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Uzbekistan: Ulugh Beg and beyond

Registan Square

From Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, Uzbekistan has long been ruled by mighty generals who conquered vast lands that stretched from Asia to Africa and Europe.

The last great conqueror was Tamerlane (Timur), who died suddenly during a military campaign to China – at a ripe age of 69 – before he could appoint his successor. Needless to say, his military-minded sons fought for control and it was his grandson, Ulugh Beg, who brought power back to Samarkand. He was only a teenager at the time.

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Uzbekistan: From Genghis Khan to Tamerlane

Former dorm rooms at the Ulugh Beg madrassah

Words like ‘Arabian nights’, ‘Silk Road’ and ‘Soviet Union’ may seem like an odd combination, but Uzbekistan manages to package it all neatly.

Located along the legendary Silk Road, Uzbekistan’s ancient citadels like Samarkand and Bukhara conjure up images of Arabian caravanserais and rich cultural deposits in the forms of ornate madrassahs, mosques and minarets. Their vivid blue hues are still a subject of admiration – and worship – by the many visitors that come here.

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Jewel of Samarkand

Sher-Dor Madrassah

Located within Samarkand’s Registan Square, the 17th century Sher-Dor Madrassah is decorated with bright ornaments of glazed brick; its walls and towers are clad with countless flower patterns and quotations from the Koran in Arabic. It has been restored many times during its existence, and today this UNESCO World Heritage-listed building is one of Samarkand’s (and Uzbekistan’s) main sights.