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May 22

My plan for this morning was to get up early and take some photographs before things got busy. The getting up early part turned out to be a given since after going to sleep okay, I woke up coughing at 4:30. With the time difference I knew that I could phone Po. We tried a couple of times, but the connection was not great. I tried to get back to sleep but finally gave up.

It was a beautiful morning. I confirmed that the camels did indeed spend the night in the square.

There were a few souvenir people setting up their goods and the street cleaners were out. There was one jogger, but I saw no other tourists.

I wanted to get on top of the wall. I thought I was following the directions that Sasha had given me the night before but could not see a way to walk up. I asked a man sitting in a van, but he did not speak English. However, he did give me an enthusiastic handshake. It feels great to be welcomed. Later I found out that I was at the wrong gate.

Here are some of the photos that I took on my little outing.
Khiva is thought to be about 2,500 years old. The core of the city, Icahn-Lala, was always within the fortification walls. Like most of anything else in Central Asia, the walls of Khiva were destroyed by Mongol invaders and then were rebuilt. The current walls are from the late 18th century. There are four monumental gates facing in the four directions.

Khiva was a major stop on the Silk Road. Travellers were safe inside the walls, but the city also served as a place for trade. The travellers on the Silk Road did not go the entire route. Instead it was the goods that kept moving as they changed hands between the traders at the various points.

Khiva was known for a more ominous business than silk and spices. It was a major slave trading centre. The dreaded Turkmen were famous nomadic horsemen known for their cruelty. They would capture entire caravans and herd their captives to Khiva. Anyone too weak to walk would be left in the desert to die. Entire Russian families would be captured from Orenburg, a town in southern Russia. Because the local Khan took a cut of the business, he allowed the Turkmen to bring their human goods inside the city. The trade continued up to the beginning of the 20th century. The last slaves were only set free after the revolution in the 1920’s.

When I returned to the hotel for breakfast I found that even though there was only Nescafe, Begaim was not making coffee with her press. That's when I found out the terrible news that she had left the bag that had the coffee and press in one of the vans. The bag had been recovered, but she will not get it back for a few days. That meant making do with the instant coffee. Oh my, the trails and tribulations of a traveller! This morning I replaced the crepes with French toast and honey.

After breakfast we joined Sasha for our tour of Khiva. We walked outside the walls where we found some scary looking warriors. Were they Mongols?


Sasha said that the walls were originally built to protect against the Turkmen. There were two moats.The graves in the wall were fake, done to fool the Mongols who avoided gravesites. Genghis Khan captured the city by poisoning the wells.


We stopped at the hat store where I tried on a traditional Uzbek hat. It is supposed to be both cool in summer and warm in winter. I am sure it would be big hit back in Newfoundland.

We next visited the fabulous Kunya Ark Citadel, the old fortress that was the Khiva rulers’ residence and was constructed in the 17th century.

We made a quick visit to a carpet factory.

We passed a woman baking the flat bread that we have had at just about every meal in Central Asia.

We had lunch at this pleasant café. I loved the appetisers.

Sasha has been giving us information about Turkmenistan. At lunch he advised us to install something called Secure VPN on our electronic devices so we can try to get around the blocking of websites and email.

Our first stop after lunch was the Jumma Mosque which translates as Friday mosque. Sasha had taught us about the different sizes of mosques. There are neighbourhood mosques for daily prayers, Friday mosques to hold more worshipers for the big weekly prayers and really huge mosques for special annual events. The Jumma mosque has 213 columns, some of which are over 1,000 years old. They use felt within the columns which helps them withstand earthquakes. The mosque has a capacity of 6,000.


The Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum is another beautiful spot. Pahlavon Mahmud was a poet and philosopher. But he was also a legendary wrestler. He is considered Khiva’s patron saint. This tomb was constructed in 1326 and was then rebuilt in the 19th century.

The Minaret of the Madrasah of Islam-Khodja was built in 1908-1910 and is Khiva's highest minaret (57 metres including foundation). It is possible to climb it, but after my experience on the truncated Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan, I was not tempted.


The Tash-Khovli Palace is from the 19th century. The palace housed a harem guarded by eunuchs until the 1920’s. For some reason I found it more fun to be walking around a place that was once full of beautiful women rather than madrassas that were full of Islamic scholars. I am not sure why that would be. Maybe I am tired of mausoleums and madrassas. After a while they all start to look alike.


Sasha then let us to where we could climb up on the ramparts. It was no where near where I had been in the morning. Several of us climbed up. I went the opposite direction to the others and enjoyed taking photographs on my own.

Although the area inside the walls is primarily for tourists, there are a few thousand residents. It was to fun to walk through that area on my way back towards the hotel.


A man came running up to me and gave me an Uzbek coin. With the 9000 to 1 exchange rate to US dollars, it would have been worthless. But then he asked for a Canadian coin in exchange, which I did not have. He immediately took back his coin. I later found out that he did the same to Michael.

I went for a latte at the same café where we had eaten our lunch. My plans were to then go to the Ark Citadel and climb up to the watch tower. In our itinerary this was listed as our first event for the day, but for some reason Sasha only showed us where to buy tickets and how to find the entrance so we could do it on our own. My cold was still zapping my energy so decided to skip it and just go to the hotel and relax before dinner.

For supper we had a table in the back of a restaurant. Sasha once again discussed our Turkmenistan trip and told us to be prepared for a delay at the border. He had earlier warned us about no Facebook or Gmail. He compared the place to North Korea. Then we will be camping at a place with zero facilities. I was starting to think that I should have skipped this part of the tour.

We were joined by a family of traditional singers and dancers. They did a few numbers and then got Silvio involved. He was a star. Here is a video of spinning dancers that you definitely should watch.

At the end of the show we were all asked to get up and dance. I got up assuming that everyone would join in. Silvio and Lynley did, but the others refused, which left the three of us making fools of ourselves. I assumed that someone took a video of me in action but have never seen the evidence.

When we returned to the hotel I glanced at a postcard and saw the photo that I would have taken if I had gone up the watchtower. It was a beautiful shot of the curved walls. I would have loved to get that, but it was now too late since we are leaving early for Turkmenistan, I felt quite disappointed and spent a long time trying to forget about it, knowing that is was just one or two photographs among several hundred great ones. But my mind kept returning to that view.

I did my packing, talked to Po, and did my nightly attempt to sleep without too much coughing.

Tomorrow morning we will find out if the border with Turkmenistan is as bad as advertised.

Posted by Bob Brink 19:01 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged uzbekistan central_asia kalpak_travel

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I loved seeing Khiva again through your eyes! Your early morning shots of the city almost deserted are particularly atmospheric. I know what you mean though about missing out on that photo. I too have spent ages kicking myself for missing a special photo opp, even if I have loads of other good ones!

I'm really looking forward now to reading about your time in Turkmenistan. I'm curious about how you got on with the internet restrictions etc., as we're off to N Korea quite soon biggrin:

by ToonSarah

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