Next day, Shokhrukh came to pick me early morning at 6 a.m. The hotel Grand Arte could not arrange breakfast for me at that time, hence we rushed to the airport. We caught a local flight of Uzbekistan Air to Urungech. The flight was on time and in an hour’s time, we landed. From there we went to Khiva (Also written as Xiva) by taxi. This journey is of about half an hour.
We checked in at Hotel Old Khiva. I think this is the most convenient hotel in Khiva as it is just across the road to the main attraction of Khiva. The hotel is very clean and the service was excellent. Most of the staff speaks decent English. One more comfort was of a currency vending machine. In this machine, you can exchange your Dollars, Euros etc to Som.
Did I say attraction ? oh, it is a cluster of attractions. All enclosed within walls of Ichan Kala Fortress. Khiva is an open air museum (UNESCO, world heritage site.) But, strangely it is more modern than the other cities like Bukhara and Samarkand. Meaning the constructions are from 17th to 20th Century. Some of them are recreated but you can hardly tell.
Outside the gate there is a huge map depicting the various branches of ancient silk route. You can easily identify the cities as they are still known by the same names.
When you enter the main get, you feel that you are entering few centuries earlier in time. But it is not deserted or scary. It is as full of life as it would have been, then. The streets are full of young crowd, and the beautiful souvenirs, are on display.
Some of the rooms have been converted into museums and some buildings are getting converted into hotels. There are couple of restaurants around, but they are also housed in some traditional buildings.
Another speciality of this place is that, most of the streets are meant only for pedestrians. The streets are so narrow, that no modern vehicle can move in or turn. Hence, you are at ease in moving around. You need to buy just one ticket for all these buildings and the supervisor (usually a lady) at these buildings will sign it off, once your visit is complete. One day is enough to cover all the buildings. You may take one more day, in case you want to go into details. The ticket is valid for two days. (Throughout my entire tour, my guide was taking care of all such tickets.)
As soon as you enter the Kala, you see a huge Kalta Minor. The base itself is of diameter of 14.5 meters. Sadly the beautifully decorated minar is only one third of its original planned height (70 to 110 meters, as estimated). It was never completed.
Adjacent to this Minar is a huge complex of Muhammad Aminkhan Madrassah (meaning school). This Madrassah is the largest (72 x 60 meters) in central Asia.
It has 125 hujris (cells) for students. The cells on ground floor have two rooms each and the ones on first floor have a room with attached balcony. A hotel is being planned in this building now, but the appearance is kept intact. Even the staircase, is also kept as it was.
There is a camel kept in the area for joy ride. Surprisingly it looks much different from the camels, which we see in India or Gulf region.
One of the buildings has a museum dedicated to music. It has some instruments, some portraits etc. The rooms also play the relevant music, while you are in. Uzbekistan had some Zoroastrian community, and one of the portraits shows their ancient dance around fire.
There are other museums showcasing ancient silk, wardrobe, copperwares etc. Everything is very well preserved.
to be continued …