Although some of the hot items at breakfast were only lukewarm, I enjoyed what there was because the hotel served some sweet and savoury things (e.g. helva) not provided before or available in Tashkent at the end of the trip. As for the morning’s tour, most time was spent examining the three medressas around the Registan (Ulug Bek, Sher Dor and Tilla-Kari) before we went to Bibi-Khanym Mosque. We ended the tour with a visit to Siob Bazaar where Hilary and I bought two loaves of bread for 1,000 and 2,000 som each which we shared with people in the group willing to try them. Both loaves were excellent.
The highlights of the structures around the Registan include the beautiful interior of Ulug Bek Medressa’s mosque (Ulug Bek Medressa is the oldest of the three and dates from 1420), the lions that look like tigers on the exterior of Sher Dor Medressa and the Tilla-Kari Medressa’s mosque (the mosque’s ceiling, covered with gold leaf, is flat, but the clever deployment of angled lines makes it appear as if you are peering into a dome). Tilli-Kari Medressa also has some remarkable photos revealing what Samarkand in general and the Registan in particular used to look like. It became apparent that the structures around the square were once ruins and what you see today are largely reconstructions.
In some respects, Bibi-Khanym Mosque provided the most interest. Once one of the world’s largest mosques, the top of the dome of the main prayer hall is 41 metres above the ground and the top of the pishtak only 3 metres below this. The courtyard has two smaller prayer halls, the one to the left of the entrance having an impressive interior enriched with Arabic calligraphy. Also in the courtyard is an enormous marble qur’anic stand. Local folklore suggests that women who crawl under the stand will have lots of children. The stand is now fenced off, indicating that the practice is no longer tolerated, perhaps because it is not mentioned in the Qur’an or the Hadith.