Uzbekistan which long served as the cradle of cultures for over two millennia boasts of accommodating some of the most spellbinding and marvelous ancient cities in the world where one can easily time travel back to the Middle Age era. These ancient marvels, most of which are located along the Silk Road route, are deeply infused, inspired, and influenced by the fascinating history of the glorious Silk Road route.
All major ancient cities of Uzbekistan share somewhat of a similar characteristics, and to get an overall sense, we’ll have to delve into the history of Uzbekistan first.
Uzbekistan was first inhabited by Iranian and Turkic Nomads along the rivers of Syr Darya and Amu Darya. Consequently, cities like Bukhara and Samarkand saw the light.
These cities became prominent transit points which led to the formation of the Great Silk Road route facilitating trade between China and Europe.
Several rulers came and annexed regions of Uzbekistan as part of their territory. Thus many of these ancient cities had to go through a cycle of construction, destruction, and renovation.
The Turkification of Uzbekistan which began since the Arab invasion was accelerated during the Mongol Period which had a profound impression on the ancient architectures that still stand today.
Timurid Empire which was founded by Amir Timur also left an indelible impression and influence on Uzbekistan and its cities.
Lately because of the Russian conquest in the 19th century, the cities prospered even more, thanks to the cotton production. The Russians also industrialized parts of the country which made Russian customs integral or partial part of Uzbek culture.
The history of Tashkent traces back to as early as 8th Century AD before the Islamic period when it was first inhabited by Sogidans and Turks. It was almost completely destroyed by the army of Genghis Khan in 1219 but was rebuilt shortly after because of its prominent location in the Silk Road. Then it became an independent city-state and today serves the capital city of Uzbekistan.
The mysterious city of Khiva to which numerous interesting legends are tied to is also an ancient city whose earliest settlement dates back to 6th Century, albeit tenuous evidence exists. But Turkic population appeared on scene as early as 10th Century. Under the Russian Empire, it remained as a quasi-independent protectorate. There are more than 50 historical monuments 250 old houses that were reportedly built during the 18th and 19th Century.
The history of city-museums city of Bukhara which accommodates over 140 ancient monuments also stretches back one to two millennia. Located ideally along the Silk Road route, it was a major Islamic intellectual center where numerous mosques and madrasahs were built, most of which are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The city of Nurata located in the foothills of Nurata Mountains and 190 Km from Samarkand is one of the sacred places in Uzbekistan with many historical buildings. The fortress of Nur was built by the order of Alexander who visited this city in 327 BC. The old unhurried lifestyle still prevails in this small town which truly offers some magnificent natural landscape.
Samarkand was one of the greatest and continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia which endured and went through conquest from various rulers and dynasties which primarily because its ideal location -- a main transit point for traders and merchants even before the Silk Road was founded. For that particular reason, it is now known as the “Crossroad of Cultures” where you can see mesmerizing ancient monuments.