Shir Dar Madresah (Lion's Gate School). Center for Islamic scholarship, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The second-largest city in Uzbekistan, it is most noted for its central position on the Silk Road between China and the West. Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, founded c. 738 BC. Samarkand is said to be one of the supremely beautıful cities of the world, compared easily with Rome, Paris, New York, London, or Tokyo.