This, arguably Uzbekistan’s most famous museum, is of world-class significance. It is located just outside Samarkand, by the ancient city of Marakanda – one of the largest archaeological sites in the world. When Marakanda was occupied by Alexander the Great in 329 BC it was already a large and prosperous city, one of the great trading centres on the Silk Roads. Marakanda continued to thrive in the following centuries, surviving the rise and fall of empires as well as the influx of new religions, notably Islam. In AD 1220, however, it was laid waste by invading Mongol armies – described by the contemporary Arab historian Ibn Al-Athir (1160-1233) as ‘this terrible calamity, the like of which the days and nights had never before brought forth, engulfed the whole of creation and in particular, the Muslims’. Gradually, a new city, Samarkand, sprang up a few miles away and Marakanda was almost forgotten. It was only when systematic archaeological excavations were started in the early 20th century that the importance of the site was recognised. Work on the site has continued, at intervals, since then. The Afrosiab Museum is the depository for a vast collection of unique objects from the ancient history of Marakanda. Among the museum’s greatest treasures are the wall paintings of Sogdian court life – official ceremonies, processions of foreign envoys bearing gifts and other such scenes – that are depicted with astonishing vigour and immediacy?

Address: 7 Tashkent Yuli Street, Samarkand

Leave a Comment