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Chucked off the Minaret, A love story

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Minarets are tall towers outside mosques and medresses (Islamic schools).  It’s kind of an archetectural rule for these places to have them so Khiva’s ancient skyline must have been much more spectacular having over 100 of these towers.

In the small prison next to the Khan’s fortress, the Ark, there is a museum with paintings showing all the creative ways the khans killed people, something they did pretty often.  The prison is tiny because they only housed prisoners for three days before meeting their swift death sentence.  One of these pictures shows a guy getting tossed off the tallest minaret, which according to Muhammad only happened once. 

This young man fell in love with a beautiful girl who must have been a stunner because the Khan also struck up a liking for her and added her to his harem.  The heartbroken guy couldn’t stomach his loss so he broke into the Ark to rescue his special lady, getting caught in the process.  The Khan must have respected his bravery because he struck a deal where if he survived the fall from the tower he could have his girlfriend back.

As legend goes the guy wore all his cloths for padding as well as a huge billowy shirt that acted as parachute, both helping him to survive the fall.  Not expecting this outcome the Khan reneged on his promise leaving the poor man with both broken body and heart.  BooHoo.

Isolated yet romantic Khiva, Uzbekistan

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Rousseau once wrote that “houses make a town, but citizens a city.”  I’m reminded of these wise word when I stroll into Khiva (pronounced Hiva) today.  It’s way out in the desert near Turkmenistan and about a half days journey south of the what’s left of the Aral Sea.  This is my favorite tourist stop in my trip through Uzbekistan despite its empty, somewhat abandoned feeling.


The old town city walls are perfectly intact, enclosing the peacefully quiet remains of this ancient city within.  In its heyday Khiva was anything but peaceful.  It was a slave trading town ruled by ruthless khans who would slit your throat for stealing an apple.  Actually a good clean slice to the neck sounds nice compared to their other prefered methods of execution such as two day impalements, getting stuffed into bags of wild cats, or being buried alive. 

I run into Muhammad, a 21 year old language student on my first day and we arrange to meet for a free tour of the city.  He wants to improve his English and when I tell him I’m an English teacher he’s thrilled.

Muhammad tells me every last detail about the city, all of them fascinating, but the best part are the stories.  The following post is my favorite:



Into the lion’s den

Thursday, June 21st, 2007
Samarkand is the country's second largest city and despite having the most grandiose attractions they are more interspersed among the cityscape than in the more preserved old town in Bukhara. This is the land of Timurlane the cruel, a ... [Continue reading this entry]


Thursday, June 21st, 2007
I'm lost in the alleys of Bukhara when Mansur finds me. He's a big guy of 45 and he smiles as he approaches with his huge hand outstretched. He gives me a hearty "salaam ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
The first stop on my tour of Uzbekistan's ancient silk road cities is Bukhara. Like most of the region it has a long (2500yo) history of hosting numerous civilizations, most of which had rulers fond of chopping off heads. ... [Continue reading this entry]

The little green men: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Uzbekistan is a police state. Men in green uniforms are everywhere and in the capital Tashkent they should be avoided. For me my long hair is easy to spot; strike one. ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Rat Pack of the ‘Stans

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Niyazov Karimov Nazerbaev
In Kyrgyzstan the economy feels stagnant. The country is fertile and green which means people aren't starving, but corruption and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Wanna buy a cheap cell phone? The taxi smugglers

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
The people in Osh are warm and inviting but the city itself left me a bit disappointed. I think it's the exotic sound of the place that sent me dreaming of a more Persian or Arabic look to the ... [Continue reading this entry]

You and me baby we ain’t nuthin’ but mammals…A story from the land of OSH

Friday, June 15th, 2007
Osh sits on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in the Fergana Valley that straddles both countries and makes up the most religiously conservative segments of both populations.  The valley is too big to see either side so it's basically flat, agricultural, and ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Curse of the Mare’s Milk

Friday, June 15th, 2007
It's a long haul from Bishkek to Osh so I've split it up into two legs.  I found a shared taxi to Toktogol with a guy that didn't seem out to rip me off, much to the dismay of the ... [Continue reading this entry]