One last trip to the market..
We are told it will be a 10 hour drive to Khiva, so we start off in the bus at 8, pit stop for desperate people, rest stop at a tea House, more driving and we arrive around 4:30 in the afternoon. Our hotel is within the walls of the old city. A few of us head out for a short hop before our orientation walk, we see the minarets, find the carpet workshop from the book, Carpet Ride to Khiva, then sit down for a refresh at a Tea House and sample the local speciality, dill noodles topped with potatoes and carrots. Back to the hotel and head out as a group for the orientation walk, down the main East-West street that connects the gates, past the stumpy minaret, by the statue to the father of algebra, past vendors selling funky lambswool hats, around some of the covered domes. Dinner is at the same place as we had our snack, so I opt to head out by myself and climb the stairs in the watchtower in the Ark complex to watch the sunset. Magical feeling as the light makes all the buildings glow. This town is much smaller than Bukara, and the vendors all shut down with the sunset.
I wake early and take advantage of the cooler morning to capture the sunrise from the terrace of the hotel and then walk through the town as it wakes up. There is the sound of birds cooing, a handful of street sweepers out, and it is delightful to be able to walk through and experience this as the light is beginning to make all the buildings glow. Back for a delicious breakfast, fresh made french toast, fry bread, meat pastries, and other treats. We then head out on our city tour and pick up a guide. Starting by the West gate, we tour the Madrrassa that is now a hotel, walk to the arc citadel and it's courtyards and mosques. Through to a different Khan palace complete with harem section, to a fascinating mosque containing 213 interior columns, some over 1000 years old. Through the Musuem of photography, with it's people frozen in time, through the applied art Musuem with it's costumes and silks. The tour finishes and we do a quick final walk, have a quick refresh at the Tea House, then set off for the 17 hour train ride to Tashkent.Read more
We head out as a group for our city orientation. Along Lyabi-Hauz, past the Madrrassas, some ruins being excavated, through the ancient caravarsi, domed markets with a mix of carpet swaths, stork scissors, silk scarves and clothing, random tcotckes, up to the minaret and the dual facing Madrrassas, domes dotting the sky. We eat at an outdoor terrace restaurant, complete with misters. As we walk back to the hotel, it's like an outdoor street party, the small motorized cars are out for kids, lots of families are walking around, very festive.
The next morning we head out for our city tour, starting out on the bus. We are headed to the Samanid Mausoleum but pull into an amusement park parking lot. The Mausoleum is through the amusement park in an adjoining park. Interesting stone work in the design. Next we drive to an older mosque with the front flanked by a series of columns and colorful woodwork ceiling. There is a reflecting pool out front that doubles the number of columns. We learn that the wooden decorative ceiling is designed to look like the books in a library, so babies looking up are surrounded by the idea of knowledge. From the mosque, we cross the street to enter the Ark Citadel, the original city fortress. The complex has a series of small Musuems that fill different courtyards, plus open air plazas. We leave there and head to the Minaret Kalyan complex, learning that the minaret is 40 meters talk, with an unseen 10 meters underground that allowed it to survive for the last 1000 years, through Ghengis Khan and other Invaders. We stop back at the carpet store and see the girls weaving on the looms in back, sit down at the silk road tea House for a sampler of 3 teas and some sweets. Back to the hotel to rest before Hamam time.
Just before 5 we head to the hamam for our appointments. The bath house is 600+ years old. We change into plaid sheet coverings and are led through arched hallways to a circular steam room where we are asked to stand. We spend about 10-15 minutes there, generating a layer of sweat before we are individually taken by our hamam boys, slender men in the same plaid towel. We start out seated on the stone slab as different body parts are lifted and scrubbed with a loofah mitten. Then buckets of cold water are poured over our heads, a mix of exhilarating and feeling like I'm drowning. Next we are instructed to lie down on the stone slab and receive a massage and stretching of our limbs. We stand up and are given a ginger rub, front and back and led to another circular room to lie down on heated stone slabs, where the ginger becomes a deep penetrating massage. This is shear bliss, followed by more buckets of cold water. We are given the option of an additional soft oil massage and a few of us gladly say yes. Back to individual rooms where we are gently massaged with oil. Quite an experience. Glowing, we head of to dinner at another outdoor terrace restaurant where we can watch the sun set. I have medallions of beef in a cream sauce, one of the best meals so far. It's Saturday night, and the carnival scene still pervades the area around Lyabi-hauz.Read more
