Uzbekistan’s ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand have some of the most impressive Islamic architecture you could see, and with any visit to Central Asia you should try to include Uzbekistan. Where Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have the grand mountains, Uzbekistan has the grand historic buildings.

The cities are  situated along the great Silk Road trade route between China and the West, which gave them significant importance.

I visited the country as part of a Central Asia trip in 2012.

Samarkand.

In Samarkand the Registan was the old centre of the city, and a place for Islamic study. The Registan has a total of three three madrasahs, which are Islamic schools.

The Madrasa of Ulugh Beghhb pictured at the start of the post and below is part of the Registan.

registan-samarkand-uzbekistan

Elsewhere in the city is the beautiful necropolis of Shah-i-Zinda (the living king), consisting of many mausoleums from the past 10 centuries. The next three pictures are from there.

shah-i-zinda-samarkand

It’s a place you can wander at ease and meet with some locals while taking in the architecture.

shah-i-zinda-necropolis-samarkand

It has a very special atmosphere to the place. It is in act my favourite part of the city.

shah-i-zinda-necropolis-samarkand-1

There are other things to see in Samarkand but these two areas are the best, in my opinion.

Bukhara.

Uzbekistan’s other important Silk Road city is just as magnificent as Samarkand. In the next photos you can see the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa and the Kalyan Minaret, both situated in the ancient heart of the city.

bukhara-medressa

Criminals were thrown from the top of the minaret to their deaths.

bukhara-kalyan-minaret

The Madrasa is very tranquil to walk around.

bukhara-medressa-1

In the photo below is a parade of local people dressed in traditional clothing, playing music.

bukhara-festival-kalyan-minaret

In this overview you can see the Kalyan Minaret and the Po-i-Kalan Mosque. The Mosque can hold 12,000 people. A part of the Madrasa can be seen on the right.

po-i-kalan-bukhara

The Ark of Bukhara is a huge fortress that stretches back over 15 centuries and was the centre of the royals who ruled the area.

You can see in this photo the size of the walls.

bukhara-walls-fortress

It’s not just the buildings in Uzbekistan that are impressive, look at the size and detail of that bread on the back of the bicycle.

cyclist-bread-bukhara

You could also pay a visit to a historical bathhouse and leave feeling very clean.

bathhouse-bukhara

As with Samarkand there are other things to see in Bukhara, but these are what appealed the most.

Travelling Uzbekistan.

oranges-uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is one of the harder places to get a visa for in Central Asia. I applied in Bishkek the capital of neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and received one in about two weeks. I then travelled overland into the country. You could apply in your home country if there is an embassy there or do it once your in the region. You can’t get one on arrival.

If you have any interest in grand historic architecture then Uzbekistan should be high on your list of countries to visit.

Although Uzbekistan didn’t feel as adventurous as its neighbours, it was still worthwhile for these two cities alone. The new capital Tashkent is not the most exciting city compared with Samarkand and Bukhara. If you’re on a shorter trip you could skip it or spend just a little time there.

There are other places to see in Uzbekistan but these are the two most important ones you could visit.

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