When you think of places to go and things to see Uzbekistan might seem a little bit off the beaten track. While Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey might be more well-known, Islamic art is not limited to these countries. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2001, the town of Samarkand in Uzbekistan holds many excellent examples of Islamic Art. Originally founded as a trade outpost in the 6th Century BCE, Samarkand was near several of the important Central Asian trade routes. The town existed through several different periods of rule including that of Alexander the Great. Islamic influence took hold after Samarkand was conquered by “Kuteiba-ibn-Muslim in 712 CE.” During this time “mosques, administrative centres, places of learning, courts, and treasuries” were constructed. Building on centuries of Islamic influence, monuments such as the Registan Mosque and the Gur Emir funerary complex show impact of Islamic art and architecture in the region.
While Uzbekistan might seem far off and not worth the trip, it has wonderful monuments described as “masterpieces of Islamic cultural creativity.” Increased tourism, especially with the popularity of finding the newest undiscovered and unspoiled tourist locations, would benefit the region. Money received from tourism would help economic growth and increase attention and awareness of these cultural treasures.
Virtual Tour of Samarkand: http://www.world-heritage-tour.org/asia/central-asia/uzbekistan/samarkand/map.html