Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Dog Lovers vs Dog haters in D Block of New Friends Colony, New Delhi

On the 24th of January, 2021 a hysterical mob led by the D Block Residents Welfare Association (RWA) stole 6 kennels, fifteen mattresses and blankets and destroyed 2 shelters. This was the second such assault. The earlier one was on the 12th of January, 2021. After complaints to the Police from both sides the police filed a complaint for breach of peace. This complaint is here:
Following this a court case started. Yet, the so called President of the New Friends Colony D Block RWA wrote in a WhatsApp message yesterday (3rd of January, 2022) that a court case had been filed by my wife and I against him and Ms. Ritika Gupta, the so called secretary of the D Block, RWA. This is a deliberate lie- typical of the kind that dog haters spread. His message is here:
Below is the affidavit given by Ms. Divya Puri, Sardar Inderjit Singh and Shobhana Bhattacharji: Reply in Case # 1233/R-SEM/SED dated Delhi the 19/6/2021 In the Court of Smt. Surinder Jeet Kaur S.E.M/South East Distt. Police Station, Amar Colony, New Delhi- Case number 1233/R-SEM/SED dated 19/6/2021, Delhi relates to an incident that occurred on 24th of January, 2021 in D Block, New Friends Colony (NFC), New Delhi 110025. In this, an abusive shouting D Block RWA mob stole boxes and destroyed shelters for dogs. The case u/s 107/11 & 113 of Cr. P.C. has been registered by the NFC Police Station. A complaint (Annexure 6) was lodged by Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji (73years) of D 1008, NFC on the 24th January, 2021 with the SHO, NFC Police Station after the above incident. This was entirely ignored by the SHO. This incident of stealing boxes and destroying shelters followed an earlier one on the morning of the 12th of January, 2021. At that time Shri Ashish Gujral of D 1080, NFC (president of the so called RWA, D Block, NFC) along, most probably, with Shri Upadhya, Inspector, MCD South, lifted boxes and two shelters from D Block, NFC. Three pictures (# 1, 2 & 3) of some of these boxes and shelters that were lifted and destroyed are given below:
Picture # 1
Picture # 2
Picture # 3 This removal and destruction on 12th of January was immediately reported (Annexure 1) to Smt. Maneka Gandhi (MP and Minister) by the Late Smt. Arti Puri of Karan Puri Foundation an Animal Protection NGO and also founder of the NFC Dog Lovers Group. The result of the intervention by the Hon’ble Minister was that on the 14th of January, Shri Upadhya, Inspector, (allegedly the same one who had removed the boxes etc at the instigation of Shri Ashish Gujral r/o D 1080, NFC) MCD South himself came to Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji’s house at D 1008, NFC to give fifteen blankets and mattresses. Below are two photographs of him giving the above (pictures # 4 & 5).
Pictures # 4 & 5 As it was the coldest time of winter, we again got six boxes (Picture # 6) and two shelters for the strays made.
Picture # 6 On the 24th of January, 2021 a mob of more than 40 people was collected by the RWA, D Block. It was led by Smt. Ritika Gupta, some kind of an office bearer of the so called D Block RWA. They forcibly stole the new boxes and blankets and mattresses given by Shri Upadhya and destroyed the shelters, and packed them into a truck # HR 55M 4133 hired by the D Block RWA (Pictures # 7 & 8). All this during fore noon and afternoon. Theft is an illegal act. Yet the SHO in his report (pgs. 6 & 7 below) to the Lt. Governor said that there was no theft.
Pictures # 7 & 8 Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji, on hearing of this theft, ran out of her house, and was met by a screaming shouting mob in Lane # 1. She then asked her friend the late Smt. Arti Puri and her daughter Ms. Divya Puri of C Block, NFC to come and help. The main accusation by the police that Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji, the Late Mrs. Arti Puri and Ms. Divya Puri were shouting loudly and quarrelled with “Ashish Gupta” is false. No attempt was made to enquire into the complaint made by Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji of the 24th of January (Annexure 6). They just took notice of only allegations made by the RWA. None of the many photographs and videos that had been given to the SHO, NFC PS were verified. Moreover, this case has a crucial mistake. There is no Ashish Gupta. There is a Shri Ashish Gujral, President of the so called RWA D Block, and there is a Smt. Ritika Gupta of the same RWA and an office bearer. This sloppy FIR just shows that the NFC Police did not investigate the case at all. The RWA had no authority whatsoever to steal these boxes. The SHO not wishing to blame the RWA, for whatever reason, wrote (reproduced below on pg. 6 & 7) to the Lt. Governor’s office that the MCD had removed them. This was a brazen lie. Action has to be taken against the D Block RWA for this theft. The defendants (including me) were surrounded, in Lane # 1 of D Block, New Friends Colony, by a shouting and screaming mob raised by the D Block RWA. Only the mob can be heard shouting and screeching in the video attached in the pen drive. The three of us were speaking calmly. None of us ever shouted. The notice wrongly accuses Mrs. Shobhana Bhattacharji, the Late Mrs. Arti Puri and Ms. Divya Puri of shouting loudly and quarrelling and disturbing peace with a so called “Ashish Gupta” and others over the issue of feeding dogs. We have been feeding stray dogs peacefully according to the instructions of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). Some residents of D Block have been objecting to our feeding