Monday – Khiva!

It was a night spent in one of our more interesting bed linen arrangements. I do not usually bore you with such minutiae but this was special! Each of the counter panes on our beds (and those of the rest of the group!) had a large circle of material cut out of the middle of it! Literally a hole about 12 inches in diameter cut out with the frayed edges exposed. Very odd. At one point in the middle of the night I got my foot caught in mine……. Despite enquiry we could not establish why this was.

After a night of this sort of excitement, I for one was keen to set out for our tour of Khiva. Keith and I, on our previous evening’s walk , had decided the town had the feel of Aigue Morte (spelling?) the old walled town on the edge of the Camargue in the south of France.

Khiva is a delight! The morning sun showed it in all its glory, although our morning tour time did not do justice to some of the coloured tiling due to the light for our photographs. It is once again a very old city with the chequered history that seemed to befall many of these old locations. Demolished by Genghis Khan, an emirate capital in the 17th century, it outgrew its city walls and another city wall was built as it expanded. It has two fortresses, one inside and one outside the city wall and four gates. It is a place far less renovated than the other Silk Road cities as you get the impression that it did not just ‘roll over’ for the Russians. Khiva has many madrassahs, like Bukhara, some are now hotels – a use they lend themselves to very well. A ‘not so illustrious’ aspect of its past, was Khiva’s large slave market.

One of the many minarets was commissioned to be the largest minaret tower in Central Asia, but the builder, becoming aware that he was doomed to die so he could not make another one when it was finished, did not complete the job. It’s stump still towers over the town but not quite at the anticipated height!

On our route around the town we tried on some of the many fur hats for sale and looked in on the wood carving madrassah. Young boys sat outside, looking very busy when we arrived, but you felt as soon as we had disappeared they would be back to chatting – as all teenaged boys would.
We also dropped in on the Susannah Madrassah, set up by an English man and supported by UNESCO, it provides traditional carpet weaving and embroidery training and work for women, often those with disabilities. The chap has written a book about it which Keith is reading. Although now based in London, he was actually there, talking about what the madrassah produced. It had a very nice atmosphere and we resolved to go back later in the day to make some purchases. Regrettably, by the time we got back, the things we had identified had been sold. Another missed retail moment. The moral of the story…….!

We visited the large mosque which was of the ‘many wooden pillared’ variety. Apparently following the destruction of the original (I think young Genghis was to blame) there was a call for each family to contribute a new pillar which is why all the current pillars are different! I have to say it is a veritable forest of pillars – but lovely and cool inside.

We left the tour – it was by now mid-day – and retired to the hotel for a break and then set off out again for the only wifi connection in town – the nice day bedded restaurant where we had eaten supper. Here we drank cool sparkling water, wrote and sent our blogs (although photographs proved problematic) and chatted to our chums and happily whiled awaŷ the afternoon. It almost felt as though we were on holiday!

We set off tomorrow for an overnight bush camp prior to crossing the border into Turkmenistan, where there is said to be no internet connection at all. In these circumstances, I am going to close down, so that I can send this from the restaurant tonight. We are not sure when or where our next wifi will be, but rest assured that I will continue my missives and keep taking the photographs and they will be dispatched in due course. Normal service may not be resumed for some time……..

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