When it comes to legendary places like Timbuktu, Shangri-la or Xanadu, Samarkand also ranks up there – thanks in part to its most-impressive ancient structure: the Registan.

For this is the grand Silk Road city of the medieval Islamic warrior and empire builder, Timur (known in the West as Tamerlane: “Temur the Lame” due to a leg injury).

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Sometimes it seemed timeless: a “retro mood” applied to this recent digital image of the Registan in Samarkand – Uzbekistan

Due to its position mid-way along the Silk Road between China and Rome, Samarkand became one of the greatest cities in Central Asia.

Early on, it was an ancient Persian city that the Greeks called Maracanda (Alexander The Great visited it; mud ruins remain at the city limits). Later it was part of the Abbasid Empire  – based in Iraq – before Timur in 1370, decided to make Samarkand the capital of his vast empire – stretching from India to Turkey.

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Panorama of the Samarkand’s centerpoint: the Registan – square of Madrasas

Across the Timurid Dynasty period and beyond, classic Islamic monuments were built across Samarkand.

The Registan is one of the most amazing examples of Islamic architecture anywhere … It was originally a public square framed by three religious schools built by rulers between 1417 – 1660 AD: Madrasa of Ulugh Beg; Sher-Dor Madrasah; Tilya-Kori Madrasah.

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Entrance to the Tilya-Kori Madrasa in the Registan – Samarkand

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Glazed tiles of Islamic calligraphy and turquoise domes within the Registan, Samarkand – Uzbekistan

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Dozens of student dorms cluster around the interior courtyards of this Madrassa – in the Registan of Samarkand

lion's gate registan samarkand

On both sides high above the portal to the Sher-Dor Madrassa (in Registan of Samarkand) is this human and lion representation, which is very unusual in Islamic art (since depictions of humans and living things are stated as prohibited in the Koran)

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The amazing and intense Islamic calligraphy and geometric motifs that cover the surfaces of a dome and minaret within the Registan complex in Samarkand

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