 (3): 29-36.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Ed., p. 204
- Columbia-Lippincott Gazeteer, p. 1657
- Britannica. 15th Ed., p. 204
- (2001) in Studio BentStuff: Final Fantasy X Ultimania Ω (in
Japanese). DigiCube/Square Enix, 476. ISBN 4-88787-021-3.