Samarkand, Uzbekistan | C.1417

Photo Credit: Angelo Zinna

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the ancient city of Samarkand was ruled by the conqueror Timur who designated the city as the capital of his domain, the Timurid Empire. During his rule, much of the city was rebuilt and populated with great artisans and craftsmen. At the heart of Samarkand lies the Registan, the public square.

At the height of its prominence, the Registan hosted public gatherings of all kinds from proclamations, to celebrations, and even public executions. The daily ongoings of the city occurred in the Registan. Constructed in the 15th century, the Registan includes three madrasahs surrounding a large open area. Meaning “a sand place” in Uzbek, the Registan was once covered in sand.

Surrounding the Registan are three madrasahs: the Ulugh Beg Madrasah, built by astronomer and mathematician Ulugh Beg in 1420; the Sher-Dor Madrasah built by the ruler Yalangtush Bakhodur in 1636; and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah, meaning “gilded”, completed in 1660. Meaning “school” in Arabic, the madrasahs served as institutions of learning. The Ulugh Beg Madrasah was one of the best clergy universities in the 15th century.

In the 17th century, Samarkand began to face economic decline. The capital was moved to Bukhara and merchants on the Great Silk Road started to bypass Samarkand. For centuries the city remained neglected and only around 1,000 families remained. It wasn’t until 1875 that the city saw a revival as a trading center and the Registan was leveled and bridged.

During the early 20th century, Soviet rule prohibited the attendance of madrasahs. Difficult years followed, as the buildings were ravaged by natural disaster. However, it was the Soviets who would restore the Registan and signify it as a historical monument. Today, Registan remains a cultural center of Samarkand hosting concerts, celebrations, and city events.

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