There’s little to do in the old center of Khiva, Uzbekistan except sit and admire the view. The dusty sand-colored buildings are ornately tiled in blues and greens. The minarets stand like lighthouses in the desert over an old town, frozen in time, and a new town sprawling out around the 17th-century walls.
An early morning walk through the old town took me through peaceful squares as the tourist-stalls were just setting up. I came out through the old slave gate into the bazaar, through piles of watermelon, cucumber and tomatoes on rickety wooden stalls, across an unpaved street, along the stacks of housewares imported from China and women looking through racks of cheap clothes. Modern Khiva is small town anywhere Central Asia with a movie-set backdrop.
When my family roused themselves, we started out at the Old Town map.
What kid could ignore this display of fur hats? Forget that the mercury was easily touching 35C, hats were tried and bought. Yes, we’re currently carrying the hat-and-a-half that CAM is modeling in this picture. We call it “Denis”. CAM is planning to wear it to school when we get back. I’m sure it’ll be a hit with the girls.
The Kukhna Ark is the oldest building in Khiva. Some parts of the structure date back 1,500 years – which parts weren’t entirely clear, but it was worth exploring for the on-site mint, mosque and intricate tile-work. As a first introduction to Islamic art, this was pretty killer.
We rounded out our day outside the city walls to see the statue of one of Khiva’s most famous sons: Al-Khorezmi. This mathematician is credited with being the father of algebra and the word algorithm is named after him – another fine geeks-on-tour moment.