Climbing the minaret of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah of the Samarkand Registan is not something that’s officially offered. I think this is one of these things you can still do now, but in a few years they will probably put this under lock and key and you can’t do it anymore. I am aware that by writing about this online, I might contribute to the early demise of this option. But it was the best thing we did at the Registan and I consider my blog our little secret and not a mega-influential thing. Here’s how to climb the minaret.
Which Minaret at the Registan? Is it Legal?
If you’re facing the Ulugh Beg Madrasah at the Registan from the plaza, we’re talking about the right-hand minaret. Here are one of my pictures and a Google Streetview image you can use to orient yourself:
If you’re able-bodied, it’s possible to ascend that minaret of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah of the Registan. I don’t know if it’s a seasonal thing, but it was possible in summer (July) in Samarkand. Perhaps they close this option on rainy days.
A few days before we visited the Registan, we saw some people peeking out the roof of this minaret. Back then, I thought these were cleaners who were wiping the bird shit off the minaret. Now I know it was likely tourists.
As for the legality… I don’t know. Officially you can’t, but unofficially it’s totally doable. Perhaps they try to keep it a secret to prevent swathes of people queueing to climb the minaret and to prevent accidents in the fragile(-looking) tower. Perhaps it’s actually totally forbidden and maybe you could even be prosecuted. It’s unclear. What is certain is that you can’t buy a ‘climb the minaret add-on’ to your entry ticket to the Registan.
How to Climb the Minaret
Just ask the people around there about going up the minaret. The people at the Registan speak more languages than your average Uzbekistani, so you can definitely get it done in English. But I think it’s probably better to start with “Salam Alaikum” with a hand over your heart and then ask in English to go up the minaret. Expect to receive a few no’s before you find some who wants to negotiate. We tried on the same day on two separate occasions.
The first time, I asked a lady who was in a shop at the bottom of that minaret. She said no and that was that. We walked to Tilya-Kori and Sher-Dor madrasahs first before we attempted again. We met a French backpacker in Tilya-Kori who said he’d just done it, so that motivated us to try again. The French guy said he’d paid UZS 15.000 to climb the minaret.
The second time, we hung around at the base of the minaret till we saw a guy who seemed in the know. This guy gave us some nonsense story that it’s UZS 50.000 per person officially at the entrance. There was no such official documentation. Since we knew the French guy paid UZS 15.000, we wanted to negotiate the price down. Side note: we’re not great at haggling and we dislike doing so. We managed to do so until UZS 35.000 per person, which was fine with us and safely above the price where we’d cause resentment with the guy over our negotiations.
Finally, Climbing the Minaret
The guy said that the top of the minaret has a beautiful vista over the Registan and all of Samarkand. By now, it was already quite hot on ground level.
He guided us to a side door at the shop of that lady we’d already asked before about climbing the minaret. This time, they unlocked it and we went in.
We climbed up to the (public) first floor. The opposite corner of the Ulugh Beg madrasah also has stairs to the first floor and it’s completely open and free of charge for visitors to go there (there’s even a souvenir shop on that side). If the stairs scare you, you can still decide to hang out here after all.
The start of the stairs to the minaret is like two-and-a-half floors up. From the base of the winding minaret staircase, it’s 59 steps up. There’s a rope to hold onto.
Sometimes you pass a little hole with fresh air. It’s also helpful to orient yourself if you get dizzy from the turning. Once at the roof, you’ll encounter a metal lid that hopefully, someone has already opened. Passing each other near the roof isn’t easy, but we did it twice. The roof is made of metal and very hot. It would have been much better to do it an hour earlier so it wouldn’t be hot enough to nearly burn ourselves on it.
Comparing the climb with climbing the Burana Tower Minaret in Kyrgyzstan, this one was a little more uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable regardless of your height, weight, and level of fitness. I was very happy to not wear flip-flops while doing this.
But the vista is completely worth the sweaty climb and nearly burning my fingers on the metal roof.
The panorama shows the two nearby madrasahs of the Registan, the other tall heritage sites in Samarkand, and if you’re on a clear day, you can see mountains in the distance.
I must say that the vista pays off even better if you’re tall so you can stick your upper body out of the roof even further. Loads of my pictures came out with a lot of the metal roof in the frame because I’m short as fuck.
Another thing I’d recommend is doing this minaret climb and Registan visit at the end of your stay in Samarkand; once you’re on top of the minaret, you can see a lot of Samarkand sights, but you might not know what they are unless you’ve already been to them. This way, I could point out the Bibi Khanym mausoleum + mosque, Amir Temur mausoleum, Afrosiyab, etcetera. If you climb the minaret first, you simply have no idea what you’re looking at unless you’ve studied the map and memorized it.
Also a pro tip: take enough selfies.
By the way, the four minarets of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah are 33 meters (108 feet) tall. That doesn’t sound like much, but it makes quite a big difference for the vista.
And then it was time to go down again. Shit, tits, fuck, I don’t like going down tiny winding stairs.
Did this post help you climb the minaret? Consider buying me a cup of tea!
Open in wallet
Feel free to share this post!