Khiva, Uzbekistan – 6/2014

January 30, 2017

Escaping from Turkmenistan with full tanks of $1.00-per-gallon diesel, we entered Uzbekistan. Of all the countries we would visit following the Silk Road, Uzbekistan was certainly one of the most anticipated. Along with Samarkand and Bukhara, Khiva was an important trading point on the historical Silk Road. It was also famous for its long and brutal history as a slave trading post, sandwiched in-between the vast Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts, the latter of which we had just driven across.

The walls around Old Khiva seemed impenetrable.

We had obtained our visas from StanTours and they had arranged permission for us to wild camp two out of every three days. There may have been sections of the old Silk Road along the Amu-Darya River with at least one caravanserai on the Turkmeni side but that was out of the question. Turkmenistan immigration had made that impossible.

Given the oppressive heat and the fact that Khiva was only 38 miles away, we headed for our first hotel since we left Portugal with the bit firmly clenched in our teeth. This gave us a chance to relax in a sort-of air-conditioned environment, do a wash in the bathtub, change money and take a walk through the amazing streets of the old city. Unfortunately, much of the town inside the fortress walls had been scrubbed tourist-clean by the Soviets in the 1970s. Nevertheless, as we wandered amongst the madrassahs, (schools), and craned our necks at the spectacularly tiled minarets, we tried to get a sense of how crowded and bustling this town must have been throughout its history. It was not hard to imagine why Khiva is still considered an important center of Islam. The old walled town called Itchan Kala was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.

This English student requested to have her picture taken.

According to legend, Khiva was founded about 2,500 years ago when a son of Noah, Shem discovered a well in the middle of the desert and exclaimed “Khi-wa!” which could be roughly translated as “sweet water”. The Khanate of Khiva was a Central Asian Turkic state. The Khans (“kings”) were direct patrilineal descendants of Ghengis Khan and ruled for over 400 years (1511-1920). The amazing examples of Islamic architecture were built over a span of 600 years and stand as a reminder of Khiva’s greatness as a center of Islamic power. Today, the entire city is home to about 40,000 people, most of whom live outside the walls of the original town.

The photos and captions with this blog will give you a feeling of our experience of Khiva, but of course it is only a taste of this part of the Silk Road we have followed since driving away from the wave-torn cliffs of Portugal’s Cabo da Roca, the most western point in continental Europe and in fact, the most western point of the Eurasian landmass where we began The Trans-Eurasian Odyssey. Unknown adventures lie ahead. Already we were hearing of the difficulties of driving in China and before that, the dreaded “Tunnel of Death” in Tajikistan. We can hardly wait??

 

 

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