The Madrasahs of Registan Square have been hailed as the most important attraction in the ancient city of Samarkand. This UNESCO World Heritage site is known as the ‘the pearl of Central Asia’ and quite rightly so, Registan Square took my breath away.
Each of the buildings, Ulugh Beg Madrasah, Sher-Dor Madrasah and Tilya-Kori Madrasah, are individually stunning but the three of them together in such close proximity is just awe inspiring. Huge, with geometric central buildings and towers to the side they tower above the square below. It’s the intricate decoration that I find just a little bit mind-bending. The frontages are covered with ceramic tiles and majolica in shades of blue, pale yellow and orange. There are tigers, suns, stars and wonderful patterns all beautifully reflecting the sunshine.
The Ulugh Beg Madrasah
The Ulugh Beg Madrasah is the oldest of the three monoliths on the square. It was completed in 1420 by Ulugh Beg the grandson of Timur. He was a great astronomer and mathematician and for many, many years his madrasah was the finest university in Central Asia. Once you step inside the beautifully ornate interior will hit you straight away, the blue and glittering gold was floor to ceiling.
200 years later in 1636 the second Madrassah was completed. Yalangtush Bahadur, ruler of Samarkand, requested that this madrasah to be built on the east side of the Registan completely mirroring that of Ulugh Beg. Architects has not taken into account that this building had sunk into the ground over the past 200 years so Sher-Dor stands taller. The name Sher-Dor derives from the mosaic images on the portal: two big golden tigers carrying a sun on their backs, they are very unusual both in design and purpose. Our guide explained that creating images of sentient beings is frowned upon in Islam and to do so on the front of such a prominent seat religious instruction in a place as important as The Registan is very controversial.
The third of the Madrasahs was finished in 1660 by Yalangtush Bahadur who wanted to complete the Registan ensemble. The building emulates Bukhara traditional style of architecture hence why the proportions vary but it does not detract from the fact that this is one of the most opulent examples of student accommodation that I have ever seen and probably will ever see. The split-level building encloses a courtyard and intricate gold leaf designs with a celestial theme cover the entire building. The name of the Madrasah is derived from the rich golden decoration on the faсade. “Tilya-Kori” is translated as “gilded” or “decorated with gold”.
What to know about Registan Square
Where and how much
No directions are needed, everyone in the city can direct you but it is on Registan Street (what a coincidence). Here the Google link to Registan Square, just in case!
You will pay 30,000 Som to enter. There’s lots to explore in there, I could’ve quite happily spent a good half day in there.
We’d heard the light show at Registan Square was not to be missed. There was no laser and sound when when we went but it was stunning to see the Madrasahs lit up at night.
Beware of scams
Be careful if you are offered to be escorted to the top of the minarets by an ‘official guide’, it’s quite possible you’re asked to empty your pockets when you get there.