Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Morning in Khiva.

Taking in the view from the watchtower of the citadel, Kunya Ark.  

It was another restful night's sleep.  I woke up refreshed and raring to go!

Pat and I were down in the hotel restaurant for breakfast by 8a.  There was already a crowd of tourists there.  From the cacophony of chatter, I figured out they were Western European - but definitely not Germans though as that's one of the few foreign languages my ear can discern. In any event, the tourist horde as about to clear out the buffet plates so Pat and I quickly got a table and our food.  It was the usual Central Asian tourist fare we've had on this entire trip.  Ho hum but enough to fill the belly.


By 9a, we were down in the lobby waiting for our guide.  Promptly at 9a, a tall woman walked in.  We looked at her, she looked at us.  She was our guide, Saida.

After exchanging a few introductory words, we followed Saida out the door and walked towards the old city. Before we entered the West gate, she stopped at the map of the Silk Road and first wanted to know how many of the places we had been to. I think she was a bit surprised to find out that we had been to quite a few of them! She continued with telling us more about the Silk Road and Khiva's position in it. By now, we had heard so much about the Silk Road, I was tuning out.

Of course, she then proceeded to tell us about the statue of Muḥammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. I had looked up the statue last night so I had some clue but it was still good to hear what she had to say.

We then stopped just outside the West gate to look at the walls of Itchan-Kala, what I've simply been referred to as the *old city*. Like the walls of the Ark in Bukhara, sections of the wall here are corrugated. There are sections of the outer city wall that are still original but we would have to go elsewhere to see those.

We continued through the West gate to enter the old city. By now, this was familiar view to us.


There are four entrances that guarded the entrance into Khiva.  Ota-Darvoza or *Fathers Gate* is the Western entrance.  It's the gate that I've been referring to as the West gate.


We stopped outside the entrance of Muhammed Amin Khan Madrasah, an obvious starting point given its proximity to the entry gate.







The madrasah is now a hotel. Yesterday, Pat and I only looked at the madrasah from out front.  Today, Saida took us inside.  For Pat and I, we had already been to so many madrasahs that this was also familiar territory for us.  We told Saida she was lucky that we had already been educated by all the guides that had come before her. :-)

Innter courtyard of the Muhammad Amin Khan Madrasah

But, the one thing that does distinguish this madrasah from all the others we've been to so far is that it  has an outer courtyard in addition to the usual inner courtyard.

We entered the building, stepping inside what is now the hotel lobby.  Saida stopped to point out the original ganche (aka carved plaster) work that decorated the walls and ceilings. Carved plaster work is something we've seen in many of the old buildings throughout Central Asia.



Looking up at the ceiling, decorated in ganche.

There was not much to see in the inner courtyard - no garden to stroll through or benches to sit on.  Pretty boring space which was suitable for students who are suppose to be focused on studying but I'm not sure I would enjoy this place as a hotel resident.  The former student dorm rooms are now the hotel rooms.  Several were being cleaned when we were there so the curious two of us peeked inside a couple of them as we walked by.  The rooms were small and dark. Neither of us thought we would enjoy staying here.


Back out front, we continued on to our next sightseeing spot.  Along the way, I snapped a few photos of  cute Uzbek handicrafts.



I love the puppets.  These are outside a shop that is owned and operated by a puppeteer.  I don't think this selling puppets alone is enough to pay the bills so he sells other souvenirs as well.  Several of the glazed tiles that Pat had her eye on were from his shop.  I have a feeling she will be back later today to get one as she's not seen any others that she's liked.


We continued our walk along the main thoroughfare.  Somewhere along the way, we made a right hand turn....

Tandir ovens but no sign of the breadmakers.

....and ended up standing before Kunya Ark - the ancient city's citadel.


We stood for a few minutes while Saida gave us some background information on the Ark before heading inside.  On the other side of the entry door was a plaza surrounded by an area where the Khan's residence and mosque, official reception hall, courthouse, powder mill, arsenal, mint, registry, harem, kitchens, stables, guardhouse and other structures were all located.  We went to see several of these places and I will readily admit that after a while, everything became one big blur as palace looked like mosque looked like official reception hall.  You get the picture.





The mosque.  The mihrab and mimbar gave it away.









Gazing up at the ceiling.  With Islamic architecture, there is as much to see above
your head as there is to see around you!

Located right next to the mosque was a small building that today houses a single room museum.