strays for many years. Last year the interference and harassment became so much that Shri Romesh Bhattacharji husband of Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji complained to the SHO, NFC Thana on 16th July, 2020 (Annexure 2). Along with this was attached the relevant animal protection laws. Harassment continued for some time and then died down. A month earlier Ms. Divya Puri complained to the AWBI of a dog in Lane 1 of D Block, NFC being so badly injured that he had to be hospitalised at Friendicoes- an NGO running a hospital in Lajpat Nagar. The letter dated 22nd of June, 2020 on this matter written by the Secretary, AWBI is at Annexure 3. In this context please also see a letter dated 14th of August, 2020 emphasising that citizens showing compassion to animals should not be harassed (Annexure 4). This has been reiterated most forcefully and unambiguously by the Honourable Delhi High Court on the 24th of June, 2021. This order can be seen here: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/167511972/ At Annexure 5 is a report on this order in the Hindustan Times of 2nd July, 2021. At Annexure 7 is reproduced the conclusion of this order. We have always been following the AWBI Guidelines. Nothing illegal in that. Instead, the D Block RWA had acted highhandedly and broke the law when they stole the boxes and shelters. To compound this offence the SHO, NFC Police Station did not investigate the case at all. No attempt was made by the NFC police to even trace this truck or its driver despite having been given pictures, the number of the truck (# HR 55M 4133), and a recorded admission by the driver. Nor did they investigate the D Block RWA’s accounts to see how was the payment made. This is not the only irresponsible action of NFC Police. When the theft of new boxes, mattresses and blankets was reported to the SHO with pictures as evidence, he ignored it. Instead, he gave a wrong and misleading report to the Lt. Governor that these had been lifted by the MCD. Please see this astonishing lying, imprudent and irresponsible reply to the Lt. Governor. This is wilful neglect of duty. It is obvious that the police did not do its work justly and objectively. They have lied when they wrote that no theft has been reported. We had reported the theft of 6 boxes and destruction of two shelters. This report of the police to the Lt. Governor is below: Enter Grievance Number Mobile No. OR E-Mail ID. Grievance No 2021003275 Date of Grievance 01/03/2021 Complainant Name Romesh Bhattacharji Contact Nos. (Land Line),9818509052(Mobile) Category Online Entry by Citizen :: Complainant Address D 1008 New Friends Colony E-Mail ID 1bameduniya1@gmail.com Grievance Details On 24.1.2021 the D Block New Friends Colony organised a theft of six shelters, fifteen blankets and mattresses. The RWA has no authority or power to do so. These had been donated by South MCD on the 14th of Jan. A complaint was filed with SHO, NFC PS by my wife Shobhana Bhattacharji on the same day. SHO, New Friends Colony, police station has taken no action. Neither have they converted it into an FIR as was requested by my wife seven days or so later. The shelters, blankets and mattresses were taken by truck number HR 55 M4133 at about 11.00 hrs on 24.1.2021 (photo enclosed). Action Required : SHO, NFC, Police Station should be directed to convert the complaint of 24.1.2021 filed by my wife Shobhana Bhattacharji into an FIR. He should retrieve the stolen goods. Grievance Site Address D 1008 New Friends Colony S.No. Departmental User Locality Action Taken Status Contact Details Citizen Feedback 1 DELHI POLICE NEW FRIENDS COLONY 15/03/2021 An enquiry into the matter has been got conducted through ACP/New Friends Colony/SED. During the course of enquiry it is revealed that temporary shelter/ blankets and mats have been removed by MCD. No theft has been reported. Moreover, both parties have been directed to maintain peace in locality. Hence, no more action is warranted. Over R P MEENA Deputy Commissioner of Police 26825544 dcpsed@gmail.com -- :: -- : Enter Feedback Pictures # 9 & 10 will give an idea of the mob surrounding Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji, Ms. Divya Puri and the Late Smt. Arti Puri leaning against a red car. Faced with such a frenzied opposition it is impossible that we could have raised our voices. We three were surrounded by the RWA mob abused and gheraoed.
Pic # 9 In the attached pendrive video it can be seen that all the shouting is being done by the RWA mob of at least 40 and more. That woman in the white coat (Picture # 10) had told Smt. Shobhana Bhattacharji that she will soon be dead.
Pic # 10 The RWA mob had surrounded the three of us. We were not shouting at all. Yet, the SHO, NFC Delhi Police reports that we were disturbing the peace by shouting loudly. And that both parties have been warned! Despite giving them several pictures and video of the mob attack the police did not even try to locate any of the shouting mob. Shri Ashish Gujral had protested in court on the 1st of December that he was not in Delhi when the attack and theft on the 24th of January, 2021 occurred. That is true. However, he was aware of what was to happen and had happened. Soon after a neighbour contacted Shri Romesh Bhattacharji saying that Shri Gujral and Smt. Radhika Gupta wanted a meeting. Moreover, earlier on the 12th of January he himself had organised removal of shelters with the help of one MCD Inspector Shri Upadhya. After Mrs. Maneka Gandhji MP scolded him and the inspector, Shri Gujral offered to replace the shelters. While he evaded doing that, the Inspector replaced the mattresses and blankets that he, with Shri Ashish Gujral, had removed. Shri Ashish Gujral, President of the so called (because he is still to show the registration number) RWA of D Block, NFC had mentioned at the hearing on the 1st of December, 2021 that one of his objections was that the shelters were 8blocking pavements. Pictures # 11 & 12 below show that such shelters (now there are only two) occupy less than 1/3rd of the pavement.
