The Path Less Ridden

Khiva, a city locked in time

Hitting the road again, ever westward, we moved into the empty stretches of the Kyzyl Kum desert. It’s 450 kilometres from Bukhara to Khiva, along a bumpy road lined with back-breaking potholes – although there’s brand new tarmac under construction parallel for much of it.

P9292204

P9292208

 

Just as night was falling, we pulled up to the city of Khiva, the third of Uzbekistan’s ‘big three’ sights. After a night of deep, refreshing sleep we tackled the city itself. The old city centre is not ancient, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries, having been destroyed and rebuilt over millennia, but everything has been preserved and restored as it was before the fall of the Khans in the early 20th Century.

 

The whole inner city is ringed by 10 metre high mud-brick walls, where there are a few places to clamber up and get your first view of the city – not just the big monuments and medressas, but the traditional local family homes, too.

P9302233

P9302253

P9302257

P9302277

 

One of the ‘big’ sights inside is the Tosh Hovli palace, one of two in the city (the other being the walled Ark). A fairly non-descript entrance takes you through servants and administrators rooms before the palace area proper.

P9302319

P9302327

 

Once you step out into the Khan’s living quarters though, the level of detail and decoration is on-par with anything in Samarkand or Bukhara (albeit showing more damage and wear).

P9302331

P9302369

P9302351

P9302368

P9302381

P9302392

 

The round dome was used for the Khan’s yurt – which was much easier to keep warm in mid-winter.

P9302364

 

It’s easy to forget the present when you’re surrounded so completely by the past – but it always manages to sneak in at the periphery.

P9302359

 

One of the most memorable parts of Khiva’s skyline is the Kalta Minor minaret, a squat turquoise-tiled structure. Commissioned by Mohammed Amin Khan in 1851, it is said he wanted to be able to see all the way to Bukhara from it. Construction got as far as 29 metres high before the Khan died, and his successor chose not to bankrupt himself on completing the planned height of 70 metres.

P9302224

P9302247

PA012567

 

At the other end of the scale of minarets, Khiva is also home to the tallest one in Uzbekistan. The Islom-Hoja mosque and minaret were built in 1910, and it’s possible to climb the thigh-aching 57 metres to the top for a 360 degree panorama.

PA012500

PA012529

PA012523

PA012512

PA012510

PA012516

 

Just wandering the streets is an excellent way to spend a day, with interesting buildings and alleys around every corner.

P9302239

P9302251

P9302292

P9302299

P9302230

P9302444

 

We found this medressa, from 1835, open and almost completely empty – meaning we could explore the upper levels, students’ rooms and more, unlike the much more regulated medressas in Samarkand and Bukhara.

P9302400

P9302406

P9302417

P9302420

P9302430

 

We also found what appeared to be the graveyard, with crypts and low-slung mausoleums scattered at odd heights and angles.

PA012549

PA012554

 

Locals are engaged in either making or selling handicrafts to tourists. Carpentry and carpet-making are popular.

P9302313

PA012557

PA012559

 

By far our favourite time in Khiva was sunset. It’s possible to buy yourself a beer, climb up the ancient walls and watch the mud-bricks flare to life in hues of yellow and orange as the sun dips below the horizon. We picked two separate spots over two nights, to have a different view each time.

P9302460

P9302462

P9302465

PA012593

PA012597

PA012617

PA012622

 

One last comment about Uzbekistan: the money. With one US dollar buying almost 5000 som (on the black market, at least – official rate is less than 3000), and most of the time 1000 som notes are the standard (5000 som notes do exist but they’re rare), you end up with a massive pile of cash when changing money. It’s easy to identify the moneychangers at the bazaar, since they’re all walking around with plastic shopping bags full of bundles of cash.

P9302480

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

2 thoughts on “Khiva, a city locked in time

  1. Mum and Dad

    Would you believe Holly and I took exactly the same photo, but with a US$10 note, not $100, with the stack of Som next to it, back in 1998!

  2. Mum and Dad

    Would you believe Holly and I took exactly the same photo, but with a US$10 note, not $100, with the stack of Som next to it, back in 1998.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *