Stunningly photogenic Uzbeki architecture
Dr Alan Davis recently visited Uzbekistan with Cox & Kings. Here he shares with us some details about his trip, in particular Khiva’s ancient fortress.
The Fortress, we are told, has 160 rooms. We are visiting Khiva, early in our tour of Uzbekistan. The imposing medieval building, with its walls baked brown in the dazzling late afternoon sun, welcomes us in. Much of the city now has a different function from that originally planned. True to form, the craft museum into which we are shown once housed the ruler's harem. However, it was not only home to the harem. Within is a vast central courtyard, the size of two tennis courts end to end, surrounded by 10-metre high buildings.The hot west-facing structures have first floor balconies overlooking the square. These housed the concubines. Opposite, to catch the cool rays of the morning sun, lived the wives and families of the ruler. We ponder how both groups can have lived in such close proximity.
Decoration of all the buildings is original, dating from the 1830s. Tiling is exquisite, the equal of Turkish Iznik. We note tiny Arabic numbers in the corner of each tile. Tahir, our knowledgeable guide, tells us these instructed the artisans how to arrange the tiles into the correct pattern. Support timbers are finely carved, and ceiling beams beautifully crafted and painted. In a corner of the square a young boy and his grandmother sit quietly, taking in the scene. Fully dressed in matching purple, they are visitors themselves from neighbouring Turkmenistan.
As we continue with our tour of this ancient country, we are impressed by the history of the region and of the great Silk Route which passed through here, the greatly varied scenery, magnificent stunningly photogenic architecture, and above all the warm and welcoming people who are genuinely pleased to see us. Uzbekistan is up and coming, emerging from the years of Russian domination. Currently only 800,000 tourists from around the globe visit Uzbekistan each year. Go soon.
View Cox & Kings' Uzbekistan tours.