On the golden road to Samarkand
We visit Tamberlaine’s birthplace, Shakrisabz, en route to Samarkand. Our guide, Mafrulah, is profuse with apologies for all the works that are going on. “When it is finished, the restoration will be much more than cosmetic; it will be complete.” We look suspiciously at the bulldozers and fleets of trucks which have temporarily reduced Tamberlaine’s palace complex to a dusty waste land. According to the Lonely Planet Central Asia guide, published in 2007, ‘this crumbling relic blending seamlessly with everyday life will thrill critics of the country’s over-sanitised restoration efforts’. Not any longer, it won’t.
Nevertheless, the crumbling relics are still there and currently still crumbling in a satisfyingly romantic way. The remnants of Emir Timur’s grandiose family memorials are breathtaking in their scale and beauty.
From Shakrisabz to Samarkand, we take the fabled ‘golden road’ over the Takhtakaracha Pass (1788m). At the top, we admire the view and buy sugared almonds and dried melon sweets, which revive us for the last leg of our drive.