This used to be the city's mint.  Inside, there was a life sized diorama depicting men making money.


A blurry photo of stamps used to print money.

Paper money.

Coins.

Another room housed yet another small, single room museum.  This one displayed more artifacts recovered from the ancient Ark.



Next, it was off to the official Reception Hall where the Khan greeted his guests.  Today, a woman selling pashmina shawls greeted us.  Though she was insistent that we try on her shawls, she eventually gave up as we kept resisting...even as she kept lowering the price.  Seriously, by now you know how Pat and I look when we travel - do we look like we need a pretty shawl?

Back to the main event.  Like the mosque, the facade of the Reception Hall is completely tiled in majolica. 




Three intricately carved wooden doors led to the interior.


Inside was another small  museum.  On one side of the room was displayed a large metal chair which I presumed was the throne that the Khan sat on when he met his guests.


On the other side was a wall decorated with the niche displays that is typical of Uzbek design.  A collection of china and pottery was displayed.  I presume it came from the royal collection.



Next, it was off to the Ark's watchtower.  Saida told us we would have a nice view of the old city from the platform at the top.  She asked if we were interested in climbing up as it would require a separate fee.  We replied that we would and she got us the tickets which she then told us were good for the day so if we want to come back later, we can.

Pat led the way up the steps which were at times very uneven in depth - some were quite high.  We both had to be very careful going up.


Part way up, there was a platform.  We enjoyed the view from there.


The final set of steps to the very top was a rickety wooden ladder.  Again, we had to be mindful of where we placed our feet.

Considering we're in the heart of a flat, arid desert, it does help to go high up to see a view.  This one did not disappoint as we had a panoramic vista.  I'm glad both Pat and I had walked the city yesterday afternoon because today, we could recognize them from above!



That building in the middle of the photo is our hotel, the Malika Khiva.

I had to take a panoramic video of the view.


From here, you get another perspective of the corrugated city walls, looking north.

 A view of the walls, looking south.  The towers on the right are those of the West gate.



From here, we left the Ark and headed across the plaza to another madrasah- the Muhammad Rahim Khan Madrasah.  Okay, this is when the madrasahs start to become a blur.  You have to admit, this place looks awfully similar to the Muhammed Amin Khan Madrasah that we had just visited a short while ago.  Even the names sound familiar.  No wonder I get confused!



The madrasah now houses a museum.  We went to one section where they had old photos of several of the Khans and their families.  The museum also displayed artifacts belonging to the royal families.

The Khiva Khans definitely had a very *asian* look about them!

Pat admiring the jewelry, Saida patiently waiting for us.

The women sure did love ornate jewelry!

Next, we headed to the madrasah's courtyard.  Souvenir shops now occupy several of the rooms that were once occupied by students.  Not surprising.



What was unexpected was to see a high wire setup!  Say what?  What's this thing doing here?  Apparently, a family of tightrope walkers puts on a show....for tourists, no doubt.  I guess there really aren't any rules against setting up something like this in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage cultural landmark.  No offense, but this really is not the place for something like this.



I left the madrasah shaking my head - it was hard to erase that image of the highwire contraction from my memory!

Back to sights of more historical significance!  Next, we made a visit to the Mausoleum of Sayid Allauddin, a place so tiny, nondescript and just enough off the beaten path that many tourists would simply overlook it.

Sayid Allauddin was a renowned holy man and a descendant of Prophet Mohammed. Besides being a well-educated religious leader, he was also a talented potter and tile-maker. Soon after his death in 1303, his burial place became a pilgrimage site. About 50 years later one of his disciples, Amir Kulyal built a mausoleum over the grave. 

On the outside, the building is remarkably plain for someone of Allaudin's religious stature.  It is uncertain whether the building had any exterior ornamentation, but even if it had any decoration, nothing remained of it.


We went inside.  It really was a very small room. 


In one corner, there was a prayer service of some sort going on.  There was a man, seated before a low table.  Sitting opposite to him was a small group of women.  Between them, on the table, was a plate of what looked like fried dough.  He seemed to be leading them in prayer.  I snapped the photo, below, just seconds after they got up and left.  The man took of his skullcap and started to look down at his phone.  Maybe he was checking email to pass the time until the next group of pilgrims showed up?

I don't remember seeing a tomb but I presume one is there.


We continued our sightseeing tour, taking in more sights as we walked.

Colorful Uzbek skullcaps.

