It’s the last day in Samarkand. I’ve been here for a week and I really like the place. The decision to stay rather than pushing on to Ferghana was the right one for many reasons.
There were a few things to do today, but nothing in particular. I wanted to see more of the old town, so in a radical departure from tradition, I went to the end of the lane and turned left instead of right. It took me down through the old town, and I loosely followed the wider roads until I got to the Shahrisabz road.
I headed back towards town and on a busy crossroad found a café with seating and a view over the traffic. At the front were two men producing Somsas at a huge rate; one would get the little dumplings from the kitchen at the back, knead them flat and throw them into a pan of hot fat where they would puff up. The other would stir, turn then lift them out and sell them. Despite the previous problems I had no qualms about eating these; food doesn’t get fresher than this. And it was cheap too; 1500 Som for a somsa and a pot of chai – £0.30p. I stopped and watched for a while, fascinated by the flow of production. At one point one of the customers called me over to say hello. It was only when he went for a formal embrace that I realised he was a bit … er … the worse for wear. It wasn’t chai in his cup, nor water but something a little stronger. I’d been offered vodka on my way in to town the other morning, and decided not to accept. Too early in the day for a tipple and as the British Empire isn’t any longer, the excuse of ‘sun over the yardarm somewhere’ carries no weight. I extracted myself politely and went back to my chai.
I wandered on, through back streets and quiet areas until I got to the wide tree-lined avenue of Universitat bulvari where I walked under the shade until I reached the great statue of Amir Temur sitting watchfully over the roundabout. In the distance, the Registan, and to the right his earthly remains. There were fresh gladioli in front of him. I wonder if this is a daily thing?
Having seen the Registan only somewhat clandestinely, I parted with $7 for a formal viewing. Once I’d cleared the gauntlet of tour guides telling me how much more rewarding my perambulation of a pile of restored bricks would be with their company, I then ran another gauntlet of people wanting me to come into their shop for “just one minute mister”. Now I may be faster than a speeding bullet, but I ain’t that quick.
Although the Registan is big, the two inner Holies are not as impressive as Amir Temur’s mausoleum so I’ve been spoiled. But judge for yourself:
So that’s it. The trip is nearly over. Economy class on the Sharq train to Tashkent tomorrow for another look at the capital. At the moment, I’m happy. I’ve done the things I wanted to do, seen the sights and much, much more. There may have been a blip in the middle but that’s why it wasn’t a holiday.
I’m writing this sat in a café next to the Bibi Khanym after a great dinner, drinking an Arab coffee. There is the oddest selection of music being played, so I’ll close with this one which is currently on full flow. It rather sums up Samarkand, and Uzbekistan: “… go straight to number one”.
Take it away Touch and Go …