Khiva

For me Khiva was the first “must see” place to see on our epic ride. I was up early-ish on Sunday and by about 9.30am I was on the road. Just. It was only a couple of hundred kilometres, but with these roads that would be about 3 hours riding. I would have been a bit quicker, but for being stopped by a police officer. Again!

This one was posted to a metal pontoon bridge and I had the temerity to take a photo. He approached me saying “No photo, no photo”. Hoping to get away without deleting said photo, I quickly put the camera away saying OK. He, however, was having none of it and made me take it out again and delete the photos. Unfortunately, that left the photo I had taken of the cardboard Police car, wagging finger time for me then, so that was deleted as well, ******!

Walls of KhivaSome time in the early afternoon,I approached Khiva. I had seen photos of the city walls and was expecting to see them from some way off. As it turned out, I turned left at a set of traffic lights and there it was; the city appeared from nowhere and the sight of the walls just took my breath away. Fantastic! I had to go around the block to work out how to get in, for there are only four gates into the walled city and vehicles are only allowed through two of them.

Having managed that, I found my chosen B & B. They were full, but recommended an Islamic B & B. After my initial reluctance, which lasted for all of about 10 seconds, I thought “What’s the point of doing a trip like this if you don’t want to interact with the cultures you meet on the route!”. There’s too much credibility given to so-called Islamic extremists, who don’t represent anyone but themselves, I thought. So off I went in search of the Islambek B & B, and I wasn’t disappointed. What a nice place it is, and nice people; they even let me put my bike inside the house, “There are lots of children outside and you don’t know what they might play with …”

Islambek B&B is a nice two storey house, inside the city walls, with the second floor opening onto a seated terrace overlooking a part of the city – not that the view is that great, but it is nice and cool and seems to catch the breeze. I took it easy in the afternoon, partly because it was hot and partly because I wanted to catch up with writing the blog. I found somewhere decent to eat, and they even served beer! Great stuff. I retired to bed determined to try and arrange a guided tour of the city the following day.

Up by 6.30am, I asked if I could have a guided tour, unfortunately one could not be arranged privately, but they pointed me in the right direction.

I managed to arrange a tour for 1pm and my tour guide was a young woman whose English was excellent. Her tour was very informative and she even managed to avoid most of the hundreds of teenage students, dressed in their best school uniform, celebrating the last day of term. Some of the girls were wearing sashes and other, younger ones, wearing white net bows in their hair. The boys were wearing dark grey trousers and white shirts, some wearing a form of bow tie. They all looked very smart as they milled about the market in high spirits, but very well behaved.

It turns out that the area was just a place on the Silk Route from around 500 – 400BC. Some unknown time after this some travellers along the route, being desperately thirsty, dug a hole to try and find water. They found it about 5 or 6 metres down and, on drinking it, they exclaimed “Keevah!” (or a word sounding like that). Since then, there has been a city on that spot and the original well is still there, inside someone’s house. Allegedly!

All of the city buildings are in the same colour as the walls – even the new ones, as that’s what the city demands in order to preserve the character. The two palaces and all of the madrasses are adorned with thousand of locally produced tiles, all in the same style of blue and white squirls in different patterns. Each tile was numbered and had its particular place in the design, hence the numbering. The madrasses used to be for teaching Islamic studies but now all of them are given over to teaching local crafts such as wood carving, making tiles or producing tablecloths or handbags etc. from locally produced silk. It’s probably just as well Brigid wasn’t here, we would have needed a trailer to take everything away.

All in all, I was really looking forward to seeing Khiva and the other Silk Route towns, and Khiva certainly hasn’t let me down.

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