West to Khiva 

A little more than a year ago, one of my former colleagues spent the last weekend before his packout from Tashkent hopping a domestic flight with his family. He told me that he couldn’t believe his two year tour had passed by without him ever making it to Khiva, an Uzbek city in the far west of the country. He told me, “If you get a chance to go to Khiva, take it. Don’t wait until the last minute when you need to pack and have a million other things to do.”  So when the embassy’s Community Liasison Office (CLO) organized a trip last month to Khiva, my husband and I were among the first to sign up.

Khiva is so far west, it’s practically in Turkmenistan. The first weekend in November, we flew there from Tashkent with a group of our friends and colleagues from the diplomatic community. The flight took a little less than 90 minutes.

Map courtesy of Lonely Planet

I’ve already been to much of the central and eastern parts of Uzbekistan, but never that far west, so I was really looking forward to the trip.

The Ichan Kala (walled city) around Khiva is a UNESCO world heritage site, and contains more than 50 recognized historical monuments and spots. Archaeologists believe that the city is more than 1,500 years old, but most agree that the outer walls appear to have been constructed in the tenth century.

My husband and I climbed up impossibly steep and narrow stairs at the Muhammad Rahimhan Madrassa for a glorious old city view.

We also took in restoration efforts at the Citadel Kuhnya-Ark that began about fifteen years ago. The original work, according to our guide, was created with painstaking talent and care, and we could see the difference, too.

We had a chance to experience the area’s traditional music, folk dancing, and plov…

My favorite plov variants always have raisins!

…conduct a little shopping for scarves, ceramics, suzani, and Christmas gifts…

…and we noticed that people in Khiva bury their dead above ground. Maybe it is the quality of the topsoil, or concerns about groundwater, or Islamic tradition in Central Asia, or perhaps even a combination of reasons I’m unaware of.

I asked our guide if people were usually buried one by one, or if relatives, e.g. spouses and children who died years apart, could be added to family crypts to be kept together. He said it was OK to open one and add more relatives, so hopefully that is true and I did not offend him! Uzbeks are practical, family-oriented people, and space is limited in the city, so what he said seemed economical and made sense to me.

There are sights to see slightly outside of Khiva, too. About fifty kilometers away is the ninth century fortress called Kalajik Kala, next to to Shur Kul Lake.

We took a bus out there, and although there was no one around, I understood from our guide that during the warmer months people make pilgrimages to the lake. Apparently the lake’s high salinity and something about the sand’s mineral content is meant to cure aches and pains if you submerge yourself for a few hours. He said that in the summers, people literally dig in the sand and bury themselves all day. I admit that I was tempted for a moment to take off my boot and bury my left foot in the sand despite the bitter cold. Hey, what could it hurt? There were salt crystals the size of fifty cent pieces strewn all over the sand, boasting configurations every bit as complex and unique as snowflakes.

At the top of the old fortress, there is some kind of triangular metal structure where pilgrims have evidently been climbing for ages to tie up ribbons representing their hopes and prayers. From below where I was standing, I was struck with the realization that there were probably more than one thousand scraps of fabric blowing in the frigid air. I kind of wish we’d had time to hike up there, but it would have been strenuous for the children on the trip (and probably for some of the adults, too!), and it would have taken hours. This was a CLO weekend trip, remember – out on Saturday, and all the way back home by late Sunday night. Us working dead will be weekend warriors, though, and take what we can get!

In which my husband appears to be shorter than me, although he is not

Apparently the high-roller pilgrims can further soothe their pains by opting to stay the night in a climate-controlled yurt. I kind of feel like I need at least one night in some manner of yurt before we leave Post.

Another jaunt outside the city walls was to the former khan’s winter residence, the Nurullaboy Palace. I love winter, and I think we all should have a winter palace, no?

The Juma (Friday) Mosque was more beautiful than I’d expected, and gave me such a feeling of peace and connectedness with the outdoors, and a higher power.

The iconic minaret below was never finished, apparently due to the death of the khan who commissioned it. I don’t think anyone knows why his successor didn’t complete the job, but I actually think it looks pretty cool and different the way it is.