The dome of the Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Mahmoud.

Minaret of Islam Khodja Mosque.

It was time for a visit to another mausoleum that is one of the most famous landmarks in the old city - Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Mahmoud.  I thought this was one of the more beautiful mausoleums I've been to so far on my visit to Uzbekistan.

The mausoleum sits on one end of a very small courtyard, surrounded by several other smaller mausoleums - it is essentially the cornerstone of a small necropolis.


There was a quite a crowd of people visiting the place - speaks to its popularity as both a tourist attraction and a pilgrimage site.

Several locals were gathered around a well and drinking from plastic cups.  I'm guessing the water is considered to be holy. 


I don't think I would drink from a cup that some stranger had also sipped from but that seems to be a non-issue for the folks here.

Leave a donation, if you wish.

Entrance to the mausoleum.


A tomb in the courtyard.


One of the smaller mausoleums was opened to the public.  The massive tiled clad tomb pretty much took up the entire room.



There was just enough space for one person to walk around it.  I waited for a group of curious munchkins to leave before entering.  Despite their tender ages, they seemed to know how to pray in front of the tomb.  They've been taught how to be respectful from a young age!



I also had to wait for the crowd to thin out before entering the main mausoleum.  I took my shoes off before proceeding inside.  What an incredible interior!


The tomb of Pakhlavan Mahmoud.

Looking up at the ceiling.

To one side of the main tomb room was a small anteroom. Pilgrims were praying in front of a closed door.  I don't know what was behind it.  I did feel the need to keep very quiet so it wasn't until I heard the sound of some people talking, quite loudly, that I snapped the photo below.


Just outside the entry door to the anteroom was another prayer session taking place.  This one reminded me of the one I had just witnessed back at the Mausoleum of Sayid Allauddin, except this guy was much busier.  It was an endless stream of prayer sessions.


Next, we took a walk in the 'hood.  It was nice to finally see a bit of real local life.  It's amazing how you can literally walk just a few feet off the tourist path and find yourself in a completely different world!  Although it was a pretty quiet place, there was life here. I noticed a few wood carving workshops here - obviously producing items for sale in the old city. 


We also passed by a few ribbon clad sticks.  According to Saida, they are tomb markers.  They just seemed to be situated in the oddest of locations....like feet from the roadside.  I don't know who would want to be buried so close to car and foot traffic but I'm sure there is a good reason.

The triangular shaped mound is the tomb.

Looking at the buildings, Pat and I remarked how similar they look to buildings in the southwest US.


It was a short walk but we ended up at Tach Darvoza, the South gate.


Another tomb marker, this one atop the roof of an adobe building.


We stepped outside the old city to see more of the reconstructed wall.


Those are tombs.  Unfortunately, I can't remember why they were placed here and not on flat ground.

Walk a short distance outside the South gate and you can see the remains of the original wall that separated the
inner city,  Itchan Kala from the outer city, Dichan Kala.

From here, we backtracked to the heart of the city and made our way to yet another of the old city's famous historic landmarks - Islam Khodja Mosque. 


This lovely woman is dressed in traditional Uzbek dress, including an Ikat coat.

These days the mosque houses the Museum of Applied Arts.  Of course, we had to take a stroll through the place and of course, I had to snap a few photos.  The collection is small but a nice one. I thought it better than the similar museum we visited in Tashkent - there was more variety to the items shown and I think, overall, they were of better quality....in some cases, old antiques.










After our visit to the museum, it was time for a break.  I welcomed the relief as I needed some time to recharge my brain cells - we had seen and heard quite a lot this morning.

Pat and I left Saida behind and headed off to the teahouse, near the Malika Khiva, for lunch.  The one thing that the old city is short on is places to eat.  Lucky for me, Pat is pretty much okay with eating at simple eateries and this most certainly was one of those.  Despite its proximity, less than 100 feet away, from a very popular tourist attraction, no one inside the restaurant spoke a lick of English and the menu wasn't in English either.  Language barrier or not, we managed to feed ourselves.

A pot of green tea with two cups and a fresh salad aka the usual tomato cucumber deal.

Condiments which I confess I only used the chili.  Girl needs her spice!

Bowls of lagman were our entree!

We had about an hour and a half to kill before we had to meet back up with Saida so we lingered over lunch and then took a slow stroll back in the old city.  At 1:30p, we were standing outside the tower of Juma mosque ready to resume sightseeing!