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 it’s these days hemmed in by bleak Soviet-style conurbation, the city still has about it an aura of near mythic remoteness.
Foremost among the surviving monuments here is the Registan, a grand square flanked by madrasas whose domes and walls are encrusted with azure, turquoise and wax-yellow tiles. Nearby, the resplendent Bibi-Khanym mosque has a brilliance compared by poets over the centuries with that of the Milky Way.