29 May 2012

Uzbekistan: Samarqand 16-18 May, 2012

This city is one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world.  Throughout time, it has seen quite a lot of action, from being a central point from China to Europe on the silk route to being a center of scholarly study for the Islamic world.
Bibi Khanym Mosque
When we arrived into Samarqand we did not know what to expect.  However, after visiting Xiva and Bukhara, the glory was a bit stolen.  We stayed for 2 days in Samarqand to be able to walk around and see/feel this ancient center.  The buildings are massive and very impressive...from afar.  The closer one gets, the more one can see the poor restoration work that has been done.  It is a pity to see these enormous buildings in such a state.  However, it does appear that the city is trying to bring the old city back to life by improving the grounds in and around the old city.  Time will tell how it continues.  
The Old City
Walking outside of the old city into the new city was also a bit depressing.  Moving away from the Registan we quickly were confronted with 50s era Soviet buildings and squares.  The new city was not that spectacular and felt more like an area outside of a big city.  
An old Russian park that has been demolished - at least there is a view of the Great Mosque in the distance
All the roads/paths in the old city that connect all the old monuments are being  bricked
The highlight of Samarqand were the people we met at the Buhoudir Guesthouse.  Just after arriving, we met two french friends (Peggy and Guillaume) who are traveling in a Citroen 2CV from France to India and back (www.peripleenorient.free.fr).  It is a quite impressive journey over 1 year.  
The Citroen 2CV
We also met a nice french girl who was traveling on her own, Isabelle.  She told us that she was proposed to about 3-4 times while in Uzbekistan. She had pretty funny stories.  Two cyclists arrived shortly after, Dave and Ido.  Dave is an Australian cycling from Istanbul to China and Ido is an Israeli cycling to Kazakhstan.  
Dave and Ido's bikes
Tamara is a Swiss girl who was living in Kyrgyzstan and gave us some useful tips about the Kazakhstan embassy in Bishkek.  Lastly there was a Swiss/UK couple who were backpacking their way to the Pamirs.  
The Buhoudir is a melting pot for travelers and information gathering.  HJ even ordered his replacement fork seal and spare o-rings to be delivered in Tashkent.  Tashkent was another 300km or so away so we would need smooth road to make it without problems.  We have heard the road is ok so we shall see...

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