Samarkand (/?s?m?rk?nd/; Uzbek language: Samarqand; Persian: ???????; Russian: §³§Ñ§Þ§Ñ§â§Ü§Ñ§ß§Õ), alternatively Samarqand, is a city in south-eastern Uzbekistan and one of 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; some theories propose that it was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. Prospering from its location on the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean, at times Samarkand was one of the greatest cities of Central Asia.
By the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, it was the capital of the Sogdian satrapy. The city was taken by Alexander the Great in 329 B.C., when it was known by its Greek name of Marakanda. The city was ruled by a succession of Iranian and Turkic rulers until the Mongols under Genghis Khan conquered Samarkand in 1220. Today, Samarkand is the capital of Samarqand Region and Uzbekistan’s second largest city.
The city is noted for being an Islamic center for scholarly study. In the 14th century it became the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane) and is 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 ancient centre of the city, and is bound by three monumental religious buildings. The city has carefully preserved the traditions of ancient crafts: embroidery, gold embroidery, silk weaving, engraving on copper, ceramics, carving and painting on wood. In 2001, U.N.E.S.C.O. added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand ¨C Crossroads of Cultures.
Modern Samarkand is divided into two parts: the old city, and the new city developed during the days of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. The old city includes historical monuments, shops and old private houses, while the new city includes administrative buildings along with cultural centres and educational institutions.