Samarkand – name origin

There are several versions of the origin of the name Samarkand. A legend speaks of Samara, who inherited the land and founded a village (“kent”) with his name. In another version, the town was founded by a king named Samar, and was later populated by a clan of Turkic origin called “Kand”. Mahmud al-Kashgari, who wrote his famous “Collection of Languages of the Turkic Peoples” in the 11th century, derived the city’s name from “Semizkent”, which was translated as “a rich city”. In Greek and Roman sources, the city is mentioned as Marakanda.

Samarkand Registan
Registan Square

History of Samarkand

The oldest part of Samarkand is the old settlement of Afrasiab, located on a 220-hectare hill. Life flourished here from the 8th century BC until the Mongol invasion in 1220 when the city was conquered and destroyed by Genghis Khan’s troops. The ruins were abandoned and life shifted to the south, where a new city was built. The original settlement area, which was called Afrasiab (after the legendary king of Turan) only since about the 18th century, fell into oblivion. Even today there are no residential buildings in the area, but a large cemetery. Also, the famous complex Shahi-Zinda is located in the area of Afrasiab.

Samarkand was both the capital of the Sogdian state (on the present territory of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) until the 10th century, and of the Timurid Empire, which flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 19th century, Samarkand became part of the Russian Turkestan; the city came under the influence of the architecture of tsarist Russia. Buildings from this period are still standing. After the foundation of the Uzbek Soviet Republic in 1924, Samarkand became the first capital and held this status until 1930.

540,000

population

2750 years

age of Samarkand

720 Metres

above sea level

Bibi Khanum mosque
Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Samarkand

samarkand for tourists

The city is characterized by monuments from the time of the Timurid Empire. Majestic and extraordinary architectural constructions were built in this epoch. One of the most famous ensembles is Registan Square, which is framed by three beautiful madrasas. 

In contrast to the open-air museums Bukhara and Khiva, the historical buildings of Samarkand are spread all over the city, which is why a vehicle is an advantage for the visit. Due to this decentralization, hotels and restaurants are spread all over the city.

Festival: Every two years Registan square hosts the Sharq Taronalari Festival, which means “Melodies of the Orient”. This music festival usually takes place in August. 

Air connections: Samarkand has an international airport, which is approached from various cities in Russia but also Istanbul. There are local flights to Tashkent.

Railway connections: Samarkand railway station offers fast and comfortable connections to Tashkent, Bukhara and Karshi. There are also slow trains to other cities.

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