June 16, 2008

Silk Road III Day 8: the long drive to Khiva

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Got up bright and early this morning, and left Bukhara at 7am for the long, 8-hour drive to Khiva. The roads were again in terrible condition, and it really did take us a long time to reach our destination. We entered the city gates around 3pm.

The main event today was to visit Ichan Kala - the walled city that was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. After a quick lunch break, we started by visiting the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum. This is a tomb for Khiva's most famous poet, philospher and (!) wrestler. The interior of the main chamber here is absolutely stunning. The interesting aspect here is that in Khiva, the beautiful ceramic tiles were not fixed to the walls using cement, but attached by driving a nail through the center of each tile.

We pass by the Islom-Hoja Medressa and the Islom-Hoja Minaret, the tallest in Khiva. I am still thinking about climbing it to get a good view of the city...so we don't go in just yet. Next stop would be the Juma Mosque with over 200 wooden columns which serve to support the roof. Some of these columns were the original ones dating back over 1,000 years. Naturally, the newer columns have decorative carvings which are much more elaborate. Outside the mosque stands the Juma Minaret, but I have another minaret to climb later...

The Tosh-Hovli Palace has its main draw in the Harem, where the aivans are ricly decorated both in terms of woodwork as well as the tiling. The aivan of the Khan (as opposed to those of his wives) was distinguished by its additional height and grandeur. We pass by the Alloquli Khan Medressa, with its pretty facade but we do not go in.

Our final sight of the day is the west gate of the city, and we climb up to the Oq Shihbobo bastion of the Kuhna Ark. This is a good vantage point for a view of all Itchan Kala, and I take the chance to snap few pictures, including those of the Kalta Minor Minaret that was never completed. I am sufficiently tired at this point, and give up on the idea of climbing the Islom-Hoja Minaret.

We decide to sit outside in the courtyard of a family with whom we had stored our luggage, and while away the next couple of hours drinking and snacking on bread, almonds and mulberry jam. Around 9pm, our replacement driver showed up (the original driver had to drive another 8 hours back to Bukhara immediately after we got here...). We make our way to Urgench to catch our late flight back to Tashkent.

After arriving at the Dedeman Silk Road Hotel, we quickly wash up and head to bed. We will need all the energy we can muster as tomorrow will be another long day, including our land border crossing to Kazakhstan!

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