Tuesday, April 7, 2015

First Glimpses of Samarkand.

When I'm excited, I can't sleep.  My eyes opened up at the crack of dawn.  Pat was still sound asleep.  I laid in bed til I couldn't lay down any more and when I couldn't lay down anymore, I opened up my iPad and kept busy reading up on the places we'll be seeing today.  When I couldn't stay in bed any longer, I got up and got ready for the day. Just around then, Pat woke up.  It was just around 6:30a.

We were scheduled to meet with our guide, Valentina, at 9a.  So what do do between now and then other than eat breakfast?

It was a beautiful day outside - bright sunny skies and comfortably cool temperatures.  So, we decided to take a pre-breakfast stroll around the neighborhood.

We stayed at the well located Sultan Hotel.



















Our hotel is located on a very quiet side street that leads directly to the Gur-e Amir Mausoleum.  On foot, it literally took us no more a couple of minutes to walk over to the mausoleum which is the place where Timur is entombed.   In fact, we could see the mausoleum from our hotel room window.  Gur-e Amir is on our sightseeing itinerary so we would find out more about it from Valentina.  For now, we were content to just walk by it, stopping in front to take a few photos.  It's a small building but it's absolutely beautiful - very suitable for the leader that made Samarkand the center of his empire.






Gur-e Amir anchors a small, well manicured complex, complete with flower beds, fountains and stone brick paths.  There is another mausoleum on the grounds.


A tall wall demarcates the complex from the local neighborhood.  We decided to check out the local neighborhood.  It was like entering into another world.  Homes flanked both sides of very unevenly paved streets.  Doors and windows were all shut.  There was not a soul around.  I guess it's too early in the morning.  Pat and I had no idea where we were and I didn't want to get lost so we didn't walk far in any one direction before turning around.


We even came across a tomb.  Not something I would see in a city neighborhood in the US.


It wasn't exactly the prettiest of neighborhoods.  Curb appeal is not a consideration here.


There wasn't anything interesting in the 'hood so we went back to the complex to check out the other mausoleum.   It was such a plain looking building compared to Gur-e-Amir.  I presumed whoever was buried here was not all that important.  Wrong.


The entry doors were open so we stepped inside.


Standing at the far end of a small courtyard was a small building which I just learned is Rukhobod Mausoleum.

Rukhobod Mausoleum was built in 1380 on the orders of Timur; it is possibly city’s oldest surviving monument. The mausoleum was erected of the grave of an Islamic theologian and mystic named Sheikh Burhan al-Din Sagarji. Burhan al-Din Sagarji was notable for having significantly contributed to the spread of Islam among the nomads in what was then known as Turkestan, a region that now encompasses present day Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Burhan al-Din Sagarji was married to a Chinese princess and although it's not known exactly when he die, his remains were brought back to Samarkand per his will. His wife and nine children are also buried here.

As we approached the mausoleum, a man waved us towards him. I presumed he was the groundkeeper.  Just in case the mausoleum was on our sightseeing itinerary, I opted to not go inside.  I shook my head at the man and turned around and walked in the other direction.  He continued his way in.


Rukhobod Mausoleum forms part of an ensemble that includes the 19th century Hodja-Nisbatdor mosque with its free-standing turban-topped minaret, a feature typical of Samarkand mosques.



After spending a few minutes wandering around Rukhobod Mausoleum, we decided to head back to the hotel.


I was curious to see what the street that one of our hotel rooms looked over looked like from the ground.  It was another local neighborhood street.  Hmmm.....not pretty.


Back at the hotel, we headed to the restaurant for breakfast.  At check-in, Aziz had asked us what time we wanted breakfast.  We told him 8a.  When we got to the restaurant, there was already a table laid out for two. I told Pat that they probably usually serve a buffet breakfast but since it was just the two of us, they set out individual portions of the same buffet food items for each of us.  It was way more food than either one of us could eat on our own!


I ate a full breakfast.  We have a really full day of sightseeing ahead of us and God only knows, when we'll get lunch!