Day 21: Bukhara – Khiva: A mammoth day's drive in the clapped out bus with which our group had been provided. It was small, cramped, over-crowded with all of us and our luggage - boot of bus was not big enough for all bags, so some had to be stowed in the bus itself. It was hot. The "lunch bags" provided for us to eat en route were less than appetising. The journey was around 10 hours, and was not one of the high points of the trip - with more suitable transport it would have been much more bearable. I should add that the driver, in common with most other drivers on this trip, had an inkling to switch off the air-con in the bus where ever possible to save himself some fuel - the result is a sort of mindless game with punters shouting for it to be switched on, then the driver surreptitiously switching it off 5 minutes later and waiting for the punters to scream again

The long desert section had hundreds of kilometres of unmade road - quite bizarrely there was a brand new road running beside us all the way - almost but not quite finished, and the Koreans who had been doing the work had abandoned further work. The distance between the two towns is 440 km. The South Koreans unfortunately did not finish it and the construction of the road had been suspended because of differences in approaches to construction technology by the South Korean advisors and the Uzbek builders. South Koreans said reinforcement should be put under the asphalt, and the Uzbek builders pretended that they had laid them - pieces were sticking out on edges. However, the South Koreans decided to check and cut open the pavement to realise there was no reinforcement. They decided they were being deceived and stopped everything. South Korean companies do not work here today and the construction of the road has not been completed. The worst part of the road from Khiva to Bukhara was a 180-km-long sector from Hazarasp to the village of Sarymay. It is difficult to get at the truth as nothing appears to be given out by the Uzbek government, but I assume the fault lies with them, as otherwise they would be blaming the Koreans.

At the end of the desert road we crossed the Amu-Darya River (Oxus). The guide would not allow us to stop to take photos of this famous crossing - said without further explanation that photos were prohibited.

At Khiva our hotel was a converted Madrassa in the UNESCO recognised world heritage old town. We enjoyed our stay here. It was originally a madrassa, and the rooms are the original students "cells" with a bathroom added. Hence rooms are small, but do have air-con and TV. Wifi was problematic, all I can say is that it exists in principle, you may be lucky, we were not. The location is another plus point in the old town. Though no hotels are very far from the old town, it is nice to be able to wander directly onto the old streets . I was impressed with the dining room where we had breakfast. I would recommend you stay here if in Khiva, we certainly would chose it again for its atmosphere and location.

We had time for a walk round the old town by ourselves before dinner. Next morning the grumpy Uzbek guide was detailed to take the group round the sights of the town before lunch. To this end we had an early breakfast and assembled at 8.30 am. However said guide was so keen in getting rid of us, that he had finished the tour soon after 11, and abandoned all of us to our own devices - a real terrible guide this man.

In 1873, Russian General Von Kaufman launched an attack on the city, which fell on 28 May 1873. Although the Russian Empire now controlled the Khanate, it nominally allowed Khiva to remain as a quasi-independent protectorate. Following the Bolshevik seizure of power after the October Revolution, a short lived Khorezm People's Soviet Republic was created out of the territory of the old Khanate of Khiva, before its incorporation into the USSR in 1924, with the city of Khiva becoming part of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.

Khiva is split into two parts. The outer town, called Dichan Kala, was formerly protected by a wall with 11 gates. The inner town, or Itchan Kala, is encircled by brick walls, whose foundations are believed to have been laid in the 10th century. Present-day crenellated walls date back to the late 17th century and attain the height of 10 meters. The old town retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, mostly dating from the 18th or the 19th centuries.

Sights include

Click on any of the thumbnail images to get a larger photo

The group and "the" bus - note limbs hanging out. Wild Frontiers classified the jump seats down the centre isle as real seats. The desert between Bukhara and Khiva was hot and bleak and the abandoned Korean road could not be driven on.
The old city of Khiva Our hotel had been a madrassa and our room was originally a student cells -small, & atmospheric
The town has been completely restored and is nowadays a living museum - it lacks the atmosphere of a "lived in " town but has been ..
..well restored, and I thought on balance I preferred to see it like this than to have been looking at ruins. It has tourists, but given its
distance from Bukhara and Samarkand, many fewer venture here. The vendors drop off considerably in numbers, but are still present.
Dinner outdoors A very bad tour of the town next morning by the Uzbek guide. He wanted shot of us, and abandoned
the group after a couple of hours, having avoided showing us much of the town. You may have gathered the I did not think much of this .
chap nor his company. Around the town life went on for the local people. Water had to be pumped, prayers had to be said, and carpets
and embroidery continued to be turned out, as did wooden knick knacks. Then it was a final lunch and on to the airport and Tashkent

On to Tashkent and home

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