Sunday, May 17, 2015

Inside a Treasure Cave: Visiting a Handicraft Shop in Samarkand

Besides its gorgeous architecture, Samarkand is famous for arts and crafts. Whenever I come there for a business trip, I also go shopping with my colleagues. During our last visit in April, we have visited a very special shop. It is located in the most central place - in Ulugbek Madrasa at Registan Square.

The shop is quite large, mysteriously dark and full of amazing things. You discover new rooms and corners, as you walk around. It is stuffed with suzani, rugs and silks. This place is like a treasure cave.

Most suzani are very traditional, but you can recognise some familiar designs - those famous cats by Rosina Wachtmeister! Obviously, Samarkand artists do their best to cater for all tastes. Of course, I prefer the classic suzani with their elegant branches and lavish flowers and paisley, but I also appreciate the creativity and desire to be flexible.

Right in the shop, there is a woman embroidering a suzani. The process is fascinating to watch. She is another tourist attraction, of course, but the suzani she is making is very real and beautiful.

In another part of the shop you can see more suzani - this one is on silk - and a very unusual headpiece.

This looks like a Karakalpak or Turkmen headpiece for a women's festive costume. This might be a refurbished piece; I would think that the elements are antique or vintage, but the whole piece is not that old, or, let us say, it is refurbished. Still, it looks impressive. The stones seem to be smalt (or paste).

And these are two traditional gowns, lavish and beautiful. One is beautiful ikat silk, the second one has suzani style embroidery.

There are several shelves with traditional Uzbek pottery, too. I like these small organic looking jugs. 

These pieces are made in Rishtan, Ferghana valley, or maybe they are made in Samarkand to resemble Rishtan style. In any case, I appreciate their elaborate beauty and the combination of colours which are so close in style to the ancient Uzbek architecture.

Uzbek and Turkoman jewelry is a big separate topic. Silver, turquoise and corals is a favourite combination here, in Central Asia. «Les bijoux doivent être sauvages!» - said Amedeo Modigliani, and these ones are indeed quite savage-like.

A bunch of handwoven bags. I love those in earthy colours.

...and countless scarves. Silk scarves, some are made from khan atlas (heavy silk satin) or shoyi (fine silk)...

...these are made from sheer silk gauze or chiffon, and the shop owner claimed them to be hand block printed. They are weightless...

...these are wool shawls, hand embroidered in crewel stitch. I would not call them typical for our country; I think they were inspired by Indian Cashmere shawls. I must say that they are stunning in real life, and the quality of wool and work is excellent. I was very seduced by one on the right, but restrained myself, as I already have too many shawls and scarves that I do not wear.

This amazing shop even had some very nice cashmere shawls, made in Nepal. I must say that I am a cashmere addict and I own a substantial collection. I can say that these were really nice to the touch, and I loved the soft neutral colours. 

...As a way to thank the lovely shop owners for patiently letting me take a gazillion of pictures, I want to share their contacts. The owner and his wife are very friendly, open and willing to negotiate, and speak several languages, as fits a good Uzbek merchant who meets people from all countries of the world. If you ever visit Samarkand, do not miss their shop!

The shop is owned by Mr Alisher Yakubov; 
tel. +99890 2709933


  1. What beautiful textiles and pottery!!! I think I could spend a whole day browsing there. Thank you for the wonderful photos.

  2. Oh my! I'm not sure I'd get out alive - LOL .... I'd have spent waaay too much in a store like this! Many of those patterns remind me of all the hand printed cottons I saw in Jaipur and those silks! The earrings had me fascinated .... I bet those have a soft bell and jingle in your ear. Oh I'd love to find beads like these!

  3. How neat to see so many beautiful pieces all together!
    And how fun to see the woman working on a piece right there in the shop!
    Thanks for the tour :)

  4. What an amazing place to shop! The colors are inspiring, and how fun to see the women at work. I love watching and hearing about artisans' working process.

  5. This is indeed a gorgeous shop! The intricate designs are incredible and how fun to discover Rosina Wachtmeister's cats on some of the items! I did not expect that :) If ever my brother travels in the region again I will remind him to pay the shop a visit!

  6. Thank you for showing me this post, this is a gorgeous eyeful. I'm blown away by the embroidery, what an enormous amount of time and skill. You've inspired me to look into learning about Samarkand, and so I did a good search and this article popped up, which was posted just today.

    1. Clare, you are most welcome! Thank you for showing me these postcards, I have never seen the likes of them. The next time I visit Samarkand, I will look for them specifically.

  7. The traditional Uzbek pottery is really fabulous to look at. I have never watched this kind of traditional Uzbek pottery in the world. Really, the Uzbek pottery has a great tradition. I think that anybody want to get this Uzbek pottery for their home. The ancient Uzbek architecture charms me very much.


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