PashbyMaul Adventures just returned from a much needed and very restorative autumn break to the Silk Roads midpoint capital city of Samarkand. We were blessed with amazing conditions – perfect temperatures, blue skies, clear air – conditions that only enhanced the photogenicity of Samarkand’s many spectacular monuments. In the ancient city of Kesh, just 100km to the south of Samarkand, stand the remains of Timur’s summer palace. On the ruins of the impressive gateway the phrase “If you challenge our power – look at our buildings!” can still be made out. In Timur’s capital city of Samarkand, his impressive monuments still inspire awe and wonder nearly 700 years later.
Our private tour guide for the day, procured through advantour, was totally worth the money. He knew absolutely everything there was to know about the city, its history, and culture. The deal we got through advantour was a bit pricey at US$70 per person, but it included a car, driver, and guide for the day. We weren’t tied to an itinerary other than the included sights as part of the package, and we could take as long as we wanted exploring along the way. Admission fees to all landmarks, monuments, mausoleums, were also included in the price, and we even had the flexibility to walk from one stop to the next instead of piling back in the vehicle every time. I’m sure the driver appreciated this, but so did we, because it was a beautiful 65°F (18°C) picture perfect sunny day. Our guide met us at our hotel, the Jahongir B&B, which we’ll write more about later, and led us outside to our waiting jalopy, where our tour begins.
First stop was the impressive 15th century Gur-Emir Mausoleum. Located on the edge of the old city, the new Russified city of Samarkand spreads out in all directions north, west, and south. The complex started out as a madrasah, but when Amir Timur’s grandson suddenly died, it became an impromptu mausoleum. Later, when Timur died, his other more famous architect grandson Ulugbek completed the structure. While not originally intended for Timur, he ended up being buried here anyway. His intended mausoleum specially built for that purpose is located 100km to the south, over the mountains, in his hometown of Shakhrisabz, where we will visit later. Today, the Gur-Emir Mausoleum is an iconic example of Azeri style architecture. Timur the Great’s eternal resting place is in the crypt, beneath a solid slab gravestone of pure jade. Cursed are those who dare disturb his resting place, as the last to do so, Soviet scientists, found their country being invaded by Nazis two days later.
The following four photos fail to capture the true impressiveness of it all, but at least hopefully provide some wanderlust for your next travel adventure!