Pics # 11 & 12 Unlike, Shri Ashish Gujral’s guard house for instance. Picture # 13 shows it is occupying most of the pavement. There are many others in D Block, who have occupied pavements similarly and then also park cars on them (picture # 14). Shri Gujral’s objections to partially blocking of pavements by small dog shelters do not extend to himself and such people, who block them entirely and completely.
Pics# 13 & 14 However, there is at least one resident of D Block, who uses his own space for a guard house (picture # ). If he can do so others, including Shri Gujral, should do the same.
Pic # 15 This is not all. Please look at picture # 16 of a service lane in D Block being gated by some residents for private parking:
Pic # 16 Shri Gujral and the RWA find it convenient to feign ignorance of such flagrant abuse of laws, because they themselves are breaking them. The so called D Block RWA, of which Shri Gujral is the President, does nothing about huge guard houses and cars blocking pavements and service lanes being converted to private parking lots (Pics # 13, 14, 16 & 17). Picture 17 of the front of his house shows not only the guard house blocking the pavement, but also the ramp that he has made to park his cars across the pavement. This shows that Shri Ashish Gujral and the RWA that he is President of has no civic sense at all. They flout laws whenever its convenient for them, but if a small shelter for dogs is erected on a small portion of the pavement they object and riot. These encroachments by several residents of D Block impinge on the right of free movement of others on the side walks.
Pics # 17 The truth is that Shri Gujral and the RWA are against dogs. Despite the many incontrovertible rules by AWBI and court judgements. His boast of feeding them in NOIDA is unbelievable. He does not feed dogs outside his own house. We have to come from more than 500 meters to do so thrice a day. Incidentally, it is not possible to give coats to all the dogs in D Block as most tear them up during the warmth of the day, or when they get wet. At the last hearing Shri Gujral had mentioned that we had erected a tent in a ‘park’ to show his concern for the maintenance of the park. It was only a tarpaulin thrown over two branches to protect dogs from heavy rain for just two nights and one day last winter. In any case that park is so neglected that Shri Gujral, President of D Block RWA, though alert about harassing dogs and dog carers, is not bothered about people playing cricket, guli danda, football and volleyball throughout the day (picture #18), which has ruined the large D Block park. It’s a dust bowl and a dump.
Pic 18 Here’s a further example of his lack of interest in matters that concern the welfare of the residents. Four months ago, an electric light pole had fallen in the park, and it was giving shocks (picture #19). Only on the 6th of December after countless complaints by us to the MCD and DESU was the electricity cut. Shri Gujral and the RWA is not bothered.
Pic 19 Shri Ashish Gujral, Smt. Ritika Gupta and the RWA are basically against dogs. To show their dislike they will stoop to any kind of wickedness to vilify them despite court orders to be kind to stray dogs. This attitude is illegal and has to be checked strictly. None of these dogs in the Colony is a threat. All have ben sterilised. The pictures of a bite that Smt. Ritika Jain showed were done by a dog from outside the colony early in January. There were no incidents before and after. This is rather a long deposition but we want to prove incontrovertibly that the charges against of disturbing the peace are ridiculously false and that the D Block RWA has no consideration for dogs as has been demonstrated by the thefts of their shelters and blankets etc on 12th and 24th of January, 2021. We would like to stress again that on the 24th of June the Delhi High Court ordered that residents of Delhi have the right to feed stray dogs and give them shelters. Honourable Delhi High Court’s full Order on June 24th, 2021 is here- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/167511972/ Conclusions of this order are at Annexure # 7. Further, from time to time the Delhi Government issues instructions like this about the welfare of dogs, but Shri Gujral and the D Block RWA wilfully ignore them. They have to be forced to abide by them. If it is necessary we would like to call the following witnesses: 1- The then SHO, NFC Police Station posted on 24th January, 2021 2- Truck driver of truck # HR 55M 4133 that was hired on 24th of January, 2021 by the D Block RWA to steal the shelters. & 3- Owner of the above truck to bring the log book of the truck and cash receipts from 1.6.2020 to 1.3.2021. Ms. Divya Puri, C 795, New Friends Colony, New Delhi 110025 Shri Aditya Puri, C 795, New Friends Colony, New Delhi 110025 Mrs. Shobhana Bhattacharji, D 1008, New Friends Colony, New Delhi 110025 Mr. Inderjeet Singh, D 1030, New Friends Colony, New Delhi 110025. Dated: 16th of December, 2021 Annexures:
Last of all but most important is this video that shows the screaming insults that the dog lovers were subjected to on the 24th of January, 2021: Despite this evidence, the police has charged us for breach of peace!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

