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  • Day31

    Sogdians, Afrosiab and Genghis Khan

    June 15 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Our second day in Samarkand started with a visit to a paper making business. It is thought that the secret to paper making reached Uzbekistan via some Chinese prisoners (the Chinese invented paper making). It's a painstaking process, starting with bark stripped from the mulberry tree (a versatile tree - the leaves are fed to silk worms and the fruit to humans).

    As I've previously mentioned, Tamerlane was quite the man of his time, and his descendants certainly carried on in his steed for some generations. His grandson Uleg Beg is best known for his scientific patronage and, in particular, his magnificent observatory, with which he correctly positioned more than 1000 stars. Destroyed by fanatics, part of the underground chamber was discovered by the Soviets in 1938. It shows the arc of the sextant cut into rock. It was a little bit of an anticlimax but the nearby museum provided some useful insights.

    The long history of occupation at Samakand is most evident at Afrosiab, the ancient core of the city which began as a settlement in the 6th century. Excavations have revealed 12 different occupation periods, although the actual site looks like a hilly paddock with a few grassy canals running through. The real evidence is found in the nearby museum. The highlight was definitely the wall murals from the Sogdian period, which depict scenes from the city's Silk Road heyday. Other museum exhibits explained the sequence of civilizations that occupied the area prior to it's almost complete destruction by Genghis Khan. An elongated skull was a particularly interesting curiosity!

    The remainder of our day saw us visiting the mausoleum "alley" of Shakh-I-Zinda and the Bibi-Khanym mosque - both worthy of a separate blog entry.

    We finally managed to find a very pleasant bar (Green Bear), which appeared to be located across the road from a local gambling den! A very pleasant evening, complete with local piano player, a delightful meal and a passable Uzbekistan merlot.
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