No city has such an evocative name: as soon as you pronounce it, the Orient overwhelms you. Samarkand is an expression of the poignant power of imagination, driven by a distant reality and shrouded in clouds of desert sand. Samarkand is destiny, the most extreme of the “Alexandrias” founded by the great Macedonian king. It is a city of fortresses and tombs, a stop-over for caravans travelling along the Silk Road, the venue of the Guri Emir mausoleum and its turquoise-blue dome, where the great Tamerlane forever rests. Today the city is represented by three alphabets – Cyrillic, Latin and Arabic – that symbolise the struggle between those who still look to the colonial powers that first bonded Uzbekistan to Europe, those who fight for the spread of Islam, and those who support Westernization. This book takes readers to a place where myth, grandeur and fantasy are more vital than history itself.
Franco Cardini is emeritus professor of Medieval History at the Italian Humanities Institute/Scuola Normale Superiore. He is also Directeur de Recherches at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and a fellow of Harvard University.