First Tashkent, then Samarkand, next Bukhara and finally Khiva

romesh bhattacharji- rbhattoo@gmail.com

I was in Uzbekistan, in early December, on a trip that I had dreamed of for forty five years.

I flew by a morning Uzbekistan Airways flight from Delhi to Tashkent. Two and a half gripping hours long as I had a window seat on the right. One remarkable view after an another stunning one unfolds.

Near Kohat, I presume, in NWFP Pakistan was this very interesting lake that was formed either naturally or artificially. >

Then the plane flew over Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush. Below us stretched waves of mountains > 

Far to the right and east could be seen the starting point of the Himalaya. Nanga Parbat or Diamir, which at 8,126 metres (26,660 ft) is ninth highest mountain in the world. Way behind it against the skyline is Rakaposhi 7,788 m (25,550 ft) in the Karakoram. 

As the plane turns NW over Central Afghanistan more big boys of the Karakoram appear: Haramosh (24,270 ft.), Dishteghil Sar (25,868 ft.),Kanjut Sar (25,460'), Masherbrum (25,660'), the world's 2nd highest peak at 8611 m- K 2 (28,250') and at its feet to the right could be Gasherbrum, twelfth highest in the world at 8080 m (26470'). 

Far to the right (east) are the four peaks of Nowshaq (tallest is 7492 m or 24,580 ft) the highest peak in Afghanistan (on Pakistan's border) and further away in the hazy left is Tirich Mir (7708 m or 25,289 ft), which is in Chitral, Pakistan.  Both are in the Hindu Kush. Nowshaq is to the south of the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. The Panj river drains the Wakhan finger. It meets the Pamir river at Qala Panja to form the Amu Darya or Oxus- Central Asia's longest and mightiest river.

 Over the Hindu Kush. Pamirs on the left. In the distance are the Karakoram to the right and indistinctly beyond are the Tien Shan. Where they meet, in Tajikstan, is called the Pamir Knot or to the people there - Bameduniya- Roof of the World.
< Over the Pamirs. Pamir refers to  high pebbly valleys formed by retreating glaciers.>   Those  striking rock and ice obelixes are in the Pamirs. The two glaciers that surround them are not far from the terminal moraine after which are formed the Pamirs- the name that is given to the range by the ancients. 

After these rivers of ice and fields of snow a quick descent over vast Taskhent to a spick and span city:

This map of Timur's depredations shows the positions of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Delhi and Lahore are also shown. 

TASHKENT- Population 2,500,000 approx

At 5.20 am on 26th April, 1966 most of Tashkent was levelled by an earthquake. A new Tashkent arose. This statue sculpted by Ryabichev, of a family, was installed in 1970 bang on the epicentre of the earthquake. Its called the Monument to Courage. Sharaf Rashidov Road. 

Within five years the Soviet Government had built- at fast & furious clip-  wide roads and more than 100,000 flats and houses and many administrative buildings. 
The Novoi theatre, built after WW II by Japanese POWs was one of the few large buildings that survived without much damage.   

The 'New' Tashkent  is clean and beautiful and has broad boulevards. Some of the bulky Soviet buildings of red and cream frontage have remained while most have been replaced by flashy glass fronted towers. 

Old Tashkent is congested but has clean narrow lanes, heated homes and

bread is always fresh. Not behind glass.

An old Soviet tractor still working in Tashkent. Most probably a Universal tractor known for its longevity, reliability, simplicity and low price. 

The earthquake destroyed several old mosques including a 600 year old one.  

 < Next to the old town is a collection of old and new madrassas and mosques. The new Hasta (Hazrat) Imam mosque and its 50 meter high twin minarets front an enormous square. This largest place of worship in Tashkent was built in 2007 and within an unbelievable span of only four months- so they say.  In front of the mosque is the blue melon shaped ribbed dome Muyi Mubarak library famous as the home of the oldest Quran- the Ottoman Quran of 8th C. The Uthman Quran on display is stained with the blood of the third Caliph Uthman who was murdered while reading it in 655. Timur placed it in Bibi Khanym Mosque in Samarkand from where it was brought by the Russians after examination in St. Petersburg.

 Both buildings are here seen from the doorway of the 16th C century Barak Khan madrassa (below). >  

< The square courtyard of this madrassa is flanked by rooms that were once occupied by students 
now have souvenir shops!

A courtyard in the new mosque where the sandalwood for these pillars was got from India- so they say. 

The Kukeldash (is a title) madrassa built in the late 16th C. Its next to the lively centuries old Chorsu Bazaar.

 Chorsu means cross roads. There has been a market here for centuries. 

 It sells daily and luxury needs from carpets, dresses to dry fruit 

and terra cota dolls called babaychikki that have been made for hundreds of years. These days colours are more vibrant and subjects varied

 There are colourful choykhanas (tea houses) in unlikely nooks

The White Mosque by the Chirchiq river was completed in 2017. 

Some Metro stations of Tashkent are worth visiting. Built during Soviet days they were dedicated to Cosmonauts, Authors, Workers etc. This one is called Alisher Navoyi- a 15th C Uzbek poet, writer, philosopher and politician who preferred to write in Turkic language than in Persian. 
A mural in the station recalling his epic poem Laila and Majnu. One of five that he had written.
 A floral motif dome inside the Alishe Navoyi Metro station. There are many domes here. Each has a different motif.

The Mustaqillik or Independence Monument.
Tashkent has many museums, including a locomotive one. This House of Photography is from Soviet days.  Its at 4, Istiqlol Street. This beautiful architectural monument was designed by K.Babiev, A.Petelin and W. Rozwadowski about ninety years ago. 
It has halls for exhibitions too. In early December there is a vibrant multi coloured Christmas Bazaar held here. This is one of the stalls. 
At Christmas many places in Tashkent are lit up. Especially the shopping streets like Sayigloh Kuchesi  and hotels.  
As long as there are lights they don't care whether it Santa that is being pulled by reindeer or Cindrella's pumpkin! 

