The first major destination of my Uzbekistan travel itinerary was Khiva, one of the first UNESCO World heritage sites in Uzbekistan and it left me completely captivated with its rugged untamed beauty. I had come to Uzbekistan, in lure of The Great Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, but it was Khiva where I left a piece of my heart back. Sharing my incredible visit to Khiva in this story.
Landing at Ugrench Airport (flying in from Tashkent), we were greeted by sunny skies and a chilling windy temperature of Minus 2 degrees Celsius. We made a dash for the Airport Arrival terminal getting down from the aircraft. My tummy was a bit under the weather (most probably with all the drinking and dancing I did last night) and I wondered how I would survive the drive to Khiva, which was around 1 hour and more importantly, how would I last the rest 7 days of sightseeing, if this was the condition on Day 2. With these thoughts, I settled in the car with other fellow travelers and it wasn’t until I noticed the golden yellow fortification/fort walls on one side that I realized we had reached Khiva.
The first thing that I noticed were the golden yellow fortress walls of Khiva city glistening, in fact almost blinding the eyesight. They were a stunning contrast against the azure blue sky and almost bare landscape.
Khiva is an ancient fortified city and even in present times, the city’s population is residing within the ramparts of two fortified mud walls – Datchan Kala (The outer Town) and Itchan Kala (The Inner Town). Our hotel was strategically located within Datchan Kala, in front of one of the gates of Itchan Kala. So after freshening up, we all headed straight into the Inner Town with our local guide Ali.
Our Local Guide Ali – I would have to say that he has been one of the best guides I have ever come across in my travels; a perfect balance of warth, friendliness and knowledge, coupled with a good dose of humor. It never felt that he was a guide or someone we had just met that day, he made an instant connect with all of and it felt like he was one of us, just leading us through the beautiful Khiva. My experience of Khiva would not have been same without our handsome and friendly guide Ali.
Ali explained to us about the complete extent of Silk Road which started from Shanghai & Xian (in China), coming into Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva and going all the way to Istanbul, with many multiple routes taken by traders in between depending on what they traded. Therefore, the Great Silk Road is a cluster of roads with some cities being the hotspots, Khiva being one of them in Uzbekistan.
Khiva is located in the Xorazm region of Uzbekistan and traces its origins to the Khanate empire of Khiva. It was designated as an UNESCO world heritage site in 1991. The charm of this historic city is that it is a living city! There are people living and working inside both the Inner and Outer towns, which makes for an interesting experience. Walking around the Itcha Kala, we saw atleast 5 marriage processions going towards one of the Mosques. There are many interesting madarssas, king’s quarters and other structures inside Itchan Kala (about 54 historical and architectural monuments). My fascination however was taken up by Kolta Minor Minaret – shining in all its shades of turquoise glory, in the afternoon sun, the half finished Minor looked like a majestic magical monolith. I could not stop gazing at it from various angles, from which ever part of the city I was strolling in.
Most of the city is constructed with mud bricks with intricate tile work to decorate the doors, window & facades and it makes for stunning The summer mosque of Kunya Ark has some stunning tile work, which Ali told us that the master artist Abdulla Jin made himself over the course of his lifetime (in fact, most his lwork life was spent doing beautiful tile work of the Kunya Ark citadel). We climbed up all the way one the western fort walls of Itchan Kala, to the Ak-shiekhbaba watch tower of Kunya Ark via a narrow stairway, which was worth all the climbing that I did (the steps were really high and the space narrow). The view from the watch tower was spectacular, with blue skies & white fluffy clouds seeming to gently sway past our heads, with golden yellow walls & structures contrasting with the stunning turquoise work in between; I felt I could just jump up and catch a cloud passing by.
We spent the whole day walking around, taking chai breaks in the tea houses and then again some sight-seeing; the views and ambiance was something I could not get enough of! As the sun light changed during the day, the shades of both the mud bricks & turquoise work changed hues and it was fascinating to come back to the same structure/minaret and see a different hue to it.
As we finally left the Itchan Kala via one of the gates, which led to our hotel across the road, I took one look at the dark golden hue of the gate and realized that I had left a piece of my heart in this city and had to come back here for more.
Khiva I fell in Love with you!!