Samarqand: just the name evokes romantic images of a glorious city and its monuments don’t disappoint.
Mosques and mausoleums with their tiles and fluted domes are dotted across the skyline. The city itself, however, can seem a bit deserted and lacking in atmosphere. Perhaps its inflated reputation makes it easy to be disappointed? We far preferred Bukhara.
Sleeping: The cheapest option in Samarqand and the one frequented by backpackers is Bahodir B&B where you’ll get a warm reception, plenty of camraderie and a room with breakfast for $10 U.S. per person.
We stayed at Dilshoda, a family-run B&B with plenty of tea and coffee on tap and comfortable rooms. The owners are cheerful and very welcoming to cyclists. There’s a large courtyard to leave your bicycle in. Breakfast is good and generous. You can eat dinner here on request. Ensuite rooms go for $20 U.S. for a single and $30 U.S. for a double. It’s just a moment’s walk away from Guri Amir Mausoleum. Walk along the front of the Mausoleum and look for the sign on the corner of a small alley. (www.dilshoda.by.ru)
Self-catering: There are little shops dotted all over town but, as in Bukhara, the farmers market is the place to go if you’re serious about your food shopping. In Samarqand, you’ll find the market on Tashkent street, next to Bibi-Khanym mosque, a short walk from the museum.
Eating out: Directly across from the Registan is the traditional and tourist-packed Lyabi Gor. The food is reasonably good but in our experience staff will try to direct you to the fancier second floor upstairs and seem reluctant to serve you draft beer, preferring instead to sell you the more expensive bottled brands. Two bowls of laghman, bread and two bottled beers ran us 9,000 Som here.
If you continue up the street and across the intersection with Suzangaran, a small hole-in-the-wall place with rooms towards the back serves up nearly identical food to Lyabi Gor at far lower prices. We ate two bowls of laghman, bread, salad and drank two draft beers for 5,700 Som. They also do shashlyk and tabaka.
Staying connected: There are a raft of internet cafes as you walk from the statue of Amir Timur towards Ulugbek Street. Take your pick of the lot for 600 Som an hour. Ask if the USB connectors work before you sit down. Some but not all computers work with USB.