Registan Samarkand at night

21 Photos of Samarqand, the Most Impressive City in Uzbekistan

44 comments
Photography, Street Photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Samarqand is the most impressive city in Uzbekistan. Indeed, with gargantuan mosques, ornate mausoleums, tree-lined streets, and sprawling parks, it is one of the most impressive cities anywhere. Yet, it was my least favorite city in Uzbekistan, mainly because it is spread out and quite challenging to visit in comparison to Khiva and Bukhara.

Samarqand is two towns in one. All the incredible Islamic architecture, museums, and photogenic mud-brick homes are in the old section. So are all the over-priced and mediocre restaurants.

Over in Russia town, an area of grand European buildings, sprawling parks, and wide avenues, a place more like St. Petersburg than Central Asia, is where all the good restaurants and lively bars live. Visitors are faced with a dilemma: stay near the sights and trek for food or stay near the nightlife and travel to the sights.

We stayed in the old town, a short walk from the mighty Registan. There was a dearth of places to eat in our area, but we found a local joint that seemed busy and popular. We talked to the owner, telling him my wife is a vegetarian, and he seemed to understand. Then he brought her a vegetable soup – with two giant meatballs floating in it. She looked at her bowl, scooped up the weighty meat pies in her spoon, and plopped them on my plate. Problem solved.

The next two nights we journeyed to Russia town and ate at some great restaurants more accustomed to those strange and peculiar non-carnivores, and visited some lively bars and cafes. On the way back, we had to haggle with unscrupulous taxi drivers or try and waddle home full of rich Uzbek food.

For me, staying in the old town was worth it. Every morning, I awoke before sunrise and went on a walk. I visited the market early in the morning as hard-working men and women set up for the day, and photographed the Registan and Bibi-Khanym Mosque at first light. Since most tourists were asleep in their hotels or having breakfast in Russia town, I had Uzbekistan’s most impressive city all to myself.

1.

Bibi-Khanym Mosque

An artist working in the Bibi-Khanym Mosque.

2.

Bibi-Khanym Mosque

Pedestrians strolling by the colossal Bibi-Khanym Mosque.

3.

Siab Bazaar

The Siab Bazaar at daybreak. The friendly locals at the market seemed surprised to see a tourist so early in the morning. 

4.

Samarkand cemetery

The tombstones in the Muslim cemetery feature a portrait of the deceased. I want this when I die, but I want a photo of me in my prime, like 15 years ago.

5.

Uzbekistan street photography

The wonderfully dressed women of Uzbekistan.

6.

Uzbekistan street photography

Women’s fashions haven’t changed much in Uzbekistan.

7.

Uzbekistan street photography

The ornate tile of the Registan.

8.

Uzbekistan street photography

The signature blue tiles of Uzbek architecture.

9.

Uzbekistan street photography

Bread vendors headed to the Siab Bazaar.

10.

Uzbekistan street photography

Vendors in the Siab Bazaar.

11.

Uzbekistan street photography

The imposing Registan at sunrise.

12.

Uzbekistan street photography

The ornate ceilings of a mosque in the Registan. The ceiling is actually flat but painted to give the illusion of a dome.

13.

Tillya-Kori Madrasah

Man praying at the ornate Tillya-Kori Madrasa.

14.

Bibi-Khanym Mosque

My wife giving a human scale to the Bibi-Khanym Mosque.

15.

Siab bazaar street photography

Tea and coffee vendor at the market.

16.

Siab Bazaar flower vendor

Flower vendor.

17.

Shah-i-Zinda

Mausoleums at the Shah-i-Zinda complex. 

18.

Hazrat Khizr Mosque

The stunning Hazrat Khizr Mosque has recently been renovated by a wealthy local.

19.

Hazrat Khizr Mosque

Teaching a youngster to pray at a mausoleum.

20.

Registan Samarkand

Four dudes just hanging out at the Registan.

21.

Registan Samarkand at night

The Registan at night, one of Asia’s most spectacular sights.

