Samarkand light show

By Nick Stooke
This item appears on page 31 of the January 2021 issue.
In Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on special occasions, Registan Square is lit at night. Photo by Nick Stooke

While my wife, Michaele, and I traveled with a group through the Five ’Stans with JMG Tours (Lauderhill, FL; 866/548-4238, in April 2017, we came across one of Central Asia’s most impressive restorations of medieval Islamic architecture: Registan Square in the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, along the old Silk Road.

Its three madrasas had been the hub of the Timurid Empire Renaissance. The square was a place where royal proclamations were read and where special celebrations (and executions) were conducted.

The buildings had been allowed to crumble until a massive effort to rebuild them began several decades ago. Today, the madrasas stand as a testament to the grandeur of what was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities in that region.

We were staying in a hotel only blocks away, so one evening a few of us decided to visit the square to see what it looked like after dark. A light rain was falling, and the lights shone even brighter from the reflections in the water on the square.

Some Uzbek college students were there and wanted to practice their English. They explained that the lights were not normally on during weeknights but that a group of VIPs were expecting to see a special light show that night.

The program was delayed a few hours by the rain, and we eventually decided to head back to the hotel, but after we had walked a couple hundred yards, some of the students ran after us and told us the show was finally about to start.

We were treated to a spectacular display of lasers and lights of all colors. The far building was used as a screen to project a short history about the region and its potential for future growth.

We walked back to the hotel after midnight, having been rewarded for every minute of our wait with a presentation that was one of the highlights of the whole trip.

O’Fallon, IL