Around the World in 80 Treasures episode 6 – Uzbekistan to Syria: Dan hits some of the most mysterious and secret countries in the world, where the weary western traveller cannot be sure of a warm welcome. Documentary series in which Dan Cruickshank travels the world in search of man’s greatest creations.
But he’s in for a surprise as he is accosted by young girls in Bukhara and Persian carpet sellers in Iran. He couldn’t be more welcome if he tried.
Tile making in Samarkand, the extraordinary Trading Domes of Bukhara in Uzbekistan and the Fire Temple of Baku in Azerbaijan take Dan to some of the most incredible but least-visited places in the world. There is also a real mystery to solve as he gingerly edges himself up a cliff face towards the biggest archaeological puzzle of the 19th century – the Behistun carvings.
After the pleasures of Iran, Dan heads for one of the glories of the ancient world – the great city of Persepolis, vanquished by Alexander the Great in 330BC. In its day, it was the most beautiful city in the world and there’s more than enough left to savour the brilliance – like the Palace of One Hundred Columns and the Gate of All Nations.
Lastly, Dan visits Damascus in Syria and one of the most exotic souks in the world. Worn to a frazzle, he heads for the local hammam – the town steam bath – for pampering and a hubble-bubble pipe.
Around the World in 80 Treasures episode 6 – Uzbekistan to Syria
Samarkand, also known as Samarqand, is a city in southeastern Uzbekistan and among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. There is evidence of human activity in the area of the city from the late Paleolithic Era, though there is no direct evidence of when Samarkand was founded; several theories propose that it was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Prospering from its location on the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean Sea, at times Samarkand was one of the largest cities of Central Asia.
By the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, it was the capital of the Sogdian satrapy. The city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE, when it was known as Markanda, which was rendered in Greek as (Μαράκανδα). The city was ruled by a succession of Iranian and Turkic rulers until it was conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220. Today, Samarkand is the capital of Samarqand Region and one of the largest cities of Uzbekistan.
The city is noted as a centre of Islamic scholarly study and the birthplace of the Timurid Renaissance. In the 14th century, Timur (Tamerlane) made it the capital of his empire and the site of his mausoleum, the Gur-e Amir. The Bibi-Khanym Mosque, rebuilt during the Soviet era, remains one of the city’s most notable landmarks. Samarkand’s Registan square was the city’s ancient centre and is bounded by three monumental religious buildings. The city has carefully preserved the traditions of ancient crafts: embroidery, goldwork, silk weaving, copper engraving, ceramics, wood carving, and wood painting. In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.
Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC). It is situated in the plains of Marvdasht, encircled by southern Zagros mountains of Iran. Modern day Shiraz is situated 60 kilometres (37 mi) southwest of the ruins of Persepolis. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.
The complex is raised high on a walled platform, with five “palaces” or halls of varying size, and grand entrances. The function of Persepolis remains quite unclear. It was not one of the largest cities in Persia, let alone the rest of the empire, but appears to have been a grand ceremonial complex that was only occupied seasonally; it is still not entirely clear where the king’s private quarters actually were. Until recent challenges, most archaeologists held that it was especially used for celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, held at the spring equinox, and still an important annual festivity in modern Iran. The Iranian nobility and the tributary parts of the empire came to present gifts to the king, as represented in the stairway reliefs.