Holiday in Central Asia (22): the road to Khiva in Uzbekistan 

If our trip had gone according to plan, we would have driven into Khiva from the border crossing between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan a short distance away, having spent three nights in Turkmenistan. Instead on Day 21, we had to travel to Khiva by road from Bukhara, a distance of  some 450 km (over 300 miles) and the longest road journey of our holiday. 

Now, in 2006, I did this road journey in the opposite direction from Khiva to Bukhara. It was a grim experience. Last time, it took six and a half hours with two very brief stops to relieve ourselves in the open; this time, it took eight and a half hours but with stops at locations with toilets and with an hour or so for lunch. 

What was exactly the same, of course, was the terrain. Most of the journey is through a kind of desert known as Kizil-Kum which translates as ‘red sand’. In fact, in dry conditions, the sand is more brown-coloured and, every few feet, there is a type of tiny tree which looks more like a thin bush.  

Otherwise, nothing: no towns, no villages, no houses, no hills, no rocks, no animals (although lizards and snakes are hiding in the sand) – just a road stretching straight ahead all the way to the horizon and very few other vehicles. This only changed when we crossed the Amu-Darya River (historically known as the Oxus) when suddenly the land becomes greener and people and animals can be seen.

Everything else was different: a much better coach, improved roads (until the river), no checkpoints, and even occasional service stations. Indeed, we were astonished when, about half way to Khiva and literally in the middle of nowhere, we stopped at a service station which had a restaurant called “Zahratun” where we had a very decent lunch. 

Our hotel in Khiva – Asia Khiva – is actually the one where I stayed in 2006. After some time to rest, Timur took us into the Inchan Kala (the walled city) through the Tosh Darvoza (South Gate) just opposite our hotel and up to a viewing platform at the Kuhna Ark to see the sun set – a magical experience. Then we had dinner at a restaurant called “Tapas”, sitting outdoors on a terrace overlooking the Kalta Minor Minaret – more magic. 


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