On our way to Khiva, we visited Chilpik or the “tower of silence”. Dakhams are circular walled structures built on the top of hills. The dead were left inside the walls to be exposed to birds which eat the flesh. The bones are then dried in the sun and put in a central well. In an arid climate like Uzbekistan, they disintegrate into a powder. This Zorastrian burial practice pre-dates Islam which arrived in the region in the eighth century.
After visiting a few other ruins outside of Nukus. Our driver started on the way for Urgench. Seeing no road signs, he overtook a car and signaled for them to pull over so he could ask the way. He came back and told us the other car would take us the rest of the way.
Getting out on a road in the middle of nowhere we took our bags and quickly pilled into the car with three older men. It smelled like sour milk and I felt unsure about whether I should again be taking rides from strangers. I’d grown use to it so I quickly settled in. We went through the awkward routine of me pretending I can form sentences in Russian and them laughing but continuing to talk in hopes that with time I’d understand them. Somehow I managed to figure out that they were friends that had gone out fishing for the day. As we made our way past fruit trees and cotton bushes, they pointed out good fishing spots and money-making goats. Some of my favorite moments since moving here have been spent in strange situations with people I can’t understand. Nothing special ever happens, but the curious conversations and mutual trust that is made I find nice.
From Urgench, we took a cheap-shared taxi the last few Km to Khiva. Khiva is split into two parts, the outer city, Dichan Kala and the older inner city, Itchan Kala. The present-day walls date back to the late 17th century. Cars are not allowed on the inside and it’s quite compact, so you can easily wander the small streets from madrassah to madrassah.
The exact age of Khiva is unknown but it did exist as a side branch of the Silk Road. It is famous for its brutal history as a slave trading post amid the Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts.
Of course we finally see the sun as we leave Khiva for Bukhara. Here you can see how muddy the streets can get.