The night flight to Ourguentch was not a difficult one but on the other hand upon our arrival at the international airport the whole process of going through the customs and passport control procedures proved to be quite long.
We gathered around our guide and soon took off on a bus to Khiva, the first stop of our circuit. We were almost immediately impressed by the clean surrounding atmosphere and as we approached the city, a mere 30 kilometres away from the airport were given the most relevant information on the circuit programme.
Upon having reached Khiva we stopped at an old 1852 two storey-high madrasah - The Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasah now turned into a hotel, which is where we would be staying at for the first two days. If it was quite impressive as seen from the back it certainly was a lot more impressive when we walked around it into its main entrance and the central courtyard around which stood our (khudzhras) "cells", 125 in total.
We were given an hour to refresh ourselves and change in order to start our first "approach" to Khiva,one of the most ancient and still surviving cities of the Great Silk Road in Central Asia, which at the time of the blossoming of Khoresm was the largest world trade centre. Merchants travelling from afar, from the Volga region, India and Iran were said to gather here with trading caravans on their way to the Near East, the East Turkistan and China. This Great Silk Road was not only the trade path for the caravans but also the route for the spreading of the cultural achievements of the various "silk" nations, as well as their intellectual values and religious beliefs.
Our visit started on the Western gate walls surrounding the Itchan Kala (inner town) built in 1686-88 very close to the madrasah we were staying at, next to what was planned to be the highest minaret of the world - the Kalta Minor (resembling a gigantic penholder) which was still under construction when the Khan was assassinated, this being the reason why it was never completed.
We then proceeded towards the southern gate by the Pakhlavan Mahmud mausoleum, whose dome we could see on our left. As we strolled along these almost empty streets the heat reached 37°C (in the shade) so our guide decided it would be better to postpone the next visits till the temperature lowered a little bit, so we went back to our "cells" to rest.
(To be continued)