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27th April, Khiva, Uzbekistan

May 8, 2013

Joy! In Moscow and can post onto the blog. 27th April, Khiva.
The population here in Uzbekistan would be, at a guess, 70-80% muslim. The rest made up of Russian Orthodox because of the Russians who stayed behind after independence.
Yet the religious fervour here is conspicuous by its absence. None of the fanatacism common in many of the surrounding countries. Hamid, the bloke we met in Tashkent, was saying the medressas teach a very liberal form of religion as well as many of the other arts and sciences. The hijab has been banned which makes a mockery of the resistance to the same thing happening in France if it can happen in a muslim country. Alcohol is freely available but the disappointment to us is the muezzin has been banned from calling the faithful to prayer. It has always been a symbol that we are in a country with different practices when we hear his call and we miss being woken up at 5am.
Feruz, the driver, was at our hotel early this morning to take us the 450kms north west to the ancient city of Khiva. It was a seven hour drive most of it being on good roads but dereriorating at times when there were detours bypassing roadworks.
The wheatfields petered out to become scrubby desert that continued for most of the journey. Nearing lunchtime Feruz pulled up at a little building near a police post. He spoke a little English and asked us if we want fish for lunch. Seemed an unlikely question as we hadn’t seen water for at least 100 kms. But round the back of the building was a tank that housed live fish some a good 3kg in weight. It appears there is a fair sized lake a few kilometres away that contains a good stock of this fish. We picked one out and went inside where a few other blokes were sprawled on the cushions eating the said fish while keeping an eye on the TV. It’s all eating with the hand once you get out of the cities but they did offer us a fork if we felt we needed it. The fish had been roughly chopped up and getting it off the bones was a bit of a challenge but was one of the nicest meals we had tasted in the country. A change from plov and lula kebabs.
Our health has let us down the last couple of days with both of us catching colds and I have a gammy eye as well. Think the last time either of us had a cold was at least five years ago.
The hotel we are staying at here in Khiva is right alongside the old city walls. It’s more basic than the last one we stayed at last but has a lovely verandah where we can watch those said walls as well as the passing parade of visitors.

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