On 27 August 2013, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the official opening ceremony of the 9th International Music Festival ‘SharqTaronalari’ (‘Melodies of the Orient’), held in Samarkand, in the presence of His Excellency Mr Islam Karimov, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The main purpose of this biennial Festival, organized with the support and participation of UNESCO, the International Music Council and the International Council on Traditional Music, is to preserve national musical and song traditions and to promote international cooperation in the field of culture. This event also contributes to support young talents.
“Cultures do not grow in isolation – they prosper through contact, they flourish through exchange. This is the meaning of Samarkand and this Festival, and we must take this message everywhere, across the world, to all societies”, said the Director-General during her opening speech.
Irina Bokova recalled Samarkand's past at the heart of the Great Silk Road:
"Samarkand has always been one of humanity’s beating hearts – a city of scholarship, a city of art and architecture … a city of the world. This is why Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List – because it embodies values that are outstanding and universal, because Samarkand is part of the story of all humanity."
On the same day, the Director-General also visited the numerous historical monuments of Samarkand such as the mausoleum of Amir Temur, Bibi Khanum mosque, and Shakhi Zinda complex.