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a sandy desert in Afghanistan in the eastern part of the Iranian Plateau. The Registan is bounded in the west and north by the Helmand River and its tributary (the Arghandab), in the south by the Chagai Hills, and in the east by the Quetta-Pishin plateau. Its area is approximately 40,000 sq km, and there are elevations from 1,500 m (in the east) to 800 m (in the west).
The Registan is a gently sloping plain with numerous stationary dunes and barchans (elevations to 60 m). The climate is subtropical, continental, and dry. The precipitation, most of which is concentrated in the winter and spring, reaches 100 mm per year. The sparse vegetation, consisting of wormwoods, ephemers, and ephemeroids, is used as pasturage for sheep, goats, and camels. The population is made up primarily of nomads (cattle raisers). In the river valleys and at the foot of the mountains are occasional oases; the banks of the larger rivers have tugai vegetation. The Kandahar-Quetta highway, which connects Afghanistan and Pakistan, runs along the northern edge of the Registan.
(literally, “place covered with sand”), the designation for a large public square in the cities of the Middle East.
The best-known registan —a masterpiece of Middle Asian urban design of the 15th to 17th centuries—is in Samarkand. Most of its original layout dates back to the early 15th century, at which time the square was framed by a group of massive buildings. Between 1417 and 1420 the madrasa of Ulug Beg was constructed along the square’s western side. A rectangular edifice having a courtyard faced by four iwans (audience halls), the madrasa consists of two stories of cells, large auditoriums, and a mosque. There is a minaret at each of the four corners and a large portal in the eastern wall. The walls are almost completely covered with sumptuous mosaics of colored brick, with glazed and carved ceramic tiles, and with marble panels.
In 1424 the observatory of Ulug Beg was constructed along the eastern side of the registan. In the 1420’s the caravansary of Mirzoya was built along the northern side, and the mosques of Alike Kukeltash and Masjidi-Muqat on the southern side. Between 1510 and 1520 the madrasa of Abu-Said-Khan was built south of the registan.
In the 16th century the structures framing the registan fell into disrepair, and some were taken down. Major reconstruction was carried out in the early 17th century. Between 1619 and 1636 the madrasa of Shir-Dar (literally, “decorated with tigers”) was erected opposite the madrasa of Ulug Beg to replace the observatory. It was built by the architect Abu-Jabbar and embellished with the work of Muhammad Abbas. The walls are decorated with colored glazed bricks, majolica tiles, and mosaics of carved ceramic tile. Over the main arch is a paired mosaic mural, which has an ornamental background and representations of a shining sun and a tiger attacking a deer.
Between roughly 1646 and 1660 the madrasa of Tilla-Kari (literally, “covered with gold”) was built on the former site of the caravansary of Mirzoya. Its exterior was richly adorned with mosaics, and its interior was embellished with murals marked by an abundance of gold.
These sumptuously decorated buildings, which bound the registan on three sides, form an ensemble owing to the use of the architectural technique of kosh (the madrasa of Ulug Beg is mirrored in the madrasa of Shir-Dar) and the use of a system of simple and clear proportional relationships. To a large extent, the ensemble’s majestic unity is created by the rhythm of the massive forms of the structures. The tall, rationally organized buildings of the registan, with their lavish ornamentation, stand out against the general backdrop of Samarkand’s low, crowded buildings. The registan serves as the city’s center, the place at which the principal streets intersect.
REFERENCESMasson, M. E. Registan i ego medrese. Tashkent, 1926.
Kriukov, K. S. Registan (Pamiatnik arkhitektury), 4th ed. Tashkent, 1970.