I was out so early that when I arrived at the Registan I joined the local people and walked around without being stopped by anyone in uniform (the office selling tickets for the square did not open until about 8.30am). Because the sky was overcast, the colours were more muted than they would otherwise have been, but the quality of the tilework on the exterior of the medressas is excellent no matter the weather. In common with Uzbeks both local and visiting, I took photos at a time the square was unusually quiet.
I still had over an hour before breakfast, so, noticing some domes just to the north-north-east of the Registan, made my way toward them via a residential street to the east of the hotel. Along the street was a small neighbourhood mosque where some men were gathering to later escort a dead friend to his final place of rest. Chairs for male friends of the dead man had been arranged in the road, and on a nearby table a large photo of the smiling man greeted everyone who came to show their respects. I was introduced to the dead man’s son. He had dressed for the occasion in traditional Uzbek clothes.
I arrived at what I thought would be my destination, the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque (I examined its interior later in the day with the rest of the group), but was drawn toward the nearby much smaller Bibi-Khanym Mausoleum. However, by now I was very close to Samarkand’s excellent Siob Bazaar and, because it was so early in the day and tourists non-existent, and because lots of local people were already engaged in buying and selling, I had a quick walk around. Unlike the outstanding bazaar in Bukhara where tourists do not go, Samarkand’s has some stalls run by people hoping to cash in on foreigners looking for souvenirs for home, but the vast majority of stalls exist to meet local needs. I had a wonderful time, not least because different products such as cakes, biscuits, fresh fruit, dried fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread and clothes are located in their own enclosed sections or parts of much larger sections with roofs but no walls. The roofs keep off the sun or the rain and the absent walls allow air to more easily circulate to cool people during the summer. As usual, women ran many of the stalls. Some women gathered on a flight of concrete steps to sell white mulberries freshly harvested from trees in and around the city. They displayed the mulberries in plastic jugs which, if filled with water, would have held about 1.5 litres.
It was with considerable regret that I left Siob Bazaar for the hotel, but I could not be late for what promised to be another outstanding tour of Samarkand.