We arrive around 2 pm and check in to the New Moon hotel. We are right near Lyabi-Hauz, a delightful pool of water surrounded by ancient mulberry trees. We are all kind of hot and groggy, and it's quite hot near 100. A few of us head for lunch and we dine at the cafe that borders the pool of water, happy to be inside with ac, an English speaking waiter, and Coke zero. We eat Langan - Uzbeck spaghetti. Hits the spot. I take off by myself and wander into the Jewish quarter to try and find the synagogue. I find a pair of Australians who deliver me, it is inside a Court yard and would have been easy to walk by. An old man interrupts his Domino's game to escort me inside. I remove my shoes and enter the room size congregation. Although he doesn't speak English, he communicates, using a calculator, that the congregation was once 30-40 thousand but it now in 400-500. There are 3 Torah's that are in a locked case that he pulls the curtain back to show me. He shows me pictures of Hillary and Madeline Albright from their visits. Next I wander back to lyabi-hauz. Even in the heat of the afternoon, it is pleasant in the shade. I sit on a bench and watch, mostly local tourists. There is a statue of a wise fool on a horse that all the locals are taking turns taking pictures with. Some even soothing on the horse which is at least 8 get high. Then I am delighted to watch a wedding couple taking pics and then a group of 10 to 15 older woman, all smiles, having their pics taken. Then they retire to a bench and one of them spontaneously starts chanting. Soon a handful start dancing, I join in for a few rounds. Back to the hotel for a refresh.Read more
We leave in the morning for a day off travel through the desert towards Bukara. Many hours in the bus, passing through mostly scrub growth on flat lands, interrupted by goats crossing the road. We are traveling in our big bus mostly on 2 lane roads. We pass occasional towns but mostly just vast tracks of land and lots of goats. At around noon we arrive at Nurata and visit the remains of the military Fortress of Alexander the Great & Holy Chashma (Spring) of Nurata. The fortress is an outcropping on a hill that overlooks the spring. The spring has a pool with fish that are thought to be touched by the holy water. About ten years ago, there was an incident of the fish glowing and that has led to pilgrimages to the site. There are local tourists and vendors selling picture pacts where they'll take your pic with the spring. You can also buy springs of vegetation to ties into the pool for the fish. Lunch is at a local house, Ms. Sayde, lovely salads, soup and then dumplings. After lunch we are taken to a room filled with embroidery to shop. Then we drive for another few hours and stop at a desert lake. We change on the bus for a quick swim and the water is refreshing. Then we proceed to Aydar Kŭl Camp, our desert you're camp, located in the Nurata mountain range. The yurts are surrounded by scrub and sand dunes. After an hour to explore , we go for a short camel ride that gives us a sense of the landscape. Decamel in time to watch sunset over the dunes, then dinner - lots of salads, a beef stew served with potatoes, it's about 9:30 pm, the Stars are beginning to light up the sky and we sit around a campfire to hear a soulful singer playing a stringed instrument. We all eventually get up and dance, it really does feel magical. The night sky was like experiencing a planetarium show. Thanks to traveling with science teacher, we could identity all of the constellations, red stars looked red, the milky way was clearly visible. We even saw a satellite moving across the sky. Feeling very blessed to have been there. I wake up early and an doubly blessed to experience the sunrise, watching from the dunes.Read more
Arrive mid afternoon and after a refresh head out on our city orientation. We get our first glimpse at the Registon, three glorious tiled Madrrassas that comprise one of the main squares. There is a musical festival going on, so the square is closed now but we look over it and watch the rehearsal with dancing performers filling the square. It's really quite a spectacle with the shear mass of the buildings. We take a short ride to our restaurant, Planken, and are seated outside the restaurant in a 19 th century building. I have pita, toasted with cheese and garlic, lentil soup served with cream and an orange wedge and chicken Kiev, all delicious. Next day, wake up for our city tour. We start at Amir Khan's tomb. An impressive entranceway leads to a courtyard and the fluted dome of the tomb. They're it's a crypt under ground that holds the bodies but there are gravestones on the main floor to view. Amir Khan has a blackish Jade Stone that is the 2nd largest carved Jade block in the world. He is flanked by his grandson, who was his chosen heir but was killed young, and other relatives. The highest and most impressive Stone belongs to Timur's teacher. There is an unmarked Stone somewhat separate from the others that is for the Sufi devoted worshipper who would worship at the gravesite. Next we walk through the bazaar which is bustling. And come out on one side of the Registon, walking along it past the Bibi Mosque and some higher end souvenir shops. We enter the Registon and learn of the Madrrassas, schools for young men that were built in the 14-15 hundreds. We tour each, many of the small individual study Chambers are now artisan shoppes. There are impressive mosques and inner courtyards. Really all stunning. While listening to our guide, a group of local women beckon me over to join them for a picture. Members of our group have all experienced being asked to pose with locals for their photos. We finish the tour and some of us stick back to visit one of the shops and buy silk robes. We eat lunch at a tea House, Uzbeck spaghetti - noodles with a vegetable tapinade. Then we walk to the alley of mausolems, along the old graveyard, up a steep flight of stairs, there is an equisitivley tiled set of individual mausolems to members of the royal court. Individual antechamber are all unique, there is an open octagonal one as well. Beck down, catch a taxi with an animated driver who shouts places at us, Brooklyn, New York, Moscow, Tashkent ..A short rest and we are of to a local house for a Plov demonstration and dinner. Plov is the national dish, it's a layered dish of carrots, garlic, spices, rice and meat. We are seated at a table in the houses inner outdoor courtyard, surrounded by a small herb and vegetable garden. We are served a feast - eggplant fritters, pickled eggplant, carrot salad, fresh greens, soft cheese spread with bread, samosa of meat and zucchini then Plov. Delicious. A quick stop where we started to see Timur's tomb light up at nightRead more