Samarkand... The name is enough to make us dream of giant empires, cruel warriors, but also splendid Koranic schools, traders and heroes. Some of the most celebrated monument of the Islam have survived here the ebb of two ambitions: Timurid and bolshevik.
Registon - the monumental ensemble that has urged UNESCO to add in 2001 this city on its aclaimed World Heritage List dominates the skyline of Samarkand.
We look at the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (cent. XV), the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (also a mosque) and the Sher-Dor Madrasah (cent. XVII) but cannot walk closer. Because of some show the square is closed, we must comer back tomorrow, so we ride out of town into the golden sunset..
We look in vain for a place to camp. Desperate and cold, Ana crosses the street on foot to what looks like a swanky suburban neighborhood. The beautiful face of the woman who is watering the flowers freezes in an arrested grin when she is asked if we can put our tent in their garden for one night. But after the first moments of confusion, she calls up her husband and then she agrees to invite us in.
Not only that she tells us that we can sleep outside on their terrace, but she also feeds us. Bread, a vegetable stew, tea and candied peanuts are brought to the table by the daughter, who on the other hand behaves as if she is not allowed to talk to us. The boys enjoy a different status -Muzaffar (20) and Mashraf (14) join us for dinner and even get to sit on Ana's DRZ. Would you want one of those? says the mother to her youngest and obviously the bravest of the two sons. Rano is 40 and almost no wrinkle around her beautiful eyes. But her upper arcade is all in gold; we cannot figure out if it's because of bad nutrition, poor healthcare, a quirky sense of beauty or a combination of the above.
We have a pleasant night in the open air and we enjoy a light breakfast with our hosts. Now off to Samarkand!
We start our visit in a veritable alley of treasures: the cemetery is packed with centuries old mausoleums decorated in some of the most astonishing mosaics.
Riding back to Registon, we spot the impressive Bibi-Khanoum mosque.
Then we are in awe at the elegant architecture of Registon.
Imagine that before the restoration the level of the square used to be a meter lower than today.
Samarkand is dense in extraordinary monuments. Like the mausoleum of the dreaded Timur Lenk.
Not far from the mausoleum there is Mr. Timur himself. Cast in metal, and still casting its shadow over the destiny of Uzbekistan.