Kalta Minor Minaret, built 1851-1855 and never finished

Other memorable moments from the weekend included a stray orange cat resting atop wool gloves for sale, the most delicious hot bread I’ve ever had at Mirzaboshi restaurant, two brides placing their right hands over their hearts and bowing to each other as their wedding processions met in the street, a butterfly landing on my husband’s finger right before my friend S helped me negotiate for a beautiful pomegranate-decorated suzani I’d spotted, and the beautiful moon as we crossed the airport tarmac to go home.

It was a super weekend, and although it went quickly, Khiva was worth seeing. For those who have been to Bukhara and found a bit of a hard sell from Uzbeks peddling their wares, in my opinion, Khiva had just as many things (although perhaps less jewelry?) and was much more relaxed.

Props to Hotel Malika Kheivak, whose staff took good care of us and had plenty of hot water. Until next time!

  6 comments for “West to Khiva 

  1. gc
    December 17, 2016 at 22:42

    Oops that’s my real name on previous comment … could you remove, please … thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 17, 2016 at 23:07

      Thanks anyway for the comment! Glad you enjoy living vicariously through my travels! All the best.


  2. UZ Traveler
    December 22, 2016 at 08:04

    Love the way you give insight into the places you visit. The pictures are awesome also. Look forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mo
    December 22, 2016 at 08:05

    Always a pleasure reading your posts. Looks like you had an amazing trip. The plov looks absolutely amazing. Look forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

A Diplomat's Wife

just another story

bama in the balkans

Experiences of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia

Adventures in Macedonia

A Peace Corps Story

Twelve Knots

My Journey to the Foreign Service

Sarah Jones Abroad

I am serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, come read about my advetures

Notes From Post

A Diplomat's Life Abroad

La Vie Overseas

Expat Life as a Foreign Service Wife

Raised in the Foreign Service

40 years later, a TCK looks at the world through the lens of Embassy family life

Around the World in Thirty Years

A little ditty about our adventures in the Foreign Service

What is Kirby Doing?: Stories from a post-Peace Corps (Close of Service) COS Trip

Galavanting around Southeast Asia, job searching, and curating @BeardsOfPeaceCorps on Instagram and Facebook

memories over mohinga

a peace corps memoir

Bembes Abroad

Two People, Two Dogs...One New Country

Sending Postcards Home!

From travels around the world, with love..

Kelsey Schmitt

Travel & Lifestyle

Nomads By Nature: The Adventures Continue

We are a foreign service family currently posted in Windhoek, Namibia!!

Adventures Abroad

tales from a life abroad.


Ramblings about the life of a Texpat.

Emma & Nathan's Travels

Our worldwide travels beginning in the year 2017

Diplomatic Baggage

Perspectives of a Trailing Spouse, etc.

A Foot in Each World

Life, love, education, and adventure in foreign service.

Culture Shock

Staying in the Honeymoon Phase

I'm here for the cookies

A trailing husband's vain search for cookies in an unjust world

Caitlin Jean Russell

Travel Tips, Photographs and Experiences

The Good Things Coming

A blog about people, places, and ideas

The Blog of Travel

Motorbikes, dogs and a lot of traveling.


A Traveled Life

The Trailing Spouse

My life as a trailing husband of a Foreign Service Officer

In-Flight Movie

Our Adventures in the Foreign Service

Audrey is (a)Broad

Things I do and see while living and traveling outside the USA


“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” -Cloud Atlas

PM Adventures

pmadventures.com - Travel & Life Abroad

Cuddle Your Globe

Travel tips for beating the track and beyond from a travel expert who loves to hug the globe


travel and adventure


If travel is an addiction, I'm afflicted.

According to Athena

Our adventures in the Foreign Service with our dog, Athena

Diplomatic Status

Tales from My Foreign Service Life

Kids with Diplomatic Immunity

Chasing two kids around the globe

Unaccompanied Baggage

Unpacking the best U.S. Foreign Service blogs

The Wanderlust Diaries

A fine WordPress.com site

Eine Diplomatin aus Texas

Adventures of a Foreign Service Officer in training

%d bloggers like this: