The Mirror of the World, the Garden of the Soul, the Jewel of Islam, the Pearl of the East, the Centre of the Universe. Lying in the river valley of the Zerafshan (gold-strewer) and flanked by Pamir-Alai mountain spurs, this fabled oasis at the fringes of the Kyzyl Kum desert has never lacked breathless admirers. Another name, City of Famous Shadows, reveals Samarkand as witness to the full sweep of Central Asian history.
You can visit most of Samarkand’s highprofile attractions in two or three days. If you’re short on time, at least see the Registan, Gur-e-Amir, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-i-Zinda. Note that the people of Samarkand, Bukhara and southeastern Uzbekistan don’t speak Uzbek but an Uzbek-laced Tajik (Farsi).