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Samarkand’s Registan - A view from our expert author
© Sophie Ibbotson and Max Lovell-Hoare
This central square will make even the most architecture-weary visitor stand up and take note.
Samarkand’s central square will make even the most architecture-weary visitor stand up and take note. Pausing for a minute (and a photo) on the raised viewing platform, the square unfolds below you. An almost infinite number of contrasting patterns swirl and dance on every surface but somehow never clash; the equally garishly patterned textiles worn by Uzbek women walking by appear almost as a continuation of the buildings themselves. The effect is completely mesmerising.
The Registan grew up around the tomb to the 9th-century saint Imam Muhammad ibn Djafar, but by the 14th century this was also the commercial heart of the town. Six roads ran through the square, and it was connected directly with Timur’s citadel. Imperial decrees were shouted from the rooftops, and people would also have gathered here to watch military pageants and other forms of spectacle. The three magnificent buildings you see today are the successors to this medieval centrepiece.