A Travellerspoint blog

Khiva

sunny 22 °C

It appears that Tulkinjon, our guide, hijacked our last blog entry to promote Uzbekistan – so now we are back to tell you the truth: It's a great country to visit. We are staying in the historic city of Khiva which, it is said, was founded 2,500 years ago by Shem the son of Noah. However, the present walls are a mere two thousand years old....

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Khiva is the most intact Silk Road city in Uzbekistan and it is bursting with historical monuments cloaked in beautiful ceramic tiles...

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This absolutely enormous minaret base stands sentinel at the entrance to our hotel. It was never finished because the Khan died in the middle of the 19th century (1850s).
Climbing the minarets is not for the fainthearted. The near vertical spiral staircases have no handholds and it's a long way down...

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Our hotel which is just inside the city gates was a madrassa in the 1800s, but we are sure that the boys who slept in the cell-like rooms surrounding the central courtyard 200 years ago didn't have air conditioning, heated tile floors, comfortable beds and wifi...

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Although most of the buildings in Khiva date from the 17th and 18th centuries many of them were reconstructed from much older buildings. This mosque was built in the 10th century and some of the wooden pillars are original...

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While the ancient city of Khiva has been very well preserved, there are twenty three fortresses in the desert dating from the same period that were abandoned in the 6th century AD when the river courses changed and they were no longer inhabitable. These ruins are now surrounded by the vast Kyzil-kum red sand desert and survive because of the extremely dry climate...

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When we climbed to the top of the 2nd century Ayaz Kala fortress we could see for miles across the desert and our car was almost invisible far beneath us...

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All of this land was underwater in the past and despite the almost total destruction of the Aral Sea a lot of cotton is still grown here . As we drove for two hours across the arid steppes to visit the 2,000 year old castle ruins we were surprised to see so many crops. While the Aral Sea may have almost vanished there are still rivers, reservoirs and canals irrigating the fields. Rice, wheat, and particularly apricots are major crops but the fields of cotton make the prettiest picture...

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Pumpkins, squash and melons are also big in Uzbekistan. In fact the melons were not only the biggest we have ever seen, they were absolutely heavenly. We know that will never be able to eat melon again without being disappointed – unless we come back to Uzbekistan. For less than one Canadian dollar this delightful lady served all five of us with slices of pure nectar until we could eat no more...

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The prices here in Uzbekistan are simply unbelievable. Lunch for four cost just $1.50 each, (our driver missed lunch while fixing a puncture), three course dinners with salad, samosas, beef and vegetables, and dessert, set us back $6.00 each (including a 20% service charge). However, the exchange rate is roughly 10,000 Uzbek som to a dollar, so it can be a little disconcerting to get a bill for 180,000 for three until you realize that is just $18.

We will soon be taking the six hour train ride across the desert to Bukhara, but here is one last look at the beautiful ancient city of Khiva and a troupe of wandering minstrels and puppeteers...
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Posted by Hawkson 20:53 Archived in Uzbekistan

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Comments

I’m speechless! Minaret climbs and desert fortresses! So glad your driver delivered you back to town safely, for a slice of melon!

by Alison Fitzgerald

A six hour train ride? Will be interested to read about that: Uzbekistan rail lines vs the Orient Express.

by R and B

Such a unique design for city walls. Fascinating. Loved the shot in the stairwell of the minaret. Instant vertigo.
The horse before the cart charming. What a scene.
Look forward to a shot of the train - the Uzbekistan Express has a ring to it.

by Tom

What a fascinating part of the world. I hope we can visit there.

by Keith

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