"City frozen in time" Top 5 Page for this destination Khiva by toonsarah
Khiva Travel Guide: 160 reviews and 499 photos
Whose doorways are alternate night and day,
How sultan after sultan with his pomp
Abode his hour or two, and went his way
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The city is truly ancient; an historic resting point for caravans since biblical times – there are stories of visits by Shem, son of Noah, and by Mohammed. One legend tells how the latter gave the city its name, when he drank from the well here and exclaimed “khiva”, meaning sweet water.
Khiva rose to prominence in the region during the 16th century and for several hundred years was seen as a place of lawlessness where brigands, slave traders, and later spies operated within the seclusion offered by the surrounding desert.
One story I loved was that of Robert Jefferson, an eccentric Englishman (why is there always an eccentric Englishman?!) who in the late 19th century rode his bicycle from Catford in South London to Khiva, surviving en route an encounter with Kazakh witches and creating terror among local tribes who viewed his means of transport with horror and suspicion.
Today Khiva is a wonderful place to start your exploration of the Silk Road as it enables you to get a strong sense of history and visualise the past. The downside though is that this very intactness, and the thoroughness of the restoration work, means that it can feel more like a museum or film-set than a living city, lacking the “realness” of Bukhara or Samarkand.
One plus for us was that it is less visited than either of these, and in the intense heat of July we found only a small group of French tourists and a few Uzbek family groups exploring the city at the same time as ourselves. It was easy therefore to find yourself, for a moment or two at least, the only person in a sun-baked lane, and to visualise yourself back in those days of caravans and sultans.
And this can be even more the case at night, when the moon shines down on streets little changed for centuries and the few modern touches are hidden in the shadows.
A few words about my Uzbekistan pages:
1. On the whole, I’ve written tips about the local customs and way of life on my Uzbekistan page. I’ve also included there some general information on things like packing, planning your visit etc. and some warnings. You may find some of this info duplicated here, but only where I feel it’s of particular relevance to do so.
2. Uzbek place names have several spellings. For instance, Khiva may also be spelt as Xiva. The same applies to the names of people and buildings, so the Kukhna Ark is also called Ko’xna Ark or Kunya Ark. I’ve used the version taken from the excellent guidebook, “Uzbekistan: the Golden Road to Samarkand” (written by Calum MacLeod & Bradley Mayhew, published by Odyssey) which uses the most common form for well-known place-names (e.g. Tashkent rather than Toshkent) but adopts the newer Uzbek Latin spelling for street names, buildings etc.
3. Finally, and very importantly: in planning for and dreaming of my visit to Uzbekistan I owe so much to Ingrid (Trekki) who was always ready with advice and inspiration. Her Khiva page inspired me and I'm sure it will do the same for you. Thank you so much, Ingrid :)
- Pros:Evocative and atmospheric
- Cons:Not very "lived in" so can feel too much like a museum
In several spots in the old town we saw these “photo opportunities”, where tourists could dress up in traditional... more travel advice
I prefer most of the time not to repeat tips that I’ve included on other pages, but not everyone will want to read my... more travel advice
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Khiva Travel Guide
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- "City frozen in time"
- "Khiva - an open air museum"
- "Lost in romantic imagination for a renegade city"
- "Wellcome to Khiva!"
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