Renaissance Man

Ulugbek Observatory, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

This is Mirzo Ulugbek (a statue of him anyway), grandson of the great Amir Temur, who ruled from 1394–1449. Although a ruler in the 488-year-long Temurid dynasty, he was more known as a Renaissance Man, valuing the importance of music, art, math, and particularly astronomy in his society. He looks rather regal in this statue, especially when not surrounded by wedding parties.


There are about five wedding parties, each with its own photographer and videographer entourages, when I arrive at the Ulugbek Observatory after a long walk from the hub of historic sites. Apparently, it’s wedding season in the autumn because it’s not freezing nor scorching outside.

Ulugbek Observatory as it stands today (the two lower pictures) are the remnants of what it was in the 15th century (above). The original cylindrical structure, now gone, had a window in it for the sun to come in and beam a light down on an underground stone measuring track — sort of like the beam of light in the map room in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Recording measurements at different parts of the year, Ulugbek got an understanding of the cosmos and catalogued stars — a publication that soon got the attention of European astronomers. Today, he’s known as one of history’s great intellects in the field.

Today, Uzbekistan still contributes to the study of astronomy with their modern telescope at the Maydanak Observatory. They have received acknowledgements from the scientific community, including NASA, for discovering minor planets. In fact, six minor planets are named after Uzbek people and cities, including planet Ulugbek (discovered 1977) and planet Samarkand (discovered 2009).

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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

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Lost Backpacker

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The Puppy of Ancient Afrosiyob


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The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

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