Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Of Uzbekistan: The Registan

One of the undoubted highlights of Uzbekistan is the Registan. It is a complex of three madrassahs (Islamic seminaries, sort of) built from the 1400's to the 1600's. They are pretty spectacular. Each of them has a similar style a massive arched door, with a courtyard behind, surrounded by what would have been the dorms and classrooms. Nowadays, each of the little study rooms has been converted into a souvenir shop. It's a shame. Similarly, they have "restored" the medrassahs to such a shiny new state that they look like they might as well have been built yesterday. The buildings are still amazing, but you don't get the feeling of awe you might if they were a little bit crumbling and not packed with people selling kitsch versions of national crafts to tourists.

Oh, well.

On the flip side, there are a series of minarets (picture of what the whole place looks like found below), each with a tiny spiral staircase inside. For an appropriate additional fee to the security guards, they will let you climb up to the top of the minaret for a pretty impressive view. I'm sure the "minaret fee," like the "camera fee" and a variety of other negotiable charges at tourist sites, was appropriately turned over by the guard to the administrators of the site in order to fund future restoration efforts.

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