Saturday, July 5, 2014

The drive to Samarkand was along good roads and we made excellent time. We didn’t even get stopped by the Police. Although we had a little trouble getting to our hotel, as someone had constructed a wall across the road. A little weird, but we found out later that the city is changing the way traffic flows into it and to the major tourist sights. We found some small side streets and weaved our way to our destination. The Jahongir Bed & Breakfast was wonderful and fully deserved its number 1 rating on We were shown to our spacious room and then greeted with tea and coffee. Although it was summer, it was also the low season. It was just too hot to be traveling around and most people didn’t, so finding excellent places to stay was proving to be very easy. Our hotel was less than 500 meters from the Registan, one of the major tourist attractions. The B&B was also besides a barber, very handy, and Stephen got a haircut for the cut-throat price of USD $3.

At 5pm, and as the heat of the day diminished, we headed out to be amazed by the jaw-dropping beauty of the Registan Complex. The buildings making up the complex once formed the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand. They have been beautifully restored and are amazing.  These incredible buildings arethe reason we came to Uzbekistan. We were not disappointed.

We had dinner at one of the local restaurants. Simple fare of tomato/cucumber salad, beef and chicken kebabs and somsa, all very tasty and very fresh. In the evening we found a local pub with cold beer to watch the game between Belgium and Argentina. We even met a couple of stray Belgians to enjoy the game with. Unfortunately Belgium lost and thus were out of the World Cup for 2014. It was a somber walk back to the hotel. Oh well, maybe in another 4 years.

Storks perched on a power line pole. Seen on the drive to Samarkand.
Inside the Registan.
Outside the Registan
Outside the Registan as the sun sets.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our plans to get up early and explore the city before the heat arrived, failed. Instead we took a leisurely breakfast in the courtyard of our hotel.

We did get out and continued to explore the old town during the morning. After a quick revisit to the Registan Complex, we continued onto Bibi-Khanym Mosque (not functioning as a Mosque). Another beautiful building nicely restored. We visited the fresh produce markets, which were a little more touristy than the ones in Tashkent, but still amazingly clean and vibrant. Markets clearly still play a major function here in Uzbekistan. Next on our list of things to see was the Complex of Hazret Hizr, and this time a functioning mosque. The entrance fee was a little steep, but they quickly dropped the price and gave us a 2 for 1 deal making it more reasonable and we visited the inside. The architectural features inside the buildings were stunning. We planned next to go to the Observatory of Ulugh Beg, but it was getting hot and it was too far to walk, so instead we headed to Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis (Memorial Complex of Islamic Architecture). And what an amazing visit this was. Beautiful building after beautiful building. We were blown away. Caroline was busy with her camera capturing the sights.

But it was time to return to the hotel and escape the heat. Not before taking some lunch. We relaxed during the afternoon and did some chores. The water filters got cleaned and the water tank got filled yet again. Apparently getting water will be harder and harder as we head further into the desert. In the late afternoon and evening we went for a very long walk around the newer part of town, the part the Soviets designed. This included a walk-by of Gur-e Amir Mausoleum. It was a delightful walk stretching our legs and enjoying the place. We had a late dinner. As the menu was limited to the same choices as the previous restaurant our meal consisted of tomato/cucumber salad, beef kebab and somas, washed down with lovely cold beer. This was what tourists eat here it seemed.

Some detail of Bibi-Khanym Mosque
Bibi-Khanym Mosque from a distance.
Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis.
Stephen and the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis
Finally, detail of Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis
The new town, with huge walking boulevards