Trip Start May 28, 2006
162Trip End May 17, 2007
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We'd read in the guidebook that of all the cities in Uzbekistan we were to visit, Khiva was the most well-preserved as the Russians had effectively thrown all the locals out of the old town in the 1960s and stopped all the modernisation - as such the medina has been stopped in time and it is supposed to be exempt from the hustle and bustle of other tourist centres. There were certainly very few tourists around - probably because it really was quite hot! Those we did see were invariably French.
The old town in really quite compact - you could walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes - and is surrounded by really high mud walls topped with magnificent crenellations. These date from the 18th century, but I assume they're constantly repaired to keep them looking so imposing. You need to pay to enter the walls and then you're free to explore the dozens of old, mainly disused but extremely imposing and impressive medrassas and mosques.
It was really nice to be walking around and not facing any of the hassle you normally encounter from hawkers when you're the only tourists in sight. It was interesting to see just how many of our fellow sight-seers were Uzbek and how many of them are children - I discovered the fascinating fact that over 50% of the Uzbek population is below the age of 15! A lot of the time in Khiva all you can hear are children screaming as they play chase.