The city of Samarkand was founded prior to the 3rd millennium BCE.
As a city on the trade routes (silk road) between China and the Middle East, Samarkand was captured by Alexander the Great in 329 BC (see Afrasiab, Sogdiana).
Under Arab rule (since the 7th century CE), the city flourished as a trade center until the devastation of the city by the Mongols led by Genghis Khan (1220).
Timur (Tamerlane) (1336 - 1405) was born at Kesh situated some 50 miles south of Samarkand. Samarkand became the capital of his empire, which extended from India to Turkey.
Ulugh Beg, grandson of Timur was made the shah's governor in Samarkand in 1409.
In 1868, the city came under Russian rule, and it became the capital of the Uzbek SSR in 1925 before being replaced by Tashkent.
- Perhaps the most magnificent sight is the central Registan, bounded on three sides by spectacularly fronted buildings.
- Shahi-Zinda, a series of tombs mostly belonging to Timur and Ulughbek's family and a cousin of the prophet Muhammad.
- The Biblical prophet Daniel's tomb is to be found in the city, carried there from his original burial place. The tomb is roughly 70 feet in length, because the scientists who had measured the body length before and after the journey found that the body had grown; they assumed that this process would continue.
- The main bazaar around the Bibi-Khanym Mosque is also well worth a look.
- The city also contains numerous former mosques and madrassas.