The afternoon is drawing to a close. Bustle takes over from the square in front of the west portal of Ichon Qala, the old walled area of Khiva.
A crowd armed with buckets and jugs vie for water supplied by a pump sunk in a pavement fault.
Tough teams of kids play ball.
Others challenge the inexhaustible patience of the statue of Al-Khwarizmi, a native mathematician, astronomer and geographer born in 780.
In the XNUMXth century, Latin translations of his work on Indian numerals introduced the positional decimal number system to the Western World. Today, the inquisitive bronze sculpture inspires the city's children in countless games and pranks.
We went back inside the walls. We added our movement to the Terra.
With sunset, imminent. we make the small ball of the sun fit between the battlements and the windows a little further down, positioned under two large domes.
The access to the top of the adarves ended at six o'clock in the afternoon, much earlier than it suited those who, like us, wanted to admire and register the interior of the city under a twilight light.
The Inescapable Legacy of Soviet Corruption
In a previous contact with the person responsible for entries, we asked if there was any way she could help us, because we would also be doing it to promote her city.
The bulky woman, in a uniform of obvious Soviet heritage and hair and some matching golden teeth, pulls on her best English and responds with undisguised coldness: “I can't normally do this but… be here at 8:10.000. Ah! And it will cost you 4 SUMs (a mere €XNUMX).
We took a walk around the city and met Nilufar, the young multilingual Uzbek guide – spoke Uzbek, Russian, English, French and a little German – who would help us if any last-minute problems arose and would give us a fresh history lesson. -learned, on top of the walls.
A matriosque he appeared on the other side of the square and wasted no time: “I no longer picked up my husband at home and came by taxi. I have to ask you for 5000 more SUMs.”
The Unbelief and Disillusionment of Nilufar
Nilufar had seen her come out of an old Lada led by a man, with three dwarves also following behind. It was easy for him to conclude that this was his family.
And that the employee was just inflating the profit taken out of the alleged favor.
The guide, who had been born in the year the USSR had dissolved, did everything possible to avoid arguing with that more than accomplished woman who oppressed and intimidated her.
Unable to hide his disappointment, he began to cry that we immediately tried to understand and stop: "but, after all, what was Nilufar?" we started by asking you.
“We always learned at school that in the Soviet Union there was no such thing as bribes or that sort of thing. Now you've come this far and I'm soon caught up in a scam like this. I feel ashamed.”
We tried to demystify the doctrine imposed by the teachers of his and previous generations as gently as possible. Nilufar seems to conform to the harshness of our version. Calm down, gain the courage to face the guardian again who is not tamed by anything in this world
"Look, you have to hurry!" alert us with outstretched finger.
We paid him the required sum and crossed the ark of Khuna, the fortified inner residence of the city's secular rulers.
We proceed to the top of the western edge of the walls of Khiva. Shortly after, another couple of customers arrive after the lady's hours.
Instead of thinking about what to think, we focused on the splendid scenery.
The Majolic Elegance of the Khiva Fortress
Forward, the walls, warheads, pediments and minarets of successive madrassas were repeated.
In a predominant tone of toasted sand only broken by the elegant blues and greens of Islamic majolica typical of those parts of Central Asia.
Behind the last one stretched a single-storey house of the same dominant one, mixed with green vegetation that almost never surpassed it.
As we looked at it then, Khiva had little to do with what it was in its heyday.
The Grand History of Khiva on the Silk Road
According to archaeologists, it was founded in the XNUMXth or XNUMXth centuries BC
In the XNUMXth century, the Arab explorer and geographer Ibn Batuta visited it, probably arriving in a camel caravan.
He praised the tireless care with which his ruler maintained law and order despite, as he recounted: "the city was so full of people that it was practically impossible to find your way in the crowd."
In the image of what would happen to most of the area, Genghis Khan has swept away the past. In the late XNUMXth century, descendants of the Mongol emperor formed a khanato.
They chose Khiva for their capital.
Khiva became a slave market that lasted more than three centuries in reality and in the tormented imagination of the peoples of the region.
Most of the slaves were brought by Turkmen tribal warriors from the karakum desert or by counterparts from the steppes of present-day Kazakhstan.
Some kidnapped anyone unlucky enough to live or travel in the vicinity.
The Walled Khiva of Present-day Uzbekistan
Today, Khiva is home to more than 50 free inhabitants. Of these, only 3000 live within the walls.
Some thrive on charging outsiders the privilege of photographing themselves in war clothes from that era.
The business is based on wooden armchairs and khan coats, historic sabers and, the most stunning adornment, the large-volume bonnets made of sheep's wool that protected the warriors from the excruciating cold of the steppe.
Some opted for rubber or plush tigers, placed in flashy plastic rose frames with the purpose of capturing the female sector of passersby.
After adhering to the traditional modality, we patiently ascend the 118 spiral steps.
We reach the 45 meter high observation platform, on top of the highest minaret in the city, which projects from one of its smallest madrassas, that of Islam Khodja.
We share this tight summit with a traditional Uzbek family.
The City of Islamic Genesis on the Path to Recover Islam
In the process of the formation of the USSR, shortly after the October Revolution, the integration of Khiva into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic represented an annihilation of any and all forms of religious expression.
Mainly from the predominant Islam
As we walked through the streets of the fortress, almost stripped of any ordinary form of life, it would have been unthinkable not to notice.
Missing are masses of young apprentices of the faith in Allah, such as those in Pakistan or neighboring Afghanistan. Of the sixteen madrassas and many mosques, only one or the other functioned as such.
The rest, the palaces, mausoleums and other historic buildings formed an open-air museum to which the few inhabitants and visitors and merchants from Uzbek and other parts of Central Asia lend as genuineness as possible.
Even so, we were housed in a “East Star” which is neither more nor less than a big madrassa adapted to a hotel.
Tired of walking the streets and alleys under the intense heat of the early summer of this continental Asia, we retire to our rooms with the stars already in the firmament.
We went out to the courtyard in the center of the madrassa. There, we are left to contemplate the starry sky with the spatial alienation of an Al-Khwarizmi in full study.
Until we got tired of the inaction and went out to investigate a beam of bluish light that towered over the structure of the building.
On the main façade, we see a blue semi-tower that received the base of the lighting. We asked an employee on duty at the hotel entrance what this strange work was all about.
To which he replies: “Ah, that lights up Kalta's minaret.
It was supposed to be the biggest in Khiva at about 80 meters but the Khan died and what followed didn't want to complete it.
It is said that he realized that the muezzins would be able to see the women of his harem from the top and that, therefore, he did not proceed with the construction. Believe it or not.”