Khiva, Uzbekistan

Khiva is located around 500km north-west of Bukara and situated almost on the Turkmenistan border. To get there from Bukara we caught a shared taxi, shared taxis are a great form of transport, the only negative is you need to wait for all four seats to fill up, and this time we waited over two hours for two passengers to fill the car.

A former capital of the Khwarezmian civilization in the ancient Khwarezmia region, the Itchan Kala is the main former walled city of Khiva and contains over fifty monuments, most tiled with blue mosaics.

One of the nicest of these monuments is the unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret, a beautiful fifteen metres in diameter and twenty-nine metres high. The one-third complete minaret is covered in blue mosaics.

We spent a day wandering the Itchan Kala before catching an overnight sleeper train to Samarkand.

West entrance gate to Khivas Ichon Qala with unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret visible behindBlue mosaics of the unfinished Kalta Minor MinaretMap of all the inner buildings with blue highlights indicating blue mosaics
Khiva map with minaret in the backgroundJuma MinaretIslom-Hoja Minaret
Mud brick buildings in Khivas Ichon QalaAlloquli Khan MedressaAlloquli Khan Medressa
Water channels on a mud brick wallThe western wall of Khivas Itchan KalaTravis and Sonya with the Khivas Itchan Kala in the background
Looking through Oq Shihbobo bastion towards Khivas Itchan KalaThe unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret and Muhammad Amin Khan MedressaOverlooking Khivas Itchan Kala from the west wall
Overlooking eastern Khivas Itchan Kala from the west wallMuhammad Amin Khan Medressalom-Hoja Minaret and Medressa
Mohammed Rakhim Khan MedressaNorth entrance gate to Ichon QalaInside one of the many Medressa inside the Itchan Kala
Uzbek family playing traditional musicMinarets on Mohammed Rakhim Khan MedressaOne of the many alleys in Khivas Itchan Kala
Looking past Mohammed Rakhim Khan Medressa towards the west entranceMohammed Rakhim Khan Medressa with Islom-Hoja Minaret visible in the backgroundThe bazaars in-between the historic buildings
The bazaars around the Kalta Minor Minaret selling local Uzbek handicraftsWooden carved walking sticks being soldOne of the many turquoise mosaic minarets
Wooden column base in Tosh-Hovli PalaceOne of the original wooden columns on display in Tosh-Hovli PalaceThe wooden columns in Juma Mosque
View of west Ichon Qala and unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret from Juma MinaretView of Islom-Hoja Minaret from Juma MinaretView of west Ichon Qala and unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret from Juma Minaret
Entrance to Islom-Hoja MedressaMinaret of Islom-Hoja MedressaInside Sherghozi Khan Medressa

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

After catching the overnight train from Ashgabat to Turkmenabat (which was really quite  comfortable and pleasant), we headed to the border town of Farab. There we departed Turkmenistan and crossed the border to Uzbekistan.  The whole process took about three hours, which was about half the time it took to cross from Iran to Turkmenistan!  The border crossing process is an experience in itself, as you have to fill out a number of forms which are in the local language (no English, but thank goodness there were examples available), declare all your currency, be examined by a doctor, and so on.

We caught a shared taxi from the Uzbekistan border town to Bukhara, our first destination. It was about a hundred kilometres away however the taxi drivers wouldn’t negotiate with us, and we ended up having to pay US$20 each to Bukhara, which seemed to be the going rate according to the Lonely Planet. However, we were packed in with two other adults, the driver and a teenage girl so it wasn’t the most comfortable of rides! There seems to be a separate ‘tourist rate’ for taxi drivers in Uzbekistan, and they don’t seem to budge on their rates.

In Bukhara we stayed at a lovely B&B run by an Uzbek family (Medina & Illyos). It was US$10 for each of us, which included a hearty breakfast.  Location wise it was close to all the main sights so we spent the afternoon wandering around Lyabi Hauz, a plaza surrounding a pond where we had lunch (plov, a rice dish with carrot and lamb, and laughman, a noodle dish). The plaza is bordered by two beautiful medressas (Nadir Divanbegi and Kukeldash Medressa), the Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka building and nearby Taki Sarrafon bazaar.  Probably the most popular photographed in the plaza is the statue of Hoja Nasruddin, a likeable Sufi myth-like man on his donkey (who features in a lot of the Bukhara artwork and handicrafts). We spent the late afternoon sunlight exploring and photographing the Kalon Minaret and Mosque and the beautiful Ulugbek Medrassa and opposing Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa.

The following morning we headed to the Ark which unfortunately was closed. Only a few days earlier some of the wall had collapsed and the complex was being repaired.  We then headed to Fayzulla House where we spent a few hours exploring the former house of Bukhara’s famous governors, Fayzulla Khojaev who worked with the Bolsheviks and led the overthrow of the Khan.  Afterwards, we headed back to Lyabi Hauz for some lunch before searching for one of two of the last synagogues in Bukhara. We found one which was under restoration.  Spent a bit of time wandering around wider Bukhara – with the intent of going to the Farmer’s Market (for fruit) and Asaka Bank.

We enjoyed Bukhara, it was a peaceful town, great for exploring by foot and very traveller friendly.

Uzbekistan national staple dishes Laghman and PlovNasreddin Hodja a Seljuq satirical Sufi figureNadir Divanbegi Medressa facade
Nadir Divanbegi Medressa facade close-up mythical animalsNadir Divanbegi Medressa facadeSonya in front of the blue mosaics
Nadir Divanbegi Medressa facadeNadir Divanbegi Medressa facadeKukeldash Medressa facade
Intricate interior arch designs of Kukeldash MedressaOne of the interior arch in the Kukeldash MedressaOne of the interior arch in the Kukeldash Medressa
Inside the Kukeldash Medressa, puppets are visibleHand made paper-mache puppetsBlue medressa window
Looking over Lyabi Hauz pondLooking through the arch of a medressaTaki Telpak Furushon Bazaar
Uzbek artist paintingHandy craft painted wooden chess setHandy craft painted wooden happy Uzbek old men
Nadir Divanbegi KhanakaMaghoki Attar Mosque now carpet museumMaghoki Attar Mosque now carpet museum
Abdul Aziz Khan MedressaAbdul Aziz Khan MedressaAbdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan MedressaAbdul Aziz Khan Medressa stalactitesAbdul Aziz Khan Medressa stalactites
Abdul Aziz Khan MedressaKalon MinaretKalon Minaret
Turquoise dome of Mir i Arab MedressaMir i Arab MedressaKalon Minaret
Kalon Minaret and Mir i Arab MedressaKalon Minaret and Kalon MosqueKalon Minaret, Mosque and Mir i Arab Medressa
Fortification walls of the ArkFortification walls of the ArkEntrance to the Ark
Uzbekistan musicians in traditional dressBolo Hauz MinaretInsmail Samani Mausoleum