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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.