One of Central Asia’s most ancient cities, this oasis 50 miles (80km) south of Samarkand, on the far side of the Gissar Mountains, was where Alexander the Great met his wife, Roxana, in the 4th century BC. It is better known, however, as the birthplace of Timur – a fact celebrated by a crop of wonderful 14th- and 15th-century monuments.
The real show stealer here is the majestic Kok Gumbaz mosque, with its three vibrant turquoise domes. The remnants of Timur’s own Summer Palace, the Ak-Sarai, come a close second: sublime blue, white and gold mosaics embellish the surviving gateway of the building.
Craft traditions dating from the time of Timur still thrive in Shakhrisabz, and no visit to the town is complete without a stop at the famous Khudjum Embroidery factory, where a legion of 1,600 workers weave carpets, mats, traditional Uzbek silk gowns and distinctive, multi-coloured local skullcaps. The factory was set up in 1928 as an all-women co-operative.