Surrounded by food and trinket vendors you might expect more at a carnival than high holy sites, Samarkand's skyline is defined by its historic Registan, a large square defined by three historic madrassas. An informative audioguide of the Registan awes you with accounts of how its architect, Timor's grandson Ulug Beg, built this complex to nurture the excellence in math and science it was once known for worldwide.
Craft and fashion vendors vie for your attention inside the madrassas of the Registan.
Your immersion in Beg's work continues on the historic town's edge, in the eponymous museum. There you see Beg's observatory that was capable of preternaturally accurate astronomical research. Beg and his work was well-known to astronomers of his day all across the globe.
The Afrosiab Museum, and the archeological excavations surrounding it, carries your imagination back even further to pre-Islamic times-- where you can admire reconstructed story-telling wall murals, ceramics, coins and other artifacts from pre-medieval times.
Meandering the streets and back alleys of Samarkand affords peeks into the courtyards and lives of locals. Walking around these alleys and streets is a highly recommended supplement to all-museums-and-madrassahs-all-the-time.