We were staying in Hotel Asia in Khieva. Which is a small place but very reminiscent of Uzbekistan as it might have been , once upon . The hotel looked on the massive boundary of the old Fort, and at the sun set , bathing the whole structure in a pink glow ,which turned it into a true fairy tale castle. Walking in there in the receding evening was quite magical and eerie, as if all the souls of those who were buried there were watching us.
The outside of the Fort had sloping walls on which there were what looked like human graves. We were told that those were made to fool the invaders. As the invaders were from other nearby civilised countries like the Tajikistan, they too were Muslims and in Islam it is forbidden and a sin to step on a grave, so they went around the other way , where the guards could aim at them!
The next morning though we set off early, by 8.30 the temperature was well into the 30c. None of us have realised that it will be this hot. We have looked up and were told by the travel company and believed it to be 20-25c. Not in the 40c. Well we were here ,so we tried to make the most of it. I find the midday heat and walking around in the mid forties heat is unbearable for me, I grew up in a tropical country but we were not allowed to be outdoors after midday. As I have got older I seem to get less tolerant too.
The architecture is breath taking, ornate and amazing, coloured tiles mainly blue and turquoise but no pattern looks the same. There were there different types of Hareems! Different in the sense that the though the buildings were the same, but the tile patterns were all different. A living tribute to the men who did them, centuries later they are just as breath taking.
In the Hareems, there are different quarters for the wives, (at any given time there were one hundred of them), and a whole different row for the Concubines. The method of choosing Concubines is interesting too. If the king was out and about and someone took his fancy, he would just throw his handkerchief towards her. She will be then picked up by the courtiers and whisked away to the palace. Where she will be scrubbed and washed and perfumed , ready for the king’s bed that night, and then she will be housed in the special quarters for as long as the king fancied her. She will be retired at the age of 40. In return for the services rendered she will recieve some jewellery or some money, and if she has been “really good” she will get a house. But before she was retuned to the real world she will have to wait four months , to make sure she wasn’t pregnant. If she was then she will stay until confinement and the child will be taken away from her, and brought up by the royals, and someone with royal blood will breast feed the baby
We also went to a Mosque. This was open and without any restrictions. Hundreds of beautifully carved pillars, which have been done by local craftsmen. One was a carved out of a Birch tree, it seems a wrestler carried it on his shoulders from India. It has special carving, and is said to have the face of Buddha , though I couldn’t see it, but it is my idea of worship open to all man kind whatever their religion etc.It was an airy, bright and peaceful place, with no restrictions or dress code.
It is interesting to note that Uzbekistan has banned the Veil or the Burqua. They did it three years ago. Headscarf can not be worn by anyone in public service. The police has the authority to ask you to remove your head scarf.
When the Soviets captured and ruled this country since 1924, they ,the government owned the land, and leased it to you for 40 years and you paid rent throughout the life of the lease. That system still prevails. No one can outright own a property here you lease it, now you can lease it for 99 years. Foreigners can not have a lease.
According to our guide marriages are arranged, you can ‘buy” a wife for $1200. Otherwise it is the grooms mother who chooses the girl and then the girl and boy are allowed to see each other for ten minutes, chaperoned by one parent. And then only see each other “properly” on their wedding night. As our guide said you have to make up your mind in ten minutes if you want to spend your life with a certain person. The women her are very beautiful. As this country has been invaded by so many different countries, it has a rich and wonderful gene pool. The features are a mixture of the Persians, the Mongolians and the Turks and the Chinese. They have very fair skin, some are blond and some have reddish hair and very nice figures. The young men too are well groomed, I didn’t see any “grundge”! Majority wear western dress and make up and have short hair. I was told that they choose beautiful women to be tourist guides and they are then whisked away by the western men to be married1
We were in Kiev for two nights and one day. Yesterday we drove 400 miles to Bukhara.I will never again moan about pot holes in our roads. Throughout the journey I think 80% of the road contained the Mothers of all pot holes. We were shaken and stirred , and I kept wondering why doesn’t this rich government who sells gas to China and Gold to Russia cant spend it on its basic structures? There are no road markings at all and the traffic dodges the incoming cars.
Talking of Gold, we noticed that a lot of people had gold teeth. On inquiry were told that this country produces the highest amount of gold in Asia.And it is very cheap to buy. So as an investment young healthy teeth are ground down and crowned by gold as an investment! And as the guide said, we are a nation of meat eaters and chip and break our teeth, if our crown is broken it can be melted down and re used, Porcelain , he said ; is expensive and fragile. So if a a parent dies with a mouthful of gold teeth as an investment for their children. Well I leave it to your imagination!
More to come.