Siab Bazaar in Samarkand is still as impressive as it was many years ago. Its abundant produce and handicrafts are evidence of the natural wealth of Uzbekistan.
Samarkand Siab Bazaar is like Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent. Both of them have been well-known in Central Asia for a long time. Samarkand was a capital of Tamerlane’s empire; in 1924-1930 it was the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR. Both Samarkand and Tashkent were trade centers, with a lot of merchants and shoppers coming from various areas. Until today it is one of the main reasons Tashkent and Samarkand bazaars still remain crowded and full of various merchandise.
Siab Bazaar is located not far from the Registan square, near Bibi-Khanym mosque and Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis. The entrance to the bazaar is a high arch decorated with blue mosaic reflecting Islamic architecture. Once you are inside, you find many merchants and craftsman which are trading from generation to generation. The best time to visit Siab bazaar is in early summer and in early autumn. It is hard to name everything you can see at bazaars in these seasons: colorful fruits, berries, vegetables, gourds, cereals, salad greens.
The bazaar is roofed, so you can visit it in any weather. The buzz accumulates under the top of the pavilion which is a tune to the ears of the tradesmen.
The produce sold is divided by types: vegetables; fruits; dried fruit and nuts. Some of the items which perhaps remained from the ancient trade routs are navat (Chinese rock sugar), kazinaki (pressed nuts or seeds with sugar or honey), parvarda (white hard candies), pashmak(mass of thin sugar floss) and many others.
Very attractive is the colorful spices section with sesames, cinnamon, nutmegs, turmeric, cardamom, chili and black pepper, cloves, cumin, coriander, and dried ground tomatoes. In the cereals section, you will see barchans of rice, mung beans, wheat, millet, and barley.
There is, of course, a catering row with dizzying scents of the national dishes; most of them are cooked on the spot – kebab, pilaf, shurpa soup, lagman noodles in meat and vegetable soup, somsa pastries, khanim steamed dough with vegetables. You can stop there to rest and refill your energy, trying the locally made fast food meals with some green tea which Uzbeks drink on every occasion.
In the handicrafts section, the artisans can make almost everything on the spot; their skills and their attention to detail is very impressive. You can watch them engraving, carving, forging, painting – and, of course, purchase anything from a wide variety of souvenirs and household items made there.
Samarkand has been famous for its bread even among locals. Although there are about 17 recipes of it, it is known in Uzbekistan and outside as Samarkand bread. These recipes have been developing and perfected for many centuries – since the times of nomads and long trade caravan journeys when it was necessary for the bread to remain edible for a long time. Samarkand flat round loaves do not spoil and can keep their unique taste usually for a month. Some Samarkand loaves today are made especially for tourists with special decorations.
While visiting Samarkand, it is absolutely necessary to see Siab bazaar. Otherwise, the experience of the daily life in the city will be incomplete.