On the outskirts of Moynak we hit the trouble zone. We barely find 80 petrol, but no
ATM and no sign of any other way to get cash.
After we feed our metal horses we order a plate of mant? in a local bistro.
While we eat we are approached by a group pf foreigner: Chinese, Brazilian and
Spanish riders on an organized tour from China to Portugal. The crowd gets bigger:
Phil is riding solo from the UK to Magadan, and he stops to say hello. We meet him
again in the next town, 2 hours later. We still cannot find petrol and he is out of
cash. He has a full tank and we have the moneys, so we decide to reunite forces and
continue together to Khiva, the first of the three Silk Road cities that have
survived a cruel past.
Khiva offers not only food for brain, but also treats us with some of the tastiest
breakfasts in existence. Our merry group enjoys morning kebaps with tomato salad,
meat pies called somsa and tons of strong black tea. !
Every morning the stalls in the market start smoking. Some double for a mini-bakery
on wheels, their tandoori ovens full of meat pies spreading an irresistible smell
into the air.
Khiva has some of the best shashlik of Ce?tral Asia, bits of met-in-your-mouth meat
rolled in a thin layer of juicy fat, then charcoaled to perfection for under a
Even if the town has been beautified by the soviets into an open air museum, the
ancient Khorezm khanate has retained much of its culture. Artisans still embroider
colorful suzani, carve wood into delicate furniture, paint on silk or rice paper
with coffee or tea.
Surrounded by the Kyzylkum desert, Khiva is made out of two very different areas:
the Itchan Kala (the old town, which contains monuments built during 6 centuries)
and the more modern Dichon-Qala, where mots locals live and where drinking water is
pumped from dubious-looking canals.
The bazaar is the liveliest part of Khiva with great produce on display since 6 in
the morning to about 6 in the afternoon
But the tourists are temped to come here for the monuments: mosques, mausoleums,
Koranic schools, all restored with controversial techniques in the 50s to give a
coherent idea about the past splendour.
To visit on foot we leave our bikes parked in the inner yard of our hostel, a
typical Khorezmian house.
Once of the loveliest sights: the unfinished minaret, covered in mosaic.
Khiva is most charming in the surreal haze of the sun setting.