There is a lot more to see in Tashkent, but I have to move on to Samarkand, in the SW, by the super fast Afrosiyab train that covers 307 kms in two and a half hours. Afrosiyab is an ancient site near Samarkand. It was inhabited from c 500 BC to 1220 AD and sacked by Chenghez Khan's hordes in the 13th century. The 300 hectare dunes of the crumbled remains are still there and are being excavated.

                                                   SAMARKAND:  Population 550,000

The supremely comfortable cabin Afroziyob super fast gives the speed of the train second by second!

Jizzax is an oasis town of about 170,000 people mostly dependent on cotton. It is one of the most ancient Uzbek settlements and was on the trade route to the Mediterranean.  

 The Afrosiyob at Samarkand Railway station.

After driving on the wide Boulevard in the Russian part of Samarkand the first stop was at Gur e Mir- Timur's grave. 

 The entrance to the Gur e Amir or Tomb of the King. Its construction started in 1403 when his heir apparent Muhammad Sultan died . Timur had built himself a  mausoleum  in Shahrisabz, where he was born. However, when Timur died suddenly in  February,1405 of illness during an attack on China, the passes to nearby Shahrisabz, his birth place, were snowed in, he was buried here instead. Ulugh Beg - his grandson- made it enormous and delicate. 

  This Persian designed tomb of Tamerlane or Timur the Lame is said to have influenced the construction of Humayun's tomb in Delhi and of the Taj Mahal. There were once four minarets.

Its spectacular ribbed melon dome design went no further south than Meshed and Isfahan in Iran and Herat in Afghanistan.

 The entrance arch covered with majolica (an Italian form) tiles bearing precise and exquisite designs on a grand scale woven with as much care as dainty embroidery on an exotic handkerchief. No two panels are even remotely alike. And all are immensely attractive, compelling awe. What eyes, what hands made this brilliant varied symmetry?- one can only gape and marvel. Same expert craftsmanship is repeated in all the monuments in Samarkand and Bukhara but in Samarkand the brilliance of conception covers most of the brick work.

This honeycomb design on top breaks the smooth colourful simplicity with three dimensional pendants. This one is in the iwan or aywan (arch) of the towering entrance gate to the domes tomb.>

The trellised window is to the north.
These graves of Tamerlane, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah and grandsons Ulugh Beg and Muhammad Sultan and the largest one of Sayyid Baraka- Timur's teacher are fake. Though they have been lovingly carved and expensively made. The real graves are five meters below. Timur's grave is of dark green jade that had been brought from China. 

In 1941 Soviet archaeologists had exhumed the remains of Timur and Ulugh Beg and found that they were genuine. All subsequent images are based on research of the bones.

This side entrance from behind the complex leads to the real graves. Always locked.

 The magnificent and dazzling gold based symmetry of the ceiling above the tombs. The triangles at the apex of the arched niches pay homage to the glittering ceiling.
The ceiling under the dome that is azure from outside and gold  inside.

Above the graves there are marble stalactite cornices. The lowest part of elegantly designed walls are patterned onyx from Iran. 

 Inlay in onyx.


The entrance to the ornate mausoleum inner chamber is through this graceful and simple gallery. Clogged with souvenir sellers. 

                                                  Even the cellars have merchants. The Silk Road is still a trade route for these. Note the still popular hammer and sickle carves.

Restoration of the mausoleum that began with the Soviets in 1950 is still continuing. The task is mammoth. There are many more monuments that need this patient restoration.   

On the outer precinct is this example of restoration. The lowest flower (symbol of Janaat or Paradise) is five hundred years old. The top two are a year old.

About 150 meters north of Gur e Amir is the Rukhabad Mausoleum. Built by Timur in 1380 over the grave of Islamic theologian and mystic Sheikh Burhaneddin Sagaradzhi, who helped spread Islam among the Khyrghyz nomads of Eastern Turkestan. Rukhabad means “Resident spirit”. This simple but elegant single dome mausoleum was was made with bricks and had no tiles embellishing it.

To the left of the entrance of Rukhabad is an another ancient mosque, but functioning.

 This mosque has stone pedestals to protect its carved wooden pillars from decay. This precaution was omitted in later years from some madrassas and mosques.
 This small mosque had its own tower from where the muzzein could call the faithful to prayer. Now this facility has been replaced with an amplifier.

The Bibi Khanym Mosque- even on a dull evening some colour stands out. An unbiased  eye witness account of Samarkand was written by Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo the Spanish Ambassador to the court of Timur (AD 1403-6) . The city's splendours so impressed him that he was over awed and lyrical.

Instead of driving up to the imposing entrance of Bibi Khanym mosque on Registan Road, its better to walk down the alley coming in from the Zudmorad Mosque to the west in the old town. Much more life to be seen.

And have a traditional mince samsa in a very clean dhaba washed down with coca cola.

The immense central dome of Bibi Khanym is the lodestar. That pipe spoiling the symmetry of the picture carries heating. A working relic from Soviet days.

The North Gate and tile ornamented wall of Bibi Khanym Mosque.

Scrupulous cleanliness. Four times a day the cities of Uzbekistan are swept. And there's no fuss or advertisement or proclamations. Cleanliness is taken for granted.

