Uzbekistan: The Ancient Cities

As I recall, when it comes to Uzbekistan, the Israelis are mostly acquainted with its food, the Bukhara people, and the new topic that recently comes to their attention — traveling to visit the ancient archaeological sites, unique in their nature.

So, let me tell you what I know about the places worth visiting.

The monuments of Samarkand are majestic and wonderful. In this town, one can feel the breath of history itself. It can be traced in the ancient ruins as well as in the madrassahs, mausoleums, and minarets, which have been decorating the city until now. In 1370, Amir Timur (Tamerlane) made Samarkand the capital of his great state that spread from Mongolia and Siberia to Syria and India. From his campaigns, he brought many skillful architects and craftsmen whose works of art have outlasted the ages. The legendary Samarkand square of Registan has up to now been considered to be one of the main architectural sights of Central Asia.

The photo is courtesy of the Uzbekistan Embassy in Israel

Since old times, Bukhara was the center of a densely populated oasis. Archaeologists noted that the city was constantly growing, both in width and in height. Ruins of dwellings, public buildings, defense structures dating back to different periods of the city’s history were found in the earth stratum at the depth of 20 meters. There are more than 140 monuments of ancient architecture in Bukhara altogether. Minaret Kalyan, the striking symbol of the city, towers over it. Everyone who has seen “The Great Minaret” built in the year 1127 will long keep in memory the impression of its greatness and original beauty.

Having once visited Bukhara, you will long stay under the impression both of Ark fortress and many other monuments of antiquity, which surround you almost everywhere. Craftsmen-chasers will reproduce ancient patterns on copper and silver right before your eyes. Jewelers will make replicas of unique adornments, which the beauties used to wear thousands of years ago. Involuntarily you ask yourself: how many centuries has this town numbered? How many pieces of the past material cultures are buried in it?

The photo is courtesy of the Uzbekistan Embassy in Israel

Khiva is the only town of the period of the Great Silk Road, which has remained fully undamaged till now. Time seems to go centuries back here. That is why the town has rightly gained fame for “the museum in the open air”. In Khiva with its narrow alleys where legends of old times seem to have been reflected in stone and wood, you can easily imagine the life of former generations which will not repeat itself but has left us old traditions, legends, and precepts.

Most of the architectural monuments of the Ichan Kala complex in Khiva date back to the late 18th – first half of the 19th centuries. But the excavations on its territory revealed much more ancient layers dating back to the 3rd and even earlier centuries BC. Ichan Kala is surrounded by a thick wall that is 2100 meters long and has several gates. The silhouette of the huge Islam Khodja minaret stands out over the town.

The photo is courtesy of the Uzbekistan Embassy in Israel

Shakhrisabz is the birthplace of Amir Timur where everything, one way or another, is connected with his name. He established the Mawarannahr empire in the land better known as Transoxiana, called in Arabic sources as Mā Warāʾ an-Nahr – ‘[what is] beyond the [Oxus] river’ – the ancient name used for the portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, and southwest Kazakhstan. Geographically, it is the region between the Amu Darya (Oxus) and Syr Darya rivers.

And having become an absolute ruler – emir, Timur made Samarkand his capital. But he always remembered his hometown and took good care of it. In fact, Shakhrizabs was the second capital of the empire. Many beautiful constructions appeared here in the times of the Timurids. Best architects, construction workers, masters of architectural decoration were sent here by the emir’s orders. Alongside the local masters, they built majestic constructions thus realizing the experience and traditions of different countries.

Ancient monuments on the territory of present-day Uzbekistan are put on the list of the values of the world civilization. These monuments, situated along the Great Silk Road, traditionally attract the attention of the general public: both specialists who study the Orient and international relations of the ancient world and ordinary people who seek after the knowledge of the unknown world.

About the Author
Nadezhda Dukhovny was born and raised in Uzbekistan and made aliya in 2005. She holds an MA in Linguistics from Tel Aviv University and works in translation. She has a true interest about her motherland and would like to tell more about that fascinating country to make Israeli readers familiar with another culture from other part of the globe.
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