The country which composes the territory of these famous cities, has always been deemed one of the most fertile and beautiful in the world. It lies between the Késh hills on the south, the Desert of Khwārizm on the west, and the Uratippa and Ak-tāgh mountains dividing it from Uratippa, on the north. On the east, it has the hill country of Kara­tigīn and the Kara-tāgh mountains. It is traversed, in nearly its whole extent, by the Kohik or Zarefshān* river, which, coming from the north-east angle of the hills that rise out of Karatigīn, flows down by Yār-ailāk to Samarkand and the vale of Soghd, passing to the north and west of Bokhāra, considerably below which the small part of it that is not swallowed up in the sand runs into the Amu. The country near the sources of the Kohik is hilly and barren, and in the time of Bābur was full of petty forts, especially along the skirts of the hills. This is the district so often mentioned under the name of Yār-ailāk or Bār-ailāk. It seems to comprise the countries at the present day called Karatippa and Urgūl. Uratippa extends over the opposite side of the hills, to the north-west, except only the district called the Ailāks of Uratippa, which is higher up on the same side of the hills, and not far distant from Yar-ailāk. The vale of Soghd, which commences lower down* than the Ailāks, is an extensive plain, a great part of which is admirably watered and cultivated, by means of cuts from the river. Bābur has given so correct and detailed an account of this whole country in his Memoirs that little need be added regarding it. This tract of plain is the Sogdiana of the ancients, so called from the river Soghd, the ancient name of the Kohik. Samarkand was a city of note at least as far back as the time of Alexander the Great, when it was known under the name of Marakanda, a name which may lead us to suspect that even then the country had been overrun by Tūrki* tribes. The country beyond the Amu, called by the Arabs Māweralnaher (i.e. beyond the river), was conquered by them as early as the years 87, 88, and 89 of the Hijira; and their geographers present us with the most dazzling picture of its prosperity at an early period. Ibn Haukal, who is supposed to have lived in the tenth century, speaks of the province as one of the most flourishing and productive in the world. The hospitality of the inhabitants he describes, from his personal observation, as corresponding to the abundance that prevailed. The fortunate situation of the country, and the protection which it enjoyed under the Arabian Khalifs, produced their ordinary effects, and the arts of civilization, the civilities of social life, and the study of literature, all made a distinguished progress. We are told that the inhabitants were fond of applying their wealth to the erection of caravanserais or inns, to the building of bridges and similar works, and that there was no town or stage in Māweralnaher without a convenient inn or stage-house* for the purpose of accommodating travellers with every necessary. One of the governors of Māweralnaher, which included all the Arabian conquests north of the Amu, boasted, probably with considerable exaggeration, that he could send to war three hundred thousand horse, and the same number of foot, whose absence would not be felt in the country. The Vale of Soghd was reckoned one of the three paradises of the world, the Rūd-Ābileh and the Ghūteh of Damascus* being the other two; over both of which, however, Ibn Haukal assigns it the decided preference, both as to beauty and salubrity. The glowing description which he gives of it in the tenth century is confirmed by Abulfida in the beginning of the fourteenth; and early in the sixteenth, Bābur informs us, that there was no more delightful country in the world. The beauty and wealth of these cities had rendered the names of Samarkand and Bokhāra proverbial among the poets of Persia. Several streams from the hills, on both sides, join the Kohik in its course. As you recede from the Soghd river or approach the Amu, the soil becomes sandy and desert.

The chief cities in the days of Bābur, as at the present time, were Samarkand and Bokhāra. The former lies on the south of the Kohik on a rising ground, and has always been very extensive, the fortifications having varied, by different accounts, from eight to five miles in circumference; but a great part of this space was occupied by gardens. When D’Herbelot and Petis de la Croix* give the city a compass of twelve farsangs, or forty-eight miles, they have not observed that the whole garden-grounds around it must have been included in the range. A wall one hundred and twenty farsangs in length, said to have been built by Gushtasp, king of Persia, to check the incursions of the Tūrks, and to protect the province of Samarkand, is probably fabulous, no notice being taken of any remains of it in latter times. Yet a similar one certainly existed, lower down the river, for the defence of the highly-cultivated districts of Bokhāra.

A town of considerable note in the northern part of the country is Jizzikh or Jizik, better known in history by the name of Dizak. It lies towards the Ak-tāgh mountains, on the road to the Pass of Ak-Kūtel. To the south of Jizzikh, on the road to Samarkand, is Shirāz, which has long been in ruins.

Down the river, below Samarkand, was the town of Sir-e-pul (or Bridgend), so frequently mentioned by Bābur. It is probably the place noticed by Abulfida under the name of Khushūfaghan,* and by the Arabs called Rās-al-kantara, a translation of its Persian name.

The town and castle of Dabūsi or Dabūsīa, often men­tioned in the history of Bokhāra, lie between that city and Samarkand.

The city of Bokhāra, which is now the capital of the country, as it frequently was in former times, has given its name in Europe to the countries of Great and Little Bucharia. These names, however, are unknown in Asia, the name of Bokhāra being confined to the city of that name and the country subject to it. It lies far down in the Valley of Soghd, in the middle of a rich country intersected by numerous water-courses. It is said, at the present day, to contain a hundred thousand inhabitants, and it is, per­haps, the most eminent seat of Musulman learning now existing. Thompson, who visited it in 1740, gives an amusing account of the city and its trade.* It was visited by Jenkinson in the reign of Queen Elizabeth,* and in 1812 by Izzet ullah, whose account of its present state is highly interesting.

The fort of Ghajhdewān, which lies north-west of Bok­hāra, close on the desert of Khwārizm, is remarkable for a great defeat sustained by Bābur and his Persian auxiliaries, when he was compelled to raise the siege.

The hills of Nūrattāu lie ten miles north from Bokhāra, and run from east to west for about twenty-four miles. This is probably the Nūr of the Arabian geographers, with the addition of tau, a hill.

Miānkāl, which is several times mentioned by Bābur, includes Katta-Kurghān, Yung-Kurghān, Panjshembeh, Khattichi, and some other places on both sides of the Kohik near Dabūsi.

But the minuteness of Bābur’s own description of the country, its rivers and mountains, precludes the necessity of any further remarks.