Sun, Nov 3, 2013
We had our last breakfast in Bukhara. The breakfast room of the hotel was the library in an old Jewish house – a classic looking room. Afterwards, we loaded the trip for what would be our longest driving day in Uzbekistan. For most of the day we drove thru the Kyzyl-Kum desert, which included a stop to buy diesel gas on the black market. There was a spare tank on our truck that was full of gas but apparently the pump wasn’t working so they decided to just get new gas in the primary tank. This proved to be a bad decision as the truck broke down 4 times in the afternoon due to poor gas/lack of power to the engine. Luckily, they were able to fix it quickly each time, so instead of arriving at 5:30, we arrived around 7:00 pm. Anna, Chris, Barb, and I headed off to find dinner. There weren’t many restaurants open in the old town but we managed to find one open. I had tea and a local specialty that is pasta baked with dill inside covered by a kind of meat stew.
After dinner, I walked around for a while.
Our hotel here is awesome! It’s called the “Orient Star” and is in the largest Madrassah in Khiva. Our room is an old study room at the former school. We have large arched ceiling and the bathroom is really cool in its brick and tile decor.
Outside there is an unfinished Minaret. This one was to be 80 meters when completed but the person arranging for its building died before it could be finished. All that remains is the bottom blue tiled unfinished portion.
Mon, Nov 4
I woke up a little early to walk around the town at sunrise. It was so quiet on the streets with just me, the locals sweeping up the garbage and leaves, and some cats. There was an amazing sunrise this morning.
Next I went to breakfast which was also nice. We have had the best breakfasts in Uzbekistan – always very fresh eggs, pancakes, etc.
At 9:00 we joined our guide Jalal for a walking tour of the old town. We started at a statue of the inventor of Algebra and Algorithms which was from this area. The first person to discover that the earth was round was from Samarkand so it’s interesting to find out some major math and science discoveries happened here.
We also learned that this city was founded by Shem, the son of Noah from the Noah’s Ark story. I didn’t realize how far some of the Old Testament stories stretched to these areas – in previous days I had seen sites related to Job and Daniel. In the town, we visited the “Ark” or a citadel. We also visited the palace and home of a Khan with 4 wives and many concubines. We also visited the most holy mausoleum in town where locals will go to get blessed. Amongst those being blessed was a bride and groom. The bridal business is huge here. Every day in Uzbekistan we have seen several weddings or wedding photo shoots. There seems to be wedding shops, photo studios, and beauty salons with wedding pictures on every street.
After our walking tour we had free time so we went over the locals’ market and I had an eggplant salad and half a piece of cake for lunch. I walked to the northern part of the walled city and had a view from the top and then visited the park where there was a Ferris wheel that wasn’t running. The park seemed nice but was deserted since we are after the tourist season. While walking in town, I ran into a few people from our tour and they raved up the view from the top of the minaret. This minaret is 57 meters tall and the tallest in Uzbekistan. The view was fantastic from there. I went back to a shop where I had tried on jackets earlier in the day and ended up buying a gorgeous velveteen jacket with hand silk embroidery. I’ve been shopping so much in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan that I will probably need to post some of these things home.
Next I did something a little cheeky. Our group had been up to a watch tower earlier in the day but I had to run out to the bathroom so hadn’t paid. However, we had a group ticket so I went up in the afternoon. Some people had taken a couple beers up there and were running low so I volunteered to run over to the supermarket to buy 4 large plastic bottles of beer. The lady caught me on the way back with supermarket bag (I should have hidden them in my backpack but there wasn’t enough room). So, the lady wasn’t too happy and I got turned away. Had dinner with Anna, Barb, and Chris. The single ladies seem to hang out together.
We will hopefully enter Turkmenistan tomorrow and the most recent information says that internet is heavily regulated and not so cheap (wi-fi is not wide spread). Also, we will be camping 3 out of the 5 or 6 nights we are there so there will be little chance to use the internet. Next, we will be crossing the Caspian Sea with no outside access/news and then a few nights in Azerbaijan (mostly camping). So, it may be awhile before there are new blog updates from me.