- Jamie Shannon
Khiva - Marvellous, majestic and magical
Silk Road cities in Central Asia
Khiva is a super small town and so it didn’t take me long at all to find the old historic part of the city. I negotiated my through the mad traffic and the completely dilapidated roads to find myself surrounded by a sea of madrassas, minarets and sun baked stone buildings all enclosed by an impressively built city wall. It was a dream to be here – to be in the midst of a genuine city along the famed Silk Road. It was stunning. It was also a little relief to find myself in my first ‘tourist’ city since Baku really. English would be back on the menu!
I found my way to the hostel Dave, Jess and Tim had agreed they would stay at and found Dave perched under the shade outside and relaxing with some tea. I pointed at him and said “you’re too fast for me!” He replied, “Maybe but the truck I got a lift from was even faster” Oh well, I guess we all had the same idea then.
They didn’t have any space for me here and so I followed the owners brother back through town to the other guesthouse they own which was, and I must say, completely amazing. It was huge, decorative and very welcoming and being such a far flung place in the world was virtually empty save for a few intrepid travellers like myself. This being the case, I had the room to myself for two days.
I didn’t do much the first day. I mean I needed rest. It had been a tough old slog getting here and my back was certainly feeling it. I did what I usually did when I arrived somewhere with cleaning facilities and electricity; I got everything charged up and cleaned thus allowing me to relax for the rest of the day.
Breakfast was of course included in the price and was amazing too. I was in my element as I was being served meat, fried vegetables, chick peas, mashed potato and bread. This was all washed down with as much chai as you could shake a stick at.
I spent the next day in the city walking around and admiring the architecture. It wasn’t like Europe or China for that matter. I mean, apart from a few buildings around the real central area where all the souvenir stalls were located, the place was really quite dilapidated in ways you can’t imagine. For example, the huge stone walls that looked perfect from the outside were, in places just a high pile of rubble on the other side. The whole town was thoroughly lived in too. You could almost imagine all the small stone dwellings being used hundreds of years ago and not looking much different from the way they look now. I was really enjoying it.
I’m not saying I like a sight to be a pile of rubble when I visit it but rather I don’t want to see a complete reconstruction of a building and then to be passed off as something that was built 500 years ago – such as the Great Wall of China. Like Mr Pilkington has said: It really was built in the 1980’s.
Anyway I really enjoyed looking around and I visited the huge bustling bazaar just outside the cities walls too. I do love these places; the bartering, the stuff on sale and the characters. At one point, someone sat outside a shop called out my name. Thinking who on earth that could be I naturally went over to see. I didn’t know him from adam or at least I couldn’t remember speaking to him at any point and I still don’t if I’m honest but I must have passed him and had a chat. Strange thing was that the old man stood next to him asked if I was a Muslim. I replied that I was not. He then asked if I was a Christian and I replied that I also didn’t adhere to this stupid faith. Looking confused he stared at me for a while before I pointed to the sky and said “Nyet”. He didn’t like that at all. He simply looked at me and said “bye!” I wandered off in the direction of some fruit.
I dined alfresco at a ramshackle of a place in the evening but for $1.50 for a mountain of rice, lamb, salad and tea I’m really not complaining. The other price you pay for this though is the intermittent electricity supply. Every five minutes it would cut out which would inevitably send a sharp fork careering into my nostril followed by a puddle of tea on the table.
I spent breakfast chatting to a German guy whom was staying at the hostel. He was telling me of his woes of visiting Turkmenistan such as having to pay $70 dollars on more than one occasion for a hotel. I’m happy I’m travelling with a tent.