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Thousands of captured artisans from Persia, Iraq and Azerbaijan were put to work by Timur to create his imperial capital, Samarkand. Encircled by snow-lit mountains, the exquisitely symmetrical domes and minarets at its heart became the marvel of the ancient Silk Road. And although they’re more accessible than ever, and engulfed by a bleak Soviet-block conurbation, the city still has about it an aura of near mythic remoteness. Foremost among the surviving monuments here is the Registan, a grand bazaar flanked by madrasas whose domes and walls are encrusted with azure, turquoise and wax-yellow tiles, and the resplendent Bibi-Khanym mosque, whose brilliance poets compared with that of the Milky Way.
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