Part of the Traveling the Silk Road exhibition.

City of Merchants

Ink drawing of merchant in Samarkand (on the Silk Route)

As the caravan approaches the fabled city of Samarkand, the gates swing open. Are you seeking the finest silk brocade? A sable coat, a packet of fragrant musk or a smooth roll of cream-colored paper? Whatever you desire, chances are a Sogdian merchant from Samarkand can deliver it. These shrewd traders have built up a fortune buying and selling in distant countries. The Sogdians are ambitious go-betweens, controlling a network of commerce that extends to India, China and Persia-and the heart of their trading empire is here, deep in Central Asia.