Samarkand: The Jewish Quarter and The Registan

Ozoda Sayidakhmedova
Samarkand, Uzbekistan
May 29, 2009

Dear Ozoda,
Cc: Family and Friends

Thank you for being my personal guide in Samarkand. Without you, it would have been much more difficult to visit some of the sights. And since you are training to be a guide, I appreciate the information that you provided.

The Jewish Quarter in Samarkand was easy to find. But we did have to search around for the “Synagoga” and the lady with the keys. Tamara explained that the old Jewish public bathhouse and the synagogue are still in use but her children, like most of the young people, have emigrated to Israel. She was a bit sad when she admitted that no bar mitzvahs or weddings had taken place here in a long while.

The 15th Century Ishrakhana Mausoleum site is still in ruins. With a deep crypt and crumbling walls, I found this to be an intriguing and quiet spot that we enjoyed with no other tourist in sight.

Just across the street, we found the Khodja Adi Daran Mausoleum and a tall minaret with its azure dome. The loud speakers at the top still call the faithful to prayer to the adjacent mosque. The buildings share a shady, tranquil hauz (artificial stone pool), the perfect oasis on our morning’s outing.

We saved the best for last. The dramatic buildings of the Registan complex were on my walking route every day. Thanks to you, I got a closer look.

Please forgive me, Ozoda, but words fail me, so I will simply quote from my guidebook:

“The ensemble of majestic, tilting medrassas - a near-overload of majolica, azure mosaics and vast, well-proportioned spaces - is the centerpiece of the city, and one of the most awesome sights in Central Asia. The Registan which translates to “Sandy Place” in Tajik, was medieval Samarkand’s commercial centre and the plaza was probably wall-to-wall bazaar.

“The three grand edifices here are among the world’s oldest medrasses, anything older having been destroyed by Jenghiz Khan. They have taken their knocks over the years courtesy of frequent earthquakes that buffet the region; that they are still standing is a testament to the incredible craftsmanship of their builders.”*

The three main structures are the Ulugbek Medrassa (1420), the Sher Dor Medrassa (1636), and in the middle, the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medrassa (1660). **

I was so enthralled with these buildings that I rushed over to see them again at dawn the next morning – a colorful end to my visit to Samarkand. Sadly, but with bright expectations, I leave today for Bukhara.

Finally Ozoda, thank you again. I was able to place a check mark in my guidebook next to most of the entries for Samarkand. I look forward to my return to see more of your remarkable city.

Your friend,


* Central Asia. Bradley Mayhew, Lonely Planet. 2006. Page 225

** For an excellent description of the history of the Registan:


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