Friday, November 16, 2012


I went to bed around midnight, only to wake up at 4am due to jetlag.  I popped a Dramamine, but I am quickly realizing it makes a terrible sleeping aid because when I woke up the next morning I was sufficiently gorked.  I felt like I was swimming in slow motion.  I had breakfast with Charlie, and we talked a bit about the pains of re-entry and reconnection.  I haven’t traveled for as long a stretch as him, so I can only imagine what that will be like.  We bade farewell, with the off chance that we may be in Sudan around the same time next year.

I hopped the local bus back to the train station to get my return ticket to Tashkent the following day, then returned to see the stunning Registan.  It was one of the more impressive places I have ever seen.  I was swimming in a sea of azure mosaics amid turquoise domes.  Meaning “Sandy Palace,” the Registan was medieval Samarkand’s commercial center and plaza. 

I first entered the Sher Dor Medressa, which was built in 1636.  High above are roaring cats that are supposed to be lions but look more like tigers.  Inside the medressa complex was porticos covered in swirling mosaics.

Next I made my way to the radiant Tilla-Kari Medressa.  Tilla-Kari means gold-covered, and it was.  There was an effulgent gold and azure spiral-pattern ceiling and wallway.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  Inside the mosque was old black-and-white photos of Samarkand.  I sat out for a while in the pleasant courtyard, enjoying the afternoon light and breeze.

Finally, I made my way to the original Ulugbek Medressa, which was the oldest of the structures (built in 1420).  Inside a portico, a green-eyed girl convinced me to buy a beautifully ornate teacup.  I am a sucker for green eyes.

After taking in all the delights of the Registan, I made my way down to the tomb of Timur (Tamerlane).  Given the man’s propensity for both pomp and conquest, his tomb was ornate but surprisingly subdued.  Interestingly, there was his horse’s tale hanging from a ten-foot pole.

I returned and later went out with Mark for dinner.  We found a local Uzbek restaurant that had some interesting paintings of the Registan in the days of the caravan routes.  That surely must have been a site when coming out of the desert.  The food was delicious, we split a plate of lamb with stewed apricots and onions.  It was the clear winner, it was sweet, savory and delicious.  The other dish, which was beef with potatoes and onions in a kind-of broth was good, but not even close to the other dish. 

At some point during our dinner, the other patrons in the restaurant started dancing in the middle of the restaurant to the music.  It was a birthday party, so we sung happy birthday and they gave us pieces of cake.  We were joined by a brother-sister traveling duo from Russia (the sister lives in Richmond).  Somewhere along the way, I got called up by the birthday party to dance.  Central Asian dance is just my style- little rhythm and flailing your arms like you are an airplane.  I ended up dancing in the center of the party for a while, it was a lot of fun.  Then the vodka came out.  The guys kept pouring me shot after shot.  They made me knock down about 4 in a row before I was able to get them to let up. I figured I could sacrifice my liver in the name of cultural exchange. 

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