donderdag 30 mei 2013

Uzbekistan, Samarkand - Crossroad of Cultures

The historic town of Samarkand is a crossroad and melting pot of the world's cultures. Founded in the 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrasiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to the 15th centuries. The major monuments include the Registan Mosque and madrasas, Bibi-Khanum Mosque, the Shakhi-Zinda compound and the Gur-Emir ensemble, as well as Ulugh-Beg's Observatory.



The historic town of Samarkand illustrates in its art, architecture and urban structure the most important stages of Central Asian cultural and political history from the 13th century to the present day. Ensembles such as the Bibi Khanum Mosque and Registan Square played a seminal role in the development of Islamic architecture over the entire region, from the Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent.
Samarkand is a crossroad and melting pot of the world's cultures. Founded in the 7th century BC as ancient Afrosiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to 15th centuries. Located on the crossroads of the great trade routes that traversed Central Asia, Samarkand has a multi-millennial history. Archaeological excavations have brought to light the remains of settlements from the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. Afrosiab had a strategic location at the time of the formation of the first large states in Central Asia, such as Khorezm, Bactria and Sogd, and it was the capital of Sogdiana. It was part of the Achaemenid Empire (6th-4th centuries BC) and that of Alexander the Great (4th century BC). The city became prosperous and an important centre of silk trade in the 2nd century AD.
The city was part of a Turkish kingdom in the 6th century, and was conquered by Kuteiba-ibn-Muslim in 712 CE, starting the penetration of Islamic culture into the region. The Arabs rulers turned the ancient temples into mosques, administrative centres, places of learning, courts, and treasuries. The Samanids of Iran occupied the place from the 9th to 10th centuries and Turkic peoples from the 11th to 13th centuries; it was part of the Kingdom of Khwarezm in the 13th century, until it was devastated by the Mongol invasion of Genghis Khan in 1220. The city emerged as a major centre through the efforts of Timur the Lame (Tamerlane, c . 1336-1405). It was rebuilt on its present site, south-west of Afrosiab, and became the capital of Timur's powerful state and the repository of the material riches from conquered territories that extended from Central Asia to Persia, Afghanistan, and India. It remained a cultural capital of the Timurids until the reign of Ulugh Bek (1409-49) and his successors. Timur built a citadel, the Blue Palace (Kuk-Saray), and other important buildings. The period was characterized by a new synthesis of arts; local traditions were influenced from other regions of the empire (Persian Khorasan, Khorezm). The eastern gates of the town linked with the city centre, known as Registan Square, where Ulugh Bek started building a major complex in 1447.
In the 16th century, during the Uzbek occupation (1500), Samarkand gradually lost its earlier importance, although some notable construction works were still undertaken in the 17th century. In 1868 the Russians conquered Samarkand, making it a provincial capital (1887) and thus reviving its economy. The Caspian Railway came to the town in 1888, linking European Russia and Central Asia and reinforcing the role of Samarkand as an important trade centre. Russia constructed schools, churches, and hospitals, and the western part of Samarkand was redeveloped according to current town planning ideas. The period, however, also led to the destruction of the city walls and gates, as well as of several monuments, such as Timur's citadel. At the beginning of the 20th century the city included three main sectors: the archaeological area of the ancient city (Afrosiab), the medieval Timurid city, and the modern city, which was the capital of the Uzbek SSR from 1924 to 1930 and later an administrative centre.
The World Heritage site consists of series of monuments, the most important of which are the Shakhi-Zinda ensemble, Hazrat-Hizr Mosque, and remains of the city walls in the Afrosiab archaeological area; the Bibi-Khanum ensemble; the Registan ensemble; the ensembles of Gur-Emir and Rukhabad; Ulugh-Bek's Observatory; the ensembles of Abdi-Darun and Ishrat-khona; and the City Garden ensemble in the 19th-century town.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC


Historical Description

Located on the crossroads of the great trade routes that traversed Central Asia, Samarkand has a multi-millennial history. Archaeological excavations in present-day Samarkand have brought to light the remains of settlements related to the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. The ancient Afrosiab (the predecessor of Samarkand) had a strategic location at the time of the formation of the first large states in Central Asia, such as Khorezm, Baktria, and Sogd, and it was the capital of Sogdiana. It was part of the Achaemenid Empire (6th-4th centuries BCE) and that of Alexander the Great (4th century BCE). Situated at the crossing of trade routes from China, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and the Caucasus, the city became prosperous and an important centre of silk trade in the 2nd century CE. The city was part of a Turkish kingdom in the 6th century, and was conquered by Kuteiba-ibn-Muslim in 712 CE, starting the penetration of Islamic culture into the region of the present-day Uzbekistan (Maverannahr or Transoxiana). The Arabs rulers turned the ancient temples into mosques, administrative centres, places of learning, courts, and treasuries.
The Samanids of Iran occupied the place from the 9th to 10th centuries and Turkic peoples from the 11th to 13th centuries; it was part of the Kingdom of Khwarezm in the 13th century, until it was devastated by the Mongol invasion of Genghis Khan in 1220. The city emerged as a major centre through the efforts of Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) (1369-1404). It was rebuilt on its present site, south-west of Afrosiab, and became the capital of Timur's powerful state and the repository of the material riches from conquered territories that extended from Central Asia to Persia, Afghanistan, and India. It remained a cultural capital of the Timurids until the end of the 15th century, during the reign of Ulugh Bek (1409-49) and his successors. Timur built a citadel, the Blue Palace (Kuk- Saray), and other important buildings. The period was characterized by a new synthesis of arts; local traditions were influenced from other regions of the empire (Persian Khorasan, Khorezm), resulting in the construction of major religious ensembles, such as Bibi-Khanum Mosque in front of the main city gates, the Gur Emir complex, and the Grave of Emir near the palace of Muhammad Sultan. The eastern gates of the town linked with the city centre, known as Registan Square, where Ulugh Bek started the construction of a major complex in 1447.
In the 16th century, during the Uzbek occupation (1500), Samarkand became the Khanate of Bukhara and gradually lost its earlier importance, though some notable construction works were still undertaken in the 17th century. These included the Madrassah of Shir-Dor built by Yalandtush Bahadur on Registan Square opposite the Ulugh Bek Madrassah, followed by the Tilla Kari Madrassah, a new Friday mosque, to complete the ensemble. In the 18th century, the city suffered a serious economic decline.
In 1868 the Russians conquered Samarkand, making it a provincial capital (1887) and thus reviving its economy. The Caspian Railway was brought to the town in 1888, linking the European part of Russia and Central Asia and again reinforcing the role of Samarkand as an important trade centre. The Russian administration constructed schools, churches, and hospitals, and the western part of Samarkand was redeveloped according to current townplanning ideas. The period, however, also led to the destruction of the city walls and gates, as well as of several monuments, such as Timur's citadel. At the beginning of the 20th century the city thus included three main sectors one next to the other: the archaeological area of the ancient city (Afrosiab), the medieval Timurid city, and the modern city, the construction of which started in the 1870s. The city was the capital of the Uzbek SSR from 1924 to 1930 and later an administrative centre.

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