The 35 m high NE entrance arch leading to the grand Bibi Khanym Mosque. The magnificent ribbed blue majolica tiled 40 m high dome can not be seen from the main courtyard reached through this iwan. It is stupendous and grandiose. It was erected between 1398 and 1405 to commemorate Timur's Chinese wife.

From 16th C this majestic and glorious edifice began to crumble because of deliberate negligence. Over the years, Nadir Shah and earthquakes had knocked down the best parts of this mosque which once provided a covered area for 12,000 people to pray in. Reconstruction and salvaging started in 1930s during Soviet times. By 1970 the main dome was  restored. After independence and with the beginning of Timur mania restoration is faster but careful.

Timur had brought loot from India on 95 elephants. These elephants he employed in dragging pillars to hold up the roof of the mosque. He had also brought artisans from India to build this mosque.

That white cubicle of the Tourist Police can not be ignored. Wish it had been kept on Registan Road.

The huge door leading to the main courtyard.

This is the iwan -main arch- to the tomb but it is closed. At the NE of the Mosque.

Another detail from the main iwan. What numbs ones' senses is that all this is man made. No miracle.

The 40 m high central dome of Bibi Khanym Mosque. On either side of the courtyard are smaller but similar cupolas.
The huge stone stand to keep the Quran in. The 8th C Quran is now in the Imom Khost mueum in Tashkent. 

The following pictures show the enormous hard work that is still in store to completely restore the once ornate Mosque. > 

Over hundreds of years Samarkandis had taken away such bricks to make their homes!

The southern side of the mosque has a devastated look. Eventually all this will be restored. It may take a decade before its former elegant beauty is restored.

A minute portion covered with a modern tile replicating an ancient design. 

< Parts of the heavy stone pillars that crashed by neglect and earthquakes.> 

In the south is an iwan leading to a small mosque with a cupola on top. Inside it prayers are still said. 

A section of intricate and attractive carving inside the prayer room.

Across Registan Road and to the east is this mausoleum of Bibi Khanym- simple in comparison. Here for once unadorned brick work dominates. 
Not every one is interested in the Bibi Khanym Mosque

Directly north of the Bibi Khanym mosque, and about 50 m away, is a large covered market.

Full of courteous haggling and a sibilant buzz. Thousands throng the covered market every moment. Never a raised voice is heard.

Walk a kilometer to the south on the Registan Road, past choy khanas and souvenir shops dot the way to the deservedly most famous square in Central Asia.

My first sight was of these charming couples preparing for formal pre wedding photographs.

They were calm and tolerant even when I, a strange intruder, clicked them. They posed patiently.

The REGISTAN: The three glittering madrasahs. From the left - Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417–1420), the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646–1660) and the Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619–1636). In these dazzling surroundings of scholarship executions were also held.  

Keats, who was rapturous about a broken vase, would have written an epic on just one building here. 

On all sides of the Registan are formal geometrically designed parks. Throughout the day these are  swept clean several times.  

Ulugh Beg Madrasa-   It was the first of the buildings to decorate this sandy place through which a stream used to flow. It has an imposing arch with precise geometric ornamentation. The scientist, astronomer, mathematician and poet Ulugh Beg (22nd March, 1394 to 27th October, 1449) was the Governor of Samarkand from 1415 till 1497. The Ulugh Beg Madrasah was one of the best Islamic Colleges of Central & E Asia in the 15th C. It also taught science, maths and astronomy. Several scientists had their foundation learning here. Jami, the great Persian poet, scholar, mystic, scientist and philosopher studied here.  Ulugh Beg himself lectured here. He was Timur's (9th April, 1336 to 19th February, 1405) grandson. He was assassinated by his son, who was instigated by the clergy, which did not like Ulugh preferring science to religion. There is an inner courtyard with galleries running right through with student's rooms fringing it.  

For 250 years it stood alone in its majesty.

The Ulugh Beg madrassa from the massive arch of Sher Dor madrassa. 

 The Tilya-Kori (Gilded) madrasah was built between  1646 to 1660. It was a residential college for students and also a Grand Mosque. It has a two-storied main facade and a vast square courtyard with aywans (huge arches) on all four sides. There are dormitory cells on N, E and S. The Tilya-Kori Madrasah is the last of the Registan's major buildings, completed thirty years later than the Sher Dor madrassa1(619-36), and 230 years after the Ulugh Beg madrassa.

The mosque on the west of the madrassa is extravagantly and delicately decorated with gold plating.  Both Sher-Dor and Tilya Kor madrasas were built by Yalangtush Bakhodur the governor of Samarkand. Soviet restorers skillfully completed the prayer hall's outer dome in 1930. 

The main entrance iwan

The The large coutryard within the Tilya Kori madrasah with student dormitoriesto the right. Two of the four modest iwans or arches. In the centre are elms. 

The main hall of the mosque, to the left of the entrance, and its walls and dome are lavishly gilded. The hall and the side galleries are keeping the trading spirit of the Silk Route very much alive. 

The dome.

And a smaller cupola. 

A wall. Only many photographs can give some idea of the magnificence. Not words.

One of the many shops.

The Sher-Dor madrassa (1619–1636): Its the largest of the madrassas in Registan.

