The map of downtown Samarkand reveals the dual, almost schizophrenic soul of the city. To the east the millennial tangle of alleys of the old city, to the west the avenues traced by the Russians in the nineteenth century, which radiate from the administrative center of the modern city and the province.
Moscow is far away, but the influence of the Russian capital has reached here. In 1924 Samarkand was proclaimed the capital of the new Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan.
A long period, in which the inhabitants of Samarkand remained tenaciously tied to their traditions. The Tajiks consider themselves the most civilized people of Central Asia and part of their pride is due to the ancient historical memories of their land. They like to remember that Alexander the Great once passed here and that the soldiers of the Macedonian army married the local women. Their language, from very remote origins, is still spoken today in Samarkand, as well as in many nearby places, such as Bukhara and Qarshi.
The link with the past is also strong in the way of dressing. The typical Tajik male dress is still today composed of a heavy padded jacket (chapan), tied with a sash that also fixes a dagger with sheath, and an embroidered hat (tupi). Some say that Tajik women can be recognized even in the dark, thanks to their long dresses in psychedelic colors (kurta), combined with matching scarves to wrap around the head (rumol).
But the soul of this city, as often happens in the East, is its main bazaar. Bazaar and mosque, in Samarkand, are so close that the boundary between the sacred and the profane is almost impalpable. The Siab market (this is the name by which the bazaar is indicated on the maps) is overflowing with clothes, hats and turbans of all nationalities. Walking through it one gets the impression that the time machine has set itself up, and that the golden days of the Silk Road have never passed. [excerpt from the Lonely Planet]