Three Taj Mahals For The Price of One

The Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Monday, October 20, 2014.

The Registan is the centerpiece of historic sites in Samarkand, or in all of Uzbekistan, or as my guidebook argues, all of Central Asia. It’s a massive three-building complex, so big that I can’t fit it all into frame, even from the observation platform the government made for wide shots. Each of the three madrasahs has its own courtyard and peculiarities. Together, they served as the big commercial, intellectual, and cultural hub of Central Asia. The experience of being there is like going to three grand Taj Mahals next to each other for the price of one.

Speaking of price, Akmal told me that I look Uzbek and that I could probably get into sites free as a local if I just took my glasses off. So I take off my glasses and walk right in with a group of older Muslim men. The cashier at the gate actually smiles and just waves me in with them.

However, when I’m inside and looking around with my glasses back on, he taps me on the shoulder and explains his misunderstanding. “I thought you were with that group,” he tells me. “You have to pay.”

The jig is up and I pay him the $6 entry fee.

The Sherdor Madrasah, the second youngest of the three madrasahs, is still pretty old at 378 years old (completed in 1636). Sherdor is Tajik for lion, and they adorn the top of the facade.

Inside each of the madrasah’s courtyards, each room and former dormitory has been transformed into a souvenir store.

Within the leafy courtyard of the Tillya Kori Madrasah (the one in the middle if the three) is a mosque.

Gold leaf adorns the interior of Tillya-Kari’s mosque.

The Ulugbek Madrasah is the original madrasah, completed in 1420. It’s named after Mirzo Ulugbek, who taught math and astronomy here.

Two women visiting the Registan.

Left wing of the Tillya-Kari Madrasah.

The Registan serves as the perfect backdrop to a wedding photo. There are a couple of them at the observation deck.

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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.

Next entry:
Encounters on Tashkent Road

Previous entry:
The Silk Road: On the Beaten Path


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