Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Samarkand, Then and Now, by Ian Neuss
It was December 1975 and cold all the way. I had been working in Indonesia and had to buy a coat in Japan for the trip. I had flown to Samarkand via Tashkent from Novosibirsk, where I had got off the train. I remember it well as I was met off the plane by a lovely dark haired Uzbek Russian guide, and I was the only one travelling at that time of year.
We went to Tamerlane’s Mausoleum and the local bazaar, and a city tour. I got the state-approved tour. The mausoleum was huge, in a bare area with the famous blue tiles on the roof, but little else. Today it’s been restored, polished, paved and decorated, and there are lots of domestic and foreign tourists plus people everything nearby. I stayed close by in a Soviet hotel, on a floor with a babushka who logged your entry and exit and took your key. After a day tour I think I ditched the guide saying I had a cold (which I did) and would stay in the hotel. I remember roaming about the bazaar and the mausoleum later by myself and being taken underground to see the tomb by local kids. That is not possible today. The bazaar was great and full of locals who all looked like Genghis Khan.