According to the Arabian geographer al-Mukaddasy the rather original one-storey Djuma Mosque which we visited was built in the tenth century. Its originality and uniqueness is said to lie on the fact that it has no portals, arches, domes or any ornaments, yet it has 212 carved wooden columns, 25 of which are very ancient and among them four are said to be especially valuable. They were brought here from various other ancient constructions thus varying in size, form and decoration.
The Islam Khodja minaret, which stood very close is the highest minaret in Khiva, with its 57 metres (including the base). Its decorative glazed patterns were quite impressive, I must confess, but equally impressive were the domes of the Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, whose vibrant green colours contrasted with the whole brick ensemble.
I was still trying to adapt to the light and luminosity that seemed to emanate from the monuments we stumbled upon at almost every corner. There seemed to be something rather unique about the surrounding atmosphere that pulled me towards the infinite, something I couldn't and won't ever be able to describe.
It was soon time for lunch at a local restaurant, at whose entrance stood the owner welcoming us with such a bright genuine smile revealing her golden covered teeth, which according to the guide' s explanation did not always confer richness.
We were slowly introduced to the Uzbek cuisine and the importance of "shurpas" (hot soups usually spicy and rich in vegetable and greens), as well as the starters (a wide variety of dry fruits and nuts) and the inevitable green tea without which no Uzbek meal would be complete.
As we walked out of the restaurant we came across two wedding guest groups surrounding the respective brides and bridegrooms. Apparently many wedding ceremonies take place in September, considered a good month to strengthen family bonds. One of the brides was wearing the traditional golden wedding dress, which naturally caught the attention of everyone in the group.
Before we walked into the former prison premises, now turned into a Museum Saudat, our guide gave us some further information on the well known story teller character, Nasredine, whose stories have been highly praised all over the world.
We then visited the Kurinishkhona Kunya-Ark ensemble built by the Khivan governor Arang-Khan in 1686 -88 consisting of several premises: an open courtyard, a hall with a throne and lateral rooms. The round eminence to be seen in the open courtyard, covered in majolica tiles with plant and geometrical patterns is where a yurt used to be placed so as to receive the ambassadors from the neighbouring regions.
The throne in the heart of the oblong southern wall is said to be an interesting example of silver stamping artistry.
I was mostly impressed with the state of the rather old monuments we had visited so far and though we were told several restoration procedures were put into place I couldn't but admire the efforts carried out by the Uzbek State so as to preserve such a rich past.
(To be continued)