These tiger motifs had vanished because of neglect by 1899. This is seen from a painting by the Russian Mikhail Belaevesky.

 Huge geometric script tiles at the entrance of the Sher-Dor.

The massive courtyard of the Sher-Dor.

 Four smaller but still colossal iwans form the focus of each side of the large courtyard inside Sher-Dor. This one is to the north. 

This smiling and un self conscious Uzbek couple are happily posing in costumes from Timur's time.
 And this one is to the east catching the setting sun's last rays. Look at the infinite variety of tile arrangement.

Samarkand was not always as glittering a showpiece as it is now. Samarkand started loosing its lustre after the Silk route bypassed it in favour of Bukhara. From late 17th C the neglect galloped and soon there were ruins everywhere. This is a late 19th C photograph of the Registan square showing a portion each of Tilya-Kor and Sher-Dor madrassas.

And this was the sad state of the Ulugh Beg madrassa. Don't miss the bazaar in the Registan. Copies of these pictures were available in Tilya-Kor for hundreds of $.

In these two pictures the outstanding monuments are at level with the ground. The Soviets dug a large square about 5 m deep and added stairs. This made this phenomenal architecture appear even more gigantic.

We have to thank to the Soviets for restoring the Registan to its pristine glory.

The reception room of Emirhan Hotel where I stayed in Samarkand. The owners tried to imitate the colour and grand designs of Samarkandi architecture, but failed! Despite this garish display the hotel is central, affordable, comfortable and well heated.

The circular plinth of Ulugh Beg's Observatory, which is on the highway to Tashkent. At the back is the new museum dedicated to Ulugh Beg's researches. It was built from 1420 to 1437. Ulugh Begh, a scientist, had once said that once the fog of religion fades away only science will remain. Such views angered the clergy and they conspired with his son. Destroyed in 1 month in 1449 after he was killed by his son. 
Its location was unknown till 1908, when a Russian archaeologist Vassily Vyatkin after consulting 16th and 17th C texts located it on the highest hill within Samarkand.
 Vassily Vyatkin is buried next to the remains of the Observatory after he died in 1932, just after finishing his excavation.

The entrance to the modern Ulugh Beg Museum. Don't miss the matching dresses of the Museum guides.

 The trench with the lower section of the meridian arc. In Ulugh Beg's time, these walls were lined with polished marble. 
 The meridian arc continued above ground as is shown in this replica in the museum. 

This is what the observatory looked like in 1440s. The observatory was made up of three stories, the first story was for the staff to live in. All observations were made from the second and third stories, which had many arches to look through. 

Ulugh Beg was the first to point out mistakes in Ptolemy's data that had been in use for many years. He compiled in 1437 a catalogue of 994 stars. This catalogue, was first edited by Thomas Hyde at Oxford in 1665. Reprinted several times the most recent was printed in 1917 as Ulugh Beg's Catalogue of Stars, Revised from all Persian Manuscripts Existing in Great Britain, with a Vocabulary of Persian and Arabic Words

Despite his scientific background Ulugh Beg strayed at least once into killing men, women and children when he sacked Herat after defeating his nephew Ala al Dawla.  

A 17th C copy of the map that Ulugh Beg had had painted on the walls of his madrassa in the Registan.

 To the west of Ulugh Beg Observatory, and at the edge of Samarkand, is a vast, arid, clay escarpment of about 100 m in height at best. Midway up it (to the left of this picture) is a grave where St. Daniel's hand is buried. Timur had brought it from Sus in South Iran where a part of his corpse still lies.
The canal -Siyob- brings water from the gold bearing Zeravshan (Golden river) that rises in the Pamirs of Tajikstan. It meets the Amu Darya further ahead in Turkmenabat.

The clay hills are said to cover remains of an earlier Samarkand that was sacked in BCE.

These clay hills of about 300 hectares are said to be remains of a destroyed Samarkand
 The entrance to the tomb of Daniel seen from a prayer hall opposite it.
 Rather a large tomb for just an arm!
 A popular sacred spring with curative properties at the foot of the arid hill that has St. Daniel's grave.

 Opposite the Samarkand Museum, and a few kms to the south of St. Daniel's tomb and north of the famous Shah e Zinda necropolis is a neat and manicured Jewish Cemetery. Between the 2nd & 3rd carved pillars is a bronze statue of The Wailing Mother. Less than .01% of Samarkand's population are Jews, and they live peacefully.
 The entrance.

 A section of the Jewish cemetery.

 These hills of clay are said to cover ruins of  Afrosiyob- ancient Samarkand that was sacked in BCE. The area of Afrasiyob covers about 220-300 hectares and reaches close to the Bibi Khanym mosque. Russian ( by Vlatkin, Nikolai Vaselevsky and Mikhail Eugenevich) excavations began in the late 19th C  and carried on till the 1930s. Coins, Buddhist frescoes, ceramic pottery and glass vials etc were discovered and are in the Samarkand museum. This Shah e Zinda Kuchesi  leads to Samarkand's most artistically refined complex. A necropolis at the edge of the Afrosiyob.
The arch heralding the entrance to the rectangular necropolis called Shah e Zinda. 

 About fifty steps- after the main gate where entry tickets are bought- lead up to a hill plateau and then the splendour begins.  