 


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Currently living in Bangkok, I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

44 thoughts on “21 Photos of Samarqand, the Most Impressive City in Uzbekistan”

  1. You need to stop taking such stunning pictures. I always challenge myself to pick a favorite, but it’s so hard!! I have enough stress in my life, Jeff! 😉

  2. The previous comment made me smile. But I’d have more stress trying to find a photo I liked enough to decorate my grave. 🙂 🙂

  3. The early bird catches the worm and you certainly got some great photos here. The very first one in this post is a big wow. I also love number 5, the ladies coming out of the mosque, their eyes closed because of the bright day light as they step outside. I like that your wife was quite happy to just remove the pieces of meat and carry on eating her meal, sometimes you just have to improvise. Like you I would have stayed in the old town. In Brazil people also have a photo of themselves on their graves, when my mum died I chose hers.

    • Uzbekistan is a carnivores paradise but is a little tough on Vegetarians. Uzbeks think chicken is a vegetable and fish is a fruit. She ate a lot of bread there.

      I felt really happy to catch that first photo with the light pouring in. I was about to leave the room when I got the idea for the shot.

      Do people in Brazil usually put a photo of the person when they are old or when they are younger?

  4. The tiles are just magnificent and I love the bright, colourful clothing of the women. The meatball story is funny (probably not for Kristi). Thanks for the warning about the two parts of town.

    • I really like the clothing of the women as well. So many women had on beautiful and quirky clothes. It is a shame when cultures abandon stylish local clothes for t-shirts and jeans.

  5. Fabulous photos as usual Jeff. I so wish I could get myself out of bed for sunrise! I know it’s the best time for photography but getting enough sleep seems more important. Until I see photos like this and realize I need to change my priorities lol.
    Alison

    • I often have the same problem. I’m not naturally a morning person, but I did it on day one, got great photos, enjoyed the atmosphere, and just stuck with it each day. Then, I was exhausted and fell asleep early each night as a result, so I still got more sleep than normal.

      In Japan this summer, the sunrise is about 4:30 in the morning so I never got up for sunrise then.

  6. Even more WOW photos! How long were you there, and what places did you visit overall? Trying to get an idea of how to tackle the region in general.

    • I was there for two weeks and went to Samarqand, Bukhara, Khiva, and Tashkent. You can do it in a week or 10 days, but I took a little more time. If you go in the summer, there is some great hiking in the east and in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

  7. Some wonderful photos. The architecture is impressive and love the street shots. Staying in the Old Town sounds like the right thing to do. Better photographically speaking. 🙂

  8. Stunning photos as always Jeff. I chuckled at the vegetarian meatball soup. A similar thing happened to me in Portugal. Apparently sausage is also a vegetable. Who knew?

    • Sausage sort of looks like a vegetable, a carrot or zucchini maybe? She ate a lot of soups and bread in Uzbekistan.

  9. All of your photos are stunning, but particularly that first one. Thanks for shedding some light on what to consider when staying in Samarqand. Hoping to get there in the next year or two!

    • Thank you. I was about to leave that room in the first photo when I saw the idea for the shot. I almost walked right by it. You’ll love Uzbekistan – it is a great place!

  10. Thanks for telling us about the two different parts of the city, Jeff. As attractions and food are always the most important things in my travels, deciding where to stay when I do go to Samarqand one day will be tough. Yet again, you took stunning shots from your trip to Uzbekistan! I never realized that the ceiling in photo #12 is actually flat. That’s a really impressive technique of using different pattern sizes and layers.

    • Food or sites, yes, that will be a dilemma when you go. Since you eat meat, you can eat at some of the local places in the old town and be okay. The more touristy and worldly restaurants in Russia town had some great non-meat options. That ceiling is really cool, like so much of the incredible architecture there. That whole room felt like a drug-fueled hallucination at times.

  11. Wow, these are spectacular images, Jeff. The architectural shot of the Registan at night is fabulous. And your street photography is exciting as always– four dudes 🙂 , bread vendors, the interior of the person praying…I keep going back to enjoy more details on all of them. Thank you!

  12. Wow, oh, my god, these photos are all so amazing. It’s hard to pick a favorite. But! I must say the structures and architectures are my favorite. I know I’m supposed to like people pics, and I do, but you did such a grand job capturing the awe and wonder of the buildings. And gold and blue never looked so good…

  13. Lots of great photos here, that place has character and you’ve really captured it. And picture #1 is a classic.

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    • The Bazaar was quite big. Most of it was a local market with vegetables, meat, fruit, housewares. By the main street, enterprising merchants had souvenirs for the tourists. By going early, I got to see the local market before the tourist stalls opened. Thanks for your comments.

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