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Published: September 25th 2016
17-9 After crossing the border we arrived in Tashkent for our stay in the City Palace hotel, we must have seen five brides and grooms having their wedding photos taken in our hotel the night we arrived, they all looked so young. Our guide explained most weddings were arranged and the couples were normally somewhere between 17-21 years old when they married. It was a normal practice for the brides to not meet their husbands until the wedding day, the young girls looked beautiful in their gorgeous white wedding gowns and they looked very happy and not at all nervous which we were surprised to see.
18-9 We explored Tashkent, walking through the parks and gardens. We had not known that in 1966 much of the old city was destroyed by a huge earthquake which left more than 300,000 residents homeless. The soviet republics and some other countries such as Finland, sent people to help rebuild the city. They created a model Soviet city of wide streets planted with trees, parks, fountains, monuments and acres of apartment buildings. Later in the day we were able to see the earliest written Koran which has been in the city since
1924. In the evening we had dinner in the revolving restaurant of the telecommunications tower.
19-9 Early in the morning we traveled by high-speed train, the Afrosiab, to get to Samarkand in just over two hours. On our arrival we explored the old town which is full of Uzbeks, Georgians, Tajiks and Russians, as well as many other central Asian nationalities. We stayed in the Hotel Gran Samarkand, this small hotel was a mix of design, gold chandeliers, red faded carpet. We found we had the hardest bed we have ever encountered after climbing the stairs to our fourth floor attic bedroom, it reminded Ron of the Grand Budapest Hotel movie. Having said that the showers were hot, the staff were friendly and helpful and the breakfast simple but tasty so one of our better hotels on the tour.
20-9 Samarkand is a city of fables and legends, perhaps the most exotic on the Silk Road. Known as the 'Rome of the Orient, Samarkand was already a flourishing city when Rome and Babylon were founded. The ruler Tamerlane was determined to make the city the most beautiful and magnificent in the world and today
the city is a reminder of his legacy. Highlights included Registan Square, where the finest collection of buildings in Asia dominates the most public place in Samarkand. We also visited Tamerlane's mausoleum, the observatory of Ulugbek and the Shahi-Zinda Necropolis.
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