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Registan Square



The Registan, Samarkand is situated in the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand. During the time of the Timurid Empire of the 14th-15th century, it was at a Public Square where the people gathered to hear Royal proclamations and to see public executions.  It consists of three madrasahs which are schools for religion, specifically linked to Islamic teachings, and incorporates a mosque. The complex was built between 1417 and 1660.


The Registan Square, Samarkand is situated in the centre of the ancient city of Samarkand and was a public Square where the people gathered to hear Royal proclamations and also to see the public executions during the time of the Timurid Empire of the 14th-15th century when Samarkand was its capital.

On three sides of the square are the madrasahs of The Ulugh Beg, Sher-Dor, and Tillya-Kori which were built between 1417 and 1660. 

A madrasah is a school for religion, specifically linked to Islamic teachings although other subjects are believed to have been taught there.

The first madrasah was the Ulugh Beg which was built between 1417 and 1421 by the scholar and astronomer, Ulugh Beg. His madrasah and is on the left looking from the roadway facing the square. It was to become one of the best clergy universities of the Muslim Orient in the 15th Century. The complex consists of a courtyard that includes lecture rooms, dormitories, which would accommodate the students, and a mosque. The building itself is rectangular in plan measuring 56 by 81 metres.  At each of the four corners stands a minaret 33 metres (108 feet) high.  


At each corner of the courtyard, there is a reading or classroom, covered by a dome. The placement of which was adopted by most subsequent madrasah in Central Asia until more recent times.

Around the courtyard are galleries each of which has an iwan (a vaulted portal opening onto a courtyard).  The entrance consists of three successive iwans, the outer one facing Registan Square and has a 35-foot-tall pishtaq, (a pishtaq being a rectangular frame around an arched opening.) This occupies two-thirds of the side of the madrasah and is twice as high as the rest of the building.

The exterior surfaces are decoratively covered in mainly geometric patterns, although they also use floral motifs and inscriptions. 

Opposite the Ulugh Beg is the Sher-Dor, which translates as “Madrassah with Lions”. This was built between 1619 and 1636 along the same architectural design as the Ulugh Beg, on the instructions and sponsorship of the military governor of the city, Yalangtush Bakhodur, who ruled at the behest of the Bukhara-based Janid dynasty.


Although larger than the Ulugh Beg it is not as finely finished.  Its walls, both internally and externally, are decorated with flowers and quotations from the Koran. In the centre of the arch above the entrance is the image of a swastika, which was a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.  On each side of the arch are images of tigers with the sun on their backs.

The Sher-Dor Madrasah has been restored many times. With major works being conducted at the beginning of 20th-century 
Soviet restorers completed the prayer hall's outer dome.

The final building of Registan Square is that of the Tilya-Kori Madrasah.  This was constructed between 1646 and 1660 and like the Sher-Dor Madrasah was also sponsored by Yalangtush Bakhodur, however, he died in 1655-56 before completion of the monument and it was unfinished until it was completed in the modern era when


Unlike most of the central Asian madrasas. It has a large prayer hall flanked by adjacent chambers instead of the corner lecture room.  It has a two-storied main facade and contains a large courtyard which is surrounded by dormitories and contains three iwans. 


              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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