 Darvazakhan- was built by Ulugh Beg in 1434.  One resplendent and carefully controlled splash of glorious ornamentation follows an another and yet another striking and majestic 'embroidery' on tiles.
 No words can ever describe this magnificent opulence interspersed occasionally with just plain bricks so that the tiled creativity can be highlighted.

A modern door of Shodi Mulk Oko points to the mausoleum of Kazi Zade Rumi- scientist and astronomer- admired by Ulugh Beg, who built this mausoleum in 1435. Look at the roof of the doorway. Only after one has spent days here, can one begin to notice some of the splendour and magnificence and the technical virtuosity that made these beautiful poems in stone.

  An unusual octagonal structure.
It is a hauntingly stunning crypt- glamorous and elegant. Viewed through the doors of the mausoleum of Shirin Bika Aga- Timur's sister

< A few images of the many intricate, lavish, elegant and downright beautiful panels on the inside and outside the mausoleums of Shah e Zinda.

This central panel has been influenced by Chinese Buddhist images. 

That doorway at the head of the path is the Chartak (four gates) that leads to the reason for the founding of this necropolis. Shah e Zinda means Living King. It refers to the legend that Qusam Ibn Abbas, a cousin and most loved by the Prophet, is commemorated in this place. He came with conquering Arabs in 8th C and introduced Islam here. Legend says that he was beheaded but he got up and carried his head and resides here. 

A rare bare passage to the right in the Chartak above leads to unimaginably grandiose and delicately designed tiles and roof.
This entrance door was made in the early 15th C. The white is ivory from the elephants that Timur had brought from his plunders in India. None lasted beyond three winters in Samarkand but the ivory remained for much longer.

Before entering the heavily ornamented room adjacent to the sanctum sanctorum are these logs that once formed part of the wooden mausoleum. After decay and fires and depredations had ruined it a new mausoleum was made in the 15th C. The inside of this mausoleum is to be seen to be believed. The ornamentation is extraordinary.

A simple passage leads to this richly decorated annex.

The door to the left - always closed- leads to the inner sanctum.
                                                                      A detail.
                                                            And an another.
                                                                      Yet another.
And then a largely unadorned mosque. The contrast between the white walls and restrained geometrical calligraphy around the doors and base of the walls evokes reverential awe.

After exiting the mausoleum of Qusam Ibn Abbas turn right and one is again in an another rectangle of  an elegantl display of human creativity at its zenith.   
This is the 15th C Tuman Oko Complex built by Timur's wife. It has two rooms for meditation, a mosque and a mausoleum, which was decorated by master artisan Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Khodja Bandgir of Tabrizi. The contrast between opulent ornamentation of the columns against the simplicity of a bare brick wall is striking and deliberate, for it draws attention to fine craftsmanship.

 More eye popping details. Never once has such ornamentation gone out of control. Though on a sumptuous and grand scale no pattern is repeated and appetite for more never wanes.
                                        Now more exquisite patterns cascade and bewitch.

Each panel glorifies Allah. 

At the end of this complex is a way to a modern cemetery.

< From the last mausoleum at the end of the necropolis is this view of the entire passage. >

In this last stage of Shah e Zinda are more glorious tiled panels. And no repetitions.

Behind these impeccable facades displaying inspired imagination ...

...... are simple unadorned backyards. Some having more graves. Beyond the walls is a modern cemetery for Samarkandis.

Some bigger domed mausoleums have buttresses at their back.

The Silk Route by passed Samarkand in the 17th C but the trading instinct is strong enough to convert some crypts into stores.

With such lavish grandeur around her this young lady prefers a selfie! ESE is the magnificent and massive Bibi Khanym mosque and in front extraordinary majolica tiles but a selfie of the same face is more important.

Samarkand was a beautiful city as far back as 329 BCE when it was conquered by Alexander, who said that it was even more beautiful than the descriptions he had heard.

Samarkand has many other ancient structures like Imama Bukhari Shrine, Aksaray Timurids mausoleum, Murad Aviliya shrine, and Punjab madrassa etc.. They are too numerous to describe.

Some late 19th C and early 20th C buildings from the Soviet era occasionally catch the eye.

But not for long. They are being pulled down rapidly.

Some are being looked after by the residents even to the extent of painting their walls.

A row of shops in the Russian quarter.

 Uzbekistan has at least 90% Muslims. And there is no intolerance or communalism- eventowards Jews, who have lived here for centuries. This is a late 19th C Armenian church.
 The late 19th C Roman Catholic church.

 The interior of the mid 19th C Russian Orthodox Church.

 Samarkand's economy is not entirely based on tourism alone. There are many large industries and many ambitious entrepreneurs.

This happy owner started with an hole in the wall catering eight years ago. He now has three large halls and a courtyard full of tables crowded even on freezing December nights.
 This is an oven for baking samsas - akin to Indian samosas but are non veg.

The next stop is Bukhara- 230 kms away.
 The fastest and most comfortable way to get there is by the high speed Afrasiyob. She is resting her right ankle!

                                                         BUKHARA:  Population- 300,000 or so; About two and a half thousand years old

Water is from Zeravshan river and a huge oasis, called Tudakul, to the east of the Railway Station of Bukhara, which is at Khogan;
Railway stations in Uzbekistan are large, high roofed spacious and clean. This is the Bukhara Railway station in Khogan- about 12 kms away from Bukhara.
On the way to Bukhara, in Qasr-i Arifan village, