Khiva is a rather small city in the northwestern part of Uzbekistan. It is interesting because the old city, inside the city walls, is as it was when it ws built from the 1400s. It is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It lies by a river but with deserts on all sides. The legend tells that Sem, son of Noah, was the first to settle here, but archeological excavations cannot verify that. Not surprising.
Khiva has an ugly background of being an important place for slave trading, but they did not like to talk about that.
I had read a book called A Carpet Ride to Khiva by Christopher Aslan Alexander before the visit. He was asked around year 2000 by UNESCO in cooperation with The Sisters of Mercy to start production of silk carpets in Khiva based on old, traditional patterns and using workers who would not be employed by others. It is a really interesting book as it in addition to talk about all the problems and achivements of the production tells about Khiva and the people there and their way of living. Absolutely recommended for whoever is interested.
So I asked one of the weavers, the one to the left here, who spoke fairly good English, if this was the place Aslan had started. She answered yes and said they were so glad he did. Note the pattern is on paper on top. Aslan tells in the book that finding old traditional patterns was difficult as few old carpets existed anymore. So what they did was that they found old manuscripts with miniature pictures of sultans, khans, emirs etc sitting on carpets and tried to distinguish the patterns.
The reason they stopped building it higher was that the Khan found ut that if they built it higher, they would be able to look into his harem!
All the buildings were built of clay and that gave the city a grey look, except the mosaiques on the mosques.
I enjoyed Khiva it gave the impression of being genuin, not restored or repaired or reconstructed. That gave a special atmosphere that was different. it was also a pleasant surprise to find Aslan’s silk carpet workshop. I actually like Khiva best of the cities we visited.