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Published: September 26th 2014
Sept 19-21 Khiva
Sept 19th. Over 1000kms of train ride from Tashkent to Urgench through mostly barren empty desert, few camels, bit of dry tussock, but mostly just nothing. Eventually arrived in Urgench, where we negotiated a short taxi ride to Khiva for 20,000 Soms discovering the weird nature of the Uzbek currency - at about 3,000 Soms to the dollar. Changing a $100 note into Soms results in a huge 'brick' of notes as the dominant note is just 1,000 Soms (about 30c). So everyone is walking around with huge lumps of cash - much too large to fit in a wallet ! Paying for anything is a real exercise in lengthy counting !
Ancient Khiva had a reputation for barbaric cruelty, slave caravans, and terrible journeys across inhospitable deserts. The historic heart of Khiva has been preserved, and looks today like a museum city - there's not much life remaining within the inner city walls (Ichon-Qala) but there many fantastic buildings, palaces, madressas, minarets, mosques. We walked the walls for a bit, and then started the exploration of all the structures. Key buildings included :
@The Kuhna Ark - the rulers (Khan) own residence and fortress
including jail, mint, harem, throne room, and watchtower.
@The Kalta Minor minaret built in 1851 but never completed -was going to be the tallest minaret in all Central Asia at 78m, but stopped at 29m - still quite high as we could attest as we crawled inside and up the steps to the top for spectacular views over Khiva.
@The Juma Mosque and 47m minaret - unique for its 218 wooden supporting columns, a few dating back to the 10th C,
@The Tosh Hovi Palace, with 150 rooms, and 9 courtyards, sumptuously decorated in mosaics
@Over 20 madressa's most with large courtyards, lots of little learning cells,
@More mausoleums than we could remember, most beautifully decorated, with courtyards and sarcophagus's
We spent two days exploring within the City walls. Khiva was run by the Khans as a feudal dictatorship for several hundred years, until it was taken over' by the Soviets in 1920, abolishing the Khan, and became part of the new republic of USSR.
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