Registan is the most famous sight in all of Uzbekistan and maybe even all of Central Asia. In translation from Uzbek Registan means a sand place. It used to be the main public square before and during the Timurid dynasty mainly for trade, but also for events and celebrations. All roads led to this lively and bustling square.
It is gorgeous any time of the day, but of course, sunset is magical here. Entrance costs 50,000 soms. You can get a ticket from the booth, which is located on the left side, when you face the square, near the Ulug Beg madrasah.
The square is open from 8am to 7pm (9-5 from November to March) – many people say for an additional “fee” given to the guard you can visit before the opening hours and the crowds. Of course, you can pass by and marvel at the square from outside also. This is how you can see it without paying for the ticket.
Currently, 3 madrassas surround the square. As madrasas their main purpose was Islamic education. However, now they serve partly as museums and mostly, as the spots, where you can shop for Uzbek embroidery and handicraft, as well as other souvenirs.
Ulug Beg Madrasah
It is the one on the left side, when you face the square. It was constructed during 1417-1420 by Ulug Beg, the grandson of Timur and a astronomer, who invited scholars from all over the world to Samarkand. In the madrasa young people (well, only boys) were taught theology, astronomy, philosophy and mathematics. Ulug Beg himself was teaching astronomy here.
Nowadays, among other things, the madrasa houses a small museum, part of which is dedicated to astronomy. There is also the photo of Ulug Beg.
This is how the courtyard looks.
You can climb one of the minarets of this madrasah. The ticket costs 20,000 soms. It is a very narrow staircase to climb, so only two people are allowed inside at a time. We didn’t have to wait long for the previous people to come down, meanwhile we took a lot of photos.
However, when we were up, soon after the guy let another couple up. That was not supposed to happen. It was extremely complicated to somehow pass these people for us to go down and for them to go up. So make sure there is no one there, when you start climbing and insist that they don’t let anyone up, until you go down. That is the rule and they should stick to it.
These are the views you will get from there.
Sher Dor Madrasah
Opposite Ulug Beg Madrasah stands the Sher-Dor. Apparently Sher means tiger. If you look up from the entrance, you will see two tigers depicted on it.
They carry suns on their backs. The madrasah was built two centuries after the Ulug Beg madrasah. Its construction finished in 1636.
Interestingly, according to the plan of Yalangtush Bahadur – the then ruler of the city, the two madrasas facing each other should have been exactly of similar construction, including the same height. The same height, however, due to its age, the Ulug Beg madrasa shrank into the ground. As the architect didn’t take this fact into account, the new madrasa ended up being taller than its counterpart.
You could go up the roof of this madrasa by asking the shop owners or the guards, it’s not entirely allowed, and you will have to pay some “fee”. How much you pay, if you like to do it, depends on your haggling skills. We did this, the way up was half ruined stairs, so be careful while climbing. However, having done it I wouldn’t suggest it, as the views from there are not much different than from Ulug Beg madrasah and there you can climb officially without any haggling, etc.
Tilya Kori Madrasah
The Tilya Kori madrasah (the one in the middle) is stunning. Its construction was also ordered by Yalangtush Bahadur in 1646 and was finished in 1660.
The Registan complex, as the whole city of Samarkand fell to decline during the 18th and 19th centuries. During the Soviet times, the madrasas were restored. Significant works needed to be done to rectify many years of neglect.
Registan is gorgeous at any time of the day, but particularly favourable the lights are during the sunset (and as they say during the sunrise).
Some people show up before its opening time to take photos.
Spend time at Registan, check out all three madrasas and climb up the Ulu Bey Madrasa. In general explore the artwork at every corner. Just look at those gorgeous tiles.
Vital tips for seeing the light show at Registan
One major thing to remember about Registan is that there are often light shows on the square. I read about it before going, but I had no idea about the details, as there were almost no sources (either English or Russian) giving any more information about it, than that it happens sometimes and it’s lovely.
The light shows cost 2000 USD. So if a rich tourist or a tour group pays this fee, then they are showing the show. If you are rich, you can pay the fee, if not, like us, you should enquire, if the show is planned on any of the evenings you are in Samarkand.
The light show usually happens on some evenings, whenever some people pay for it, after dark (timing can be 8-9 or so) and lasts about 20 minutes. At the ticket office you can find out the date and the approximate time of the planned show, however, don’t rely on them, as they may not know it. Do check the place from 7 to 9 every evening you are there, you will most probably guess by the chairs out outside for the people who ordered the show.
Show up early. Be aware that you shouldn’t hover around where chairs are located. You should go up almost to the street level, where you see the railings for overlooking the square. Hold the spot here at the front. The thing is that they won’t allow people, who haven’t paid for the show to stay more in front, so as a non-paying person this would be the best spot for you.
When we visited the Registan on the first day of our visit, we inquired at the ticket office, if the show was planned any time soon. The guy was quite reluctant to answer. However, as I spoke Russian it was easier to make him tell me that he thought it would probably be the next day. He didn’t know the time and said it would probably be after dark at about 8pm. We were very happy. As I guessed from this exchange the people at the ticket office also don’t have exact information about the light show. They only know the rumours.
The next day, at 7.30 pm we were already at the square. People started slowly gathering. We saw chairs lined up at the big space outside the square. At about 8pm, the guards asked us to go back to the spot overlooking the Registan (almost to the street level). As we were there early enough, we got the spot in the front, but to the side (at the railings would have been better, but we didn’t know that we should have held a spot there and by the time we found out, it was already crowded there).
We waited for quite a while. Several tour groups (who I believe have split the cost) arrived. The show itself started at about 9pm. But it was definitely worth the wait. The lights were gorgeous. The story was somewhat confusing, as you can see from the video. Sorry for the quality, people kept bumping into me and speaking around us, while I was trying to film.
The idea of the show is to show the history of Samarkand. To be honest we were absolutely dumb founded seeing that they started with thousands of years ago, showed us Egyptian history, Romans, etc, etc. until they actually got to Samarkand. But we didn’t mind, it was gorgeous, whatever the story behind. So just enjoy the show 😊
Despite all the waiting, we were happy that we saw it. We would definitely do it again.