The evening before we left Bukhara the three of us booked ourselves into a traditional Bukharan hammam at the city’s old age bathhouse. The maze of domed stone caverns hasn’t changed for centuries.
The three of us sweated it out in the steam room for 30 minutes before each being taken away to a separate arch for a traditional massage on marble plinths. We’re scrubbed, washed down and then stretched, twisted and massaged. We think Paddy was given a more extreme treatment because there was quite a bit of loud cracking and yelping coming from his arch.
We’re washed down again and smothered in grated ginger before returning to the steam room. The ginger makes your skin feel as if it’s on fire – a sensation which feels both pleasurable and unpleasant. It’s probably the best spa treatment any of us have had.
The next morning we team up with Jean again and the four of us travel north, through the desert, to Khiva via shared taxi. Now that we had our Turkmenistan visa there was no need to take the bike with us and so we packed light.
Spending 7 hours in the hot car made us realise how much we like travelling by bike and we arrive at the ancient Silk Road in need of a good leg stretch and a cold shower.
Jo and I had stayed up very late the night before but at least I got some shut-eye on the way up. Paddy took this picture of me in my graceful slumber.
Like Bukhara Khiva is a bit like a giant Silk Road film set. The Medressas, impressive Minarets and well kept streets are surrounded by the giant city walls.
The three of us had good fun pottering about the city beginning each day by eating the epic breakfast served at our hotel.
We enjoyed some great panoramic views across the city from both the city wall gatehouse in the Khuna Ark (where there was also an interesting museum and summer mosque)
We admired the intricate tile work at the Tosh-hovli palace
…and spent a fun 20 minutes climbing up the incredibly steep, pitch black spiral staircase of the Juma Minaret.
Great views from the other side of the city here too!
Jo sampled all the local dishes and like everyone else, discovered that it all tastes pretty much the same.
There are many stories about how Khiva was founded, with one of them claiming that Shem, son of Noah, found a well here and discovering that the water was so tasty he decided to build a city at the site. Naturally we went in search of said well and only managed to find it after three local girls led the way.
On our way back we were ambushed by two little boys with toy guns.
Jo and I discovered a book of Uzbek children’s songs in the hotel and had a good time sight reading passages from it (very badly!)
On the last evening we watched a traditional 30 minute music and dance show performed by 6 performers. It was pretty entertaining especially when the two boys invited Paddy up on stage for some audience participation. He had to act like an eagle and attempt to pick up a toy fish from the ground without bending his legs.
Karimov’s death dominated all tv footage while we were in Khiva. Two days after his state funeral in Samarkand, the tv in our hotel continued to show the same video montage on repeat – made up of various video clips of the former president meeting adoring subjects before cutting to sobbing men and women throwing roses before the hearse at the funeral. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata acting as a solemn backing track to the whole thing.
We both really enjoyed having someone from home with us and it was very sad to be saying goodbye. 😦
Time for us to get back on the bike and dash across the Turkmen desert so we could start our Persian adventure in Iran!