The Registan

Sunrise at the Registan
Sunrise at the Registan
Midday at the Registan
Midday at the Registan
Sunset at the Registan
Sunset at the Registan

I refused to pay ~$8 to enter these buildings, but did pay a bribe of $5 to go up in a minaret illegally. Welcome to Samarkand.

The standard crew of tourists at the Registan, minus loads of European tourists
The standard crew of tourists at the Registan, minus loads of European tourists
As the sunset, they started to go home
As the sunset, they started to go home

Uzbekistan, and Samarkand in particular, are a photographer’s dream. And the Registan is the pièce de résistance of the ancient city. Needless to say, I took almost 100 photos of the place, many of which looked exactly the same. But it was still so awe-inspiring that I, like many tourists before me, simply could not stop.

Sher Dor Medressa at sunset
Sher Dor Medressa, built in 1636
Tilla-Kari Medressa, built in 1660
Tilla-Kari Medressa, built in 1660
Ulugbek Medressa, finished in 1420
Ulugbek Medressa, finished in 1420

Saranna and I arrived fairly early after our morning train from Bukhara, and found that our awesome Bed & Breakfast, the Jahongir, was two blocks away from the Registan, but in such a place that if we had to go anywhere, we had to walk by the Registan. It was our first stop midday, our last stop at sunset, and our first stop at sunrise. Our time there at sunset, however, was the most interesting.

Sunset from the Minaret of the Ulugbek Medressa
Sunset from the Minaret of the Ulugbek Medressa

When we first arrived, we found the price was pretty steep, so we decided to wait until the next morning to take advantage of spending more time there, but we stayed in the public viewing area to watch the sunset. I was taking a panorama as close as I could get to the buildings when I was approached by a plain-clothed guy and one of the many police officers. They offered to get me up in the minaret for $10 in cash. I had read that this was common practice for people if they arrive at sunrise, so I went for it. I told them $10 for Saranna and I, and they took it. We then walked in through a side door and up stairs built 600 years ago.

Sunset panorama from a minaret tower. For an interactive version, click on it.
Sunset panorama from a minaret tower. For an interactive version, click on it.

The view from the top was amazing. We could see the foothills of the Pamir mountains in the distance, and all of the ancient buildings of Samarkand as well. We took pictures for a while, but I definitely put down my camera for a while to take in the view. It was the highlight of the trip.

Sher Dor Medressa from above
Sher Dor Medressa from above
The foothills of the Pamir in the distance
The foothills of the Pamir in the distance

What we realized on the way down is that there were small windows along the spiral staircase that provided unique views of the surrounding buildings. This led to a three-way photo duel between Saranna, Eli, and myself. I think Saranna won, but mine were not bad either.

The domes of the Tilla-Kari Medressa from the minaret tower
The domes of the Tilla-Kari Medressa from the minaret tower
Sher Dor Medressa from the minaret with the moon in the background
Sher Dor Medressa from the minaret with the moon in the background

We came out of the minaret right as the place was closing down. I snapped a few more shots from the center square, a few with Saranna to show the size of these buildings.

Saranna in front of the Ulugbek Medressa
Saranna in front of the Ulugbek Medressa

We returned at sunrise to start the day, but in the end there was so much to see in Samarkand we never paid that $8 fee to enter. These buildings are simply amazing, however, and belong on the to-do list of anyone visiting Central Asia.

Detail of the Ulugbek Medressa
Detail of the Ulugbek Medressa

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