Journey to the heart of Central Asia to discover an extraordinary civilisation
Visit the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand
Experience Samarkand’s famed Registan Square, bordered by elegant madrasas in shades of gold and turquoise
“Steve was an engaging tour guide and great story teller, knowledgeable and aware of the group’s capabilities and interests"
– ACE customer on a previous tour with Steve Mastin
Uzbekistan has long been a prized territory: in the 4th century BC Alexander the Great married the daughter of a local chieftain, and in the 13th century Genghis Khan waged war over the region. It was Timur, better known to us as Tamerlane, who finally overpowered the Mongols and established Samarkand as the glittering capital of an empire encompassing much of Central Asia.
Our tour begins in the modern capital, Tashkent, where the exhibits of the city’s museums will set our investigations in context. We will explore Khast-i-Imam, an extraordinary architectural complex in the heart of the old city that forms the spiritual centre of Tashkent. From there, we head to the oasis town of Khiva – once the final stopping-point of caravan trains before they set out on the long journey across the desert for Persia. The inner citadel of Ichan Kala, surrounded by huge crenellated clay walls, was the first site in the country to be listed by UNESCO. Architectural delights include the Juma Mosque, with its forest of carved wooden columns – the oldest of which date from the 10th century.
We will traverse the Kyzylkum desert to Bukhara, a centre of culture and civilisation from the 6th century BC. The armies of Genghis Khan left little intact from the city’s earliest days, with a notable exception being the perfectly preserved 10th century Ismail Samani Mausoleum.
Founded as early as the 7th century BC, the city of Samarkand is one of the oldest in all of Central Asia. Captured by Alexander the Great in 329 BC, it passed through the hands of successive civilisations before reaching its zenith as the capital of the Timurid Empire. The archaeological site of Afrasiab is preserved, along with astonishing frescoes bearing testimony to the vanished Sogdian civilisation that dominated trade along the Silk Road for centuries.
Although the city walls of Samarkand are gone, the medieval layout remains in the narrow streets and many traditional houses. A highlight of our visit here will be the awe-inspiring Registan Square, bordered on three sides by elaborate madrasas and one of the most important complexes of Islamic architecture in the world. Our tour will also include an excursion to Shakhrisabz, birthplace of Timur himself and recipient of his considerable architectural patronage.
We will stay throughout at comfortable three or four-star hotels close to the key sites on our tour, and our visits will be complemented by regular talks given by our Tour Director.
This tour will be led by Steve Mastin, MA, PGCE, FHA. Steve studied history and classics before working as a schoolteacher for 17 years, during which time he organised many trips to Italy, France and Germany. He has worked overseas training history teachers in Kazakhstan, Singapore and Australia. A committed advocate of the power of storytelling, Steve is passionate about bringing a life-long love of history to students of all ages. He is a Fellow of the Historical Association and a regular speaker at history conferences both in the UK and overseas.
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Fully booked - please contact the office on 01223 841055 to be added to the waiting list.
Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, full board with water & tea, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.
Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £425.