Day 6: To Samarkand!

We lugged our rather large bags to the train station at Tashkent to board our train to Samarkand. (Note for next trip: travel light! Balancing big strolleys and self over sleet covered paths is not fun.)

Gur-e-Amir in Snow

Gur-e-Amir in Snow

Uzbek trains are quite comfortable and the locals travel like us – with loads of luggage. They also have in-train entertainment. So we got to see Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Double Impact in Uzbek while a young couple on the seat next to us played Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” [listen] on their mobile phone. It didn’t stop me from sleeping but Nisha was clearly disturbed by this clash of cultures.

Samarkand was also snowed in when we arrived. Our hotel overlooked the Gur-e-Amir (we insisted on getting a room with a “view”) and we trooped off to see the mausoleum despite the snow. Samarkand’s monuments have always been captured in bright summer daylight. Seeing the Gur-e-Amir through snow was a rare and beautiful experience.

Gur-e-Amir Snow-capped Dome

Gur-e-Amir Snow-capped Dome

Nisha remembered a store from her last visit (when on a tour with Explore) where she’d picked up etched wooden tiles. When we got there, we were told the store was closed. Undeterred, we found out the owner’s number, pulled him out of his warm house and got him to open the store. Once he got there, in our now signature style called “gentle raiding”, we checked out everything he had.

Our nosy efforts paid off when we found a hidden stash of intricate delicate ceramic motifs etched on wooden tiles. The store owner’s brother was an artist who specialised in this craft. The patterns were inspired by tilework on the Gur-e-Amir, Shah-i-Zinda and Registan. They are absolutely stunning and are coming home with Nisha.

Two hours later, we were out with our selected pieces. The store owner was a little (!) miffed at being hauled out of his house – but now seemed to look happy. It is possible he was just glad to see us go. It does take nerves of steel to deal with us. As Nisha says, Zahid (our guide) has the patience of a saint. He keeps up with us, doesn’t abandon us when we bargain hard, has picked up a smattering of Hindi and has a zen-like aura even when we put him up to impossible schedules.

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2 Comments

  1. Prema
    Posted 4 March 2012 at 19:44 | Permalink

    I have been reading your blog for some time now and love it!

    I’m planning a trip to Uzbekistan this July/August and wondered if you would share your recommendations for hotels, guides etc. We normally stay in budget places and travel and eat like the locals but my research isn’t giving me any ‘budget’ results.

    Any prices you can remember will help us. Thanks and keep travelling and taking beautiful pictures.

    Prema

  2. Mike
    Posted 5 March 2012 at 23:34 | Permalink

    Hi Prema

    Whilst normally we travel independently and make our own bookings, transport arrangements etc., for Uzbekistan we have used the services of Advantour. The Lonely Planet guide for Central Asia is pretty useful, and you can also try their forum for advice from other travellers.

    Enjoy your trip.

    Cheers
    — Mike —

4 Trackbacks

  • By Uzbekistan Beckons: Zoroastrianism in Uzbekistan on 24 February 2012 at 19:10

    […] tiny but significant part of that incredible highway. To arrive at the legendary caravan cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, the oasis town of Khiva, only to get sent back 2,500 years. The magnificent turquoise […]

  • […] So impressed was the local bozaar lady with our marauding ways, she invited us to her village home where she pulled out more. And boy! Did she have it all! No lunch for the wicked. By the way, it may not have been snowing but it was bloody cold. Like really finger-numbing, eye-watering, toe-deadening cold. We spend two hours there, pillaged her collection and left for Samarkand victorious. […]

  • […] any conclusive answers. But for what it’s worth, here’s what I saw and heard. Samarkand’s Gur e Amir (Timur’s mausoleum), Shah-i Zinda (avenue of mausoleums), Bukhara’s Minar e Kholon (big […]

  • […] was my day to break away from Nisha (since she has been to Samarkand twice already) and visit the glorious Timurid structures with a local guide, who’s name turns […]

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