Samarkand celebrates 2750th anniversary
In 1973, Samarkand was 2,500 years old and some 30 years later it added another 250 years to its age. Archaeologists say they found the proof of the different age in a fragment of the old city walls.
“Over the decades we've got the new technology to be able to examine the lowest layers of the wall. We conducted new carbon tests, we can now say with confidence there was a city here in the 7th century BC,” stated Anvar Atahodzhaev, archaeologist.
Samarkand, the city on UNESCO world heritage list, was largely built in the 14th century by Tamerlane, a ruthless conqueror also known to the world as Timur the Lame. His empire stretched from Turkey to China with Samarkand flourishing as its capital. A national hero in Uzbekistan, he was a patron of the arts and crafts that Uzbeks treasure to this day – embroidery, ceramics, and miniature painting.
But there are only a few people left keeping the traditions alive.
“My husband and my father-in-law have made ceramics, and my children help out. These days we make these funny statues for the tourists,” said Dilarom Muhtarova, local merchant.
And thanks to the crowds Samarkand sees daily, Dilarom can continue with her craft, though today the city is not the trade hub it once was.
Samarkand opened up to some 60,000 tourists a year back in 2000.
Monument of Tamerlane
And if one looks beyond the surface, the city's two-year-long restoration works left historical landmarks damaged rather than repaired. French archaeologists working in Uzbekistan said a lot of the original mosaic is buried under the layer of fresh cement. They blame UNESCO for staying away from what they call Uzbekistan's hasty “cover-up”.
Samarkand's birthday festivities, however, were a matter of national pride.
“I congratulate you on this sacred holiday. I bow my head before the pure-hearted people of Samarkand and our entire nation,” declared Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan.
Samarkand marks its anniversary by hosting an international festival and inviting musicians from over 50 countries to perform on its historical Registan Square. But while local officials and guests enjoyed the concert, the native residents celebrated outside.