In Transoxiana, the land beyond the River Oxus, at the hub of the Great Silk Road, are some of the loveliest historic cities of Central Asia: Bukhara, the 'Dome of Islam', for centuries a leading centre for artists, poets and scholars, Samarkand, glorious capital of the ruthless conqueror Tamerlaine, and Khiva, which boasts one of the most homogeneous collections of Islamic architecture, a museum city, frozen in time. In this lecture we explore these cities and meet some of the men who built them. Tamerlaine, cruel but inspired, used the vast resources of his far-flung empire to endow the cities of his native land with splendid monuments. In his capital Samarkand he is buried in a stunningly beautiful mausoleum, beneath a brilliant blue fluted dome. Tamerlaine's grandson, Ulugbeg, scholar and astronomer, built an observatory without equal in East or West and redesigned the elegant Registan, the central square of Samarkand. From the 16C the land came under the control of the Uzbeks - Bukhara experienced a golden age, and grew to boast over 300 mosques and madrassahs. Its emirs resided in the grim and austere Ark Fortress, as old as the city itself. During the 19C, as Russian influence in Central Asia increased, Khiva, one of the most remote of the Silk Road cities, long renowned as a nest of caravan robbers and slave traders, came into its own. As its rulers and merchants grew rich Khiva enjoyed an artistic renaissance - its buildings glisten with glazed brick and tile decoration and its carved woodwork is second to none.


Ms Sue Rollin

Works as a tour guide and lecturer in India and the Middle East, and as a freelance interpreter for the European Union, United Nations and other international organisations. Formerly staff interpreter at the European Commission, Brussels, and tutor and lecturer in Assyriology and Ancient History at the Universities of London and Cambridge. Has worked as an archaeologist. Publications: Blue Guide: Jordan and Istanbul: A Traveller's Guide.