Samarkand, one of the most ancient cities of the world, a contemporary of the Rome, Athens and Babylon, has a 2750-year-old history. “The Mirror of the World”, “The Garden of the Soul”, “The Jewel of Islam”, “The Precious Pearl of the Moslem World” are some the names given to this unique city. In ancient Greece, this city was known as Marakanda.
The natural abundance of the Zarafshan Valley (“Gold-covered”), where Samarkand was founded, was praised in the hymns of Avesta (ancient scriptures of Zoroastrianism). History has preserved many legends and stories about the foundation and the name of the city. The mythical ruler, Samar, after searching for a long time, finally found a very beautiful place with clean water and air. He dug a well at the exact spot, around which many people was settled and a city was founded. The author of the Dictionary of the Turkic Dialects, Makhmud Kashgari, called Samarkand “Semizkent”, meaning “fat and rich city”.
“What I have heart about Samarkand is true but Samarkand is much more beautiful than I have imagined”
Alexander the Great
From its early days, Samarkand had a dramatic fate. Being the capital of the powerful Sogdian state, it was destroyed by the troops of the Alexander the Great. After its restoration, it became one of the largest trade centres on the Great Silk Road. Later Samarkand survived a tragic conquest by the Arabs, but it flourished again, becoming the trade, handicraft and cultural centre of the Movarounnakhr (land beyond the River—meant Amu Darya River), through which all the important ground caravan routes of the East and the West passed. At the beginning of the 13th century, as the result of the Mongolian invasion, the city was buried. It was later rediscovered and Afrasiab (another name for Samarkand) was in ruins. A new city was appeared in the southern area, becoming the capital of the powerful state of Amir Temur (known in the West as Tamerlane). It was at this time that the city was at the height of its fame, becoming one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Skilful architects, masons, artist and artisans were brought here from the conquered lands, and construction was launched on the scale that had never been known before.
It was then that most famous buildings of the city were erected. Very considerable construction work was also carried on under Ulugbeg (the Astronomer King, the author of astronomic tables known throughout the world), Temur’s grandson, who was both an eminent ruler and scholar.
Under Ulugbeg more magnificent buildings were erected and close relations were maintained with other countries.
At the beginning of the 16th century the capital moved from Samarkand to Bukhara. Samarkand continued to remain an important centre but there was less buildings in it at that time, and many structures suffered neglect.