Khiva, Oct 2019
Oct 22, 2019
We left Bukhara by train once again, this time to Khiva, another ancient city on the Silk Road. There were no high-speed trains on this route, so it took us 5.5 hrs. on this slower train in business class; at a cost of 131,490 Uzbek Som or US$12.50 each. Route was not scenic, only farmlands and towards the end, a lot of desert/scrub landscape.
We sat opposite an Australian couple on the train, and got talking; Lars & Shelly were a middle-aged couple that got married, sold everything they owned, and started traveling the world with the intention of continuing to do so the rest of their lives. Amazingly, they have traveled for 4 years and visited 38 countries to date; their travels can be seen at Lifejourney4two
We arrived at Urgench, which was the train station for Khiva, about 25kms away, and the Bibimaryam B&B, where we had booked the previous night, had sent a taxi (included) to pick us up from the train station.
The Bibimaryam B&B was located inside the old walled city, called Ichan Kala, which is where we had wanted to stay. This was a nice, clean, recently renovated hotel, and staff spoke some broken English. After settling in, we were treated to some refreshments after our journey. Very nice. Cost here was $35 per night including breakfast.
Khiva is located in northwest Uzbekistan, and about 5 miles as the crow flies from the Turkmenistan border. The earliest records of the city of Khiva appear in Muslim travel accounts from the 10th century, although archaeological evidence indicates habitation in the 6th century. The presence of fresh water from wells & farming from irrigation using the nearby Amudarya river allowed it to develop and it became a trading post along the Silk Road. By the early 17th century, Khiva had become the capital of the Khanate of Khiva, ruled by a branch of the Astrakhans, a Genghisid dynasty. In the 17th century Khiva began to develop as a slave market. During the first half of the 19th century, around one million Persians and an unknown number of Russians, were enslaved there before being sold. A large part of them were involved in the construction of buildings in the walled Ichan-Kala, the inner city which was completely walled and where the high officials, clergy and rich lived; and the Dichan Kala, the outer city, where the ordinary people lived. The city was ruled and destroyed at various times by Persians, Turkmen, & Genghis Khan; until Russia invaded in 1873. Since 1990, the inner city of Ichan Kala has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After the refreshments, we went to check out Khiva Ichan Kala by dusk. Khiva had many tour groups just like Bukhara; and was more recently reconstructed to original structures and looked newer than Bukhara. There were lots of old mosques, Madrassah’s, Mausoleums, Caravanserais’ here just like in Bukhara. Many of the Madrassah’s and Caravansarai’s had been converted into hotels for tourists. The Ichan Kala was small, so easily walkable. We spent a couple of days here and below are some views
We had dinner at the Bir Gumbaz Tea house, a small converted madrassha. Bill came to $13 for 2 of us for drinks, Uzbek soup and kebabs; not bad at all. We called it a night and went to sleep.
Next morning, after breakfast at Bibimaryam, we continued to explore Ichan Kala Khiva. We first stopped at the Tourist Info center just outside the Ichan kala to get tickets to the places we wanted to visit (you can only get entrance tickets at select places in Khiva). Many structures as you can see from the pics were built with mud & straw; and rebuilt in the same way. Others were mud brick construction. Some scenes of Ichan Kala Khiva below
We decided to check out the Kunha Ark citadel, and came upon a play being enacted inside, of the good old times. Some scenes from the play and from inside the citadel.
Musicians entertaining the king
Traditional Uzbek dancing entertainment for the Khan
The Tosh-Hovli Palace of the Khan of Khiva
After a nice couple of days in Khiva, it was time to leave for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, for our last stop of the Central Asian Silk Road adventure. We had a choice of a 16hr slow train ride which I wanted to take (overnight sleeper) but Dilshad did not want to do that. So, I checked for flights and there was one Uzbek Air flight a day available, but all the $55 economy seats were taken, not available. Only $125 Business Class seats were available, so I booked those.
In the morning, Dinara, our host, got us a taxi to take us from the B&B to Urgench, where the airport for Khiva was located. Cost was $6 for this 28km journey. Some scenes along the way.
We finally arrived at the airport and went through a security/passport check outside the airport in the parking lot. We then went inside the airport, which appeared empty and went to the check-in counter, and got checked in. Curiously, there were no other passengers around. We sat down to wait to get called, but the check-in person guided us to a side door, where he ushered us into a lounge, the perks of business class tickets. There was an attendant there who took good care of us and brought us coffee, tea and refreshments. Very nice except that there were no other passengers here either. I was getting worried now as it was getting close to departure time, and we could not see any other passengers anywhere.
I asked the lounge attendant (no English) if it was time to go board the plane, and in sign language; she indicated for us to relax. OK. A short while later, about 10mins before flight departure time, she motioned us to follow her, and took us to a door in the back, which opened onto the tarmac, and there was a van waiting for us, with a driver. This is getting interesting. The lounge attendant got into the front seat and the driver drove us to the plane on the tarmac, where the lounge attendant escorted us to the stairs to the plane. This was the first time we got “escorted” to the plane on the tarmac, in a vehicle. 🙂 Only seen this in movies. Has anyone else experienced this?
We still could not see any other passengers. Curiosity grew. We said goodbye to our lounge attendant and boarded the plane and we found the plane to be totally full; just waiting for us. Surprise. But we never saw any other passengers in the terminal or the lounge. I can only guess that the plane must have flown in from somewhere else, stopped in Khiva to pick us up and then took off to Tashkent. 🙂
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, next.This entry was posted in Asia, Silk Road Uzbekistan Sept-Oct 2019, Uzbekistan