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Situated next to the mosque and mausoleum of Bibi-Khanum, the central market of Samarkand no longer has its old buildings, but still keeps alive the spirit of the ancient trading culture of the great city, with dried fruits and nuts, traditional sweets, honey and dairy products and bread.
In the shadow of Bibi Khanum lies Samarkand's main bazaar, focus of the old town. While officially it is the Siab collective farm market, and melons come by truck not camel, the bustle of people and trading is faithful to centuries-old tradition. Early mornings and Sundays offer the most activity. Beside cloth sacks of exotic spices, the famous Samarkand non fills barrows and pushchairs. These roundels of unleavened bread include some 20 varieties with individual pattern and name.

When Tamerlane left on his first campaign, he took the best wheat and bakers the city could offer, plus salt, water and firewood, yet the non were not up to standard and the bakers paid with their heads. He later concluded that the superior flavour was in fact due to Samarkand's pure air and from then on ate only non delivered from the capital of his empire. Fruit stalls are piled high with apricots, peaches, figs and pomegranates; in autumn melons carpet much of the bazaar. Samarkand could boast over 100 kinds of grape by the tenth century-look for the popular kishmish, sweet and seedless. When you tire of bargaining, relax at chaikhana on the western perimeter.

On the south-western edge of Afrosiab, opposite the bazaar, rears the Khazret Khyzr Mosque, a must for any traveller as Khyzr is the patron of wayfarers and possesses the water of life. However, he appears only to the devout who perform namaz bamdad prayers 40 Mondays in succession. Like Chupan Ata, this figure of legend predates Islam and this spot may have seen an ancient temple before the Arabs built the city's first mosque here. The present building, dating from the mid-19th century but reworked ever since, has an asymmetrical composition of minaret, entrance lobby, indoor and outdoor premises. From under its beautiful wooden iwan, enjoy the view across bazaar traffic to Bibi Khanum and east to Shah-i-Zinda.