Samarkand is one of the world's oldest cities. Founded about 2750 years ago, it was mentioned in classical manuscripts dealing with the conquests by Alexander the Great. It was called Marakanda then. The ruins of Marakanda are now in the hills of the ancient settlement Afrasiab. Samarkand was the capital of Sogd, once a powerful kingdom, and the main city of the vast Tamerlane's empire. It was Tamerlane who took such a great care of the city's beautiful look and prestige.
During the rule of Tamerlane's dynasty (the end of the 14 th – beginning of the 16 th centuries) Samarkand flourished to the full. Among the world-famous medieval architectural ensembles of the city are the grand Registan Square with the three madrasahs of Ulughbek, Sher-Dor, and Tilla-Kari, and the necropolis Shakhi-Zinda with a few dozens of mausoleums. Very impressive is Samarkand 's immense mosque of Bibi-Khanym. Gur-Emir Mausoleum is probably the most famous city's monument and a classic example of Oriental medieval architecture. It is the mausoleum of Tamerlane, his sons and grandsons. On the northwest outskirts of the city are the ruins of the famous observatory with a bow-shaped part of the sextant built in the body of a hill. Samarkand 's ruler Ulughbek, a famous scientist, enlightener and a statesman, constructed the observatory in 1428 – 1429. Ulughbek was the first in the world to compile precise tables and maps of over 1029 stars. Samarkand is also famous for its shrines. Among them stands out the mausoleum of Imam Al-Bukhoriy, who lived in 810 – 870. Next to the mausoleum is a large memorial with a museum built in 1998 to mark imam's 1225 th birthday. Muslims consider his famous work «Al-Jamia as-Sahih» as the holy book second to the Koran. The burial place of Haji-Daniyar (Saint Prophet Daniel) of the 15 th century has a 17-meter-high tombstone It is a pilgrimage destination of Muslims, Christians and Jews.