Day 42 (a): Samarqand

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The first day of this segment has overwhelmed me with history, jogging my brain and challenging all of those connections between Alexander the Great, the Mongols, and Tamir. Some of you may know this better, but for me, it’s learning on the job.

Lets start with Tamir and work back. Many of the madrasah photos shown here date from around the beginning of the 15th century. A madrasah was the focus of education, and included a library, classrooms and a place of worship. Tamir was from Samarqand and made a campaign to conquer India. His grandson was the scientist and developed an observatory and promoted a lot of concepts developed by the Arabs and and the Chinese.

2. When the Mongols struck in the 13th Century, they basically burned every town and village they encountered to the ground. Many of the relics predates this period, but the buildings are no longer standing. Alexander the Great conquered this area, but there is still some debate where and how long he ruled. He was physically here in the area with his army.

3. The complex of 3 madrassahs were built in two different periods: the one on the left was first developed in the early 1400s and the latter two that form a courtyard were from the 1500s. The later buildings were designed to form a symmetrical triad of buildings, but the domes are not symmetrically placed. There is a balance between symmetry and asymmetrical elements.

4. There were multiple religions operating at the same time, including Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Judaism. Sayings in Arabic on the entries to the building welcome all religions but only believers. These were sacred places of education held in high regard, and the eight major faculties each had their own rooms. Women were encouraged to learn in these institutions.

Extensive reconstruction of the tile work and buildings were made in the last few years. A bazaar used to be in the courtyard but the vendors have been relocated to preserve the structures.

Photos, from top:

1. Overview of Madrassah Complex, Samarqand

2. Map of Uzbekistan. My route is Tashkent-Samarqand-Bokhara-Khiva-Tashkent

3. Golden dome from inside, designed flat to reflect sound of prayer inside

4. Detail of stone tracery integrated with mosaic tiles to create textured pattern

Note: Internet access getting sporadic and unpredictable, particularly as I go further inland into the country. Keep your fingers crossed. I have an excellent guide but it is difficult to catch everything as she is covering a lot of ground. I’ll try to fill you in as I go.

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