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Published: October 10th 2005
Waking up after an uneventful night's sleep I am still rather tired but manage to stumble down the stairs and join the party before we start our day on town. It is a sunny morning and the temperature is quite pleasant. Once again we have the bus at our disposal and we buzz around the city centre inspecting some of the sights of Tashkent. The official sights include the wonderful Amir Timur Museum, the Navoy Theatre, the Earthquake memorial, the houses of parliament and Kukeldash Medressah. Tashkent is also a great place to watch Europe and the Middle East clash with Asia, and peoplewatching can be very rewarding. From the poor young men selling bread in the streets to the flowery traditional dresses of the Uzbek women to the young and fashionable Russian girls with high heels and the latest trendy cell phones. Of more interest though is the car park. Apart from the numerous VAZ Ladas and ZIL trucks there are plenty of interesting brands, and for the first time in my life I lay eyes on the notorious Volga, and we are talking about love at first sight here.
On tour our group will typically rally around Bengt
and Shoista. She will explain the history and background of the place we happen to visit, and Bengt then gives a translation into Swedish even though the group in general seems to be fine with the English version only. I am making some more acquantiances in our group, my companion travellers coming up with things like "My son is studying for a master's thesis", "My son is your age" and "He is one of those animal rights idealists". Over at a medressah I meet a guy called Djubarik. Of course he has heard about Sweden, he follows the international hockey league.
After four hours on town we head back to the hotel for a simple lunch. Everybody is a bit hesitant about what is safe to eat and what is not. The more well-travelled people in the group give us advice of what to pick and what to avoid. Having eaten anything and everything on my previous trip to Iran I had not really given any of this any particular thought and now find myself getting a bit paranoid of the fresh foods. After lunch we pack our bags into the bus and transfer to Yuzhny Airport, where we
Central Asia is a hotbed of geological activity, and Tashkent was pretty much levelled by a powerful quake in 1966.
will board a plane for Urgench in the far west of the country. As we are waiting in the departure hall I am standing with my nose glued to the windows staring out at the exotic birds in the green, white and blue colours of the national carrier. My guide Shoista suggests that I could have a seat but when I start to threw useless aircraft trivia around she realises the impossible odds and simply leaves me to my hobby.
One of the big attractors for me to go on this trip was the fact that it included a number of domestic flights. I am having my sights set on finally meeting the Antonov An-24, but this long distance line is serviced by a British Aerospace Bae RJ85 which is a bit of a disappointment. The journey takes roughly 90 minutes and we arrive at Urgench Airport around 19.30. A bus is waiting for us and the local staff proceed to collect our bags and escort us into the bus. Sitting inside and looking out I suddenly see one of the guys wandering away with my bag towards another bus full with German tourists and have to intercept him
before my bag will go on its own little tour.
Downtown Urgench we will stay at a three star hotel called the Djaihun, which has an air of deserted over it. On arrival though the lobby is full with people and we are welcomed with a drink and a performance by some local girls dancing in traditional dresses. This of course provokes me to reach for my camera but after one snap the battery dries up. Feeling a bit silly for not having double checked this I quickly whip up my bag to replace them with my spares, only to realize that I have brought the wrong type of batteries with me! Oh dear, stuck in the middle of the desert without batteries. And tomorrow we will visit Khiva, one of the most photogenic places on the trip. What a disaster! I am absolutely heartbroken and feel like wanting to pack my bags and return home at once. Fortunately I still have my little back up pocket camera with me, but I am not sure if it will rise to the occasion or not.
We scatter through the long corridors to our respective rooms. Shoista is shuttling around
wondering if everyone is ok. It turns out a lot of my fellow travellers have opinions about their rooms. I can't blame them, the room really leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from the horrible decor it is pretty run down. The hard is shorter than I am, and I'm not exactly a very tall person, but still my feet hang out over the side. The bed sheets are even smaller. There are some old curtains which can not be used to cover up the window, the bathroom features a moving toilet seat and a sad brown excuse for water slowly trickling from the tap. There is a big refrigerator and a fan in the room, but there is no electricity to run them. There is a big hole in the wall on the balcony, and the only amenities to be found in the room are two tea cups and a quarter of a bar of soap. All of this is fine though, as long as I can get hold of some camera batteries. I try the hotel shop and ask for any shop that might still be open but nobody has any input. It turns out to be
Hast Imam mosque
Close up of the intricate designs
a restless night.
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