Lonely Planet Community Pathfinders
I started my own travel blog, Not Here, in 2014 as a way of indulging my two greatest passions, travel and writing. I write both for pleasure and as a way of sharing my travel experiences with friends, family and the wider world.
I’m part of Lonely Planet’s Community Pathfinders programme, which provides a platform for bloggers to reach a wider audience, and my article Khiva: In the court of the khan was featured on the Lonely Planet website in 2015.
Khiva: In the court of the khan
The sun-baked city of Khiva sits between two bleak and inhospitable deserts, the Kyzylkum and the Karakum. As you approach the city limits the rusty brown sand begins to sprout unlikely patches of green, and you find yourself wondering whether it’s an oasis or a mirage that you’ve stumbled upon.
The steep, crenellated walls of the old town, the Ichon Qala, enclose an impeccably restored medieval city that feels like walking into another age. The streets are flanked by mosques, mausoleums and madrassas sculpted in the dusty ochre tones of the surrounding desert, crowned by glistening flourishes of turquoise tiling. Old ladies in technicolour headscarfs amble along the alleyways, souvenir stalls are stacked high with shaggy woolen Turkmen hats, and bulging minarets soar towards the blazing blue sky.
Khiva belongs to a historic region known as Khorezm, one of those half forgotten countries that has all but disappeared from the modern map; in the 13th century the Khorezmians built an empire that included the territory of modern day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iran, as well as a sizeable chunk of western Afghanistan. For those who are ignorant of Central Asian history, as I was before I started researching this trip, Khorezm’s historical significance comes as a surprise. A statue outside Khiva’s West Gate commemorates Abdullah Muhammed Ibn Muso Al-Khorezmi, a gifted Khorezmian mathematician who gave his name to the mathematical process we now know as the algorithm, and from whose work Al-Jebr we get the word ‘algebra’. We spent a few confused minutes looking round a museum that we thought was his old house, before we realised that it was actually the tomb of a different Al-Khorezmi, a musician whose significance was unclear in spite of the many photos of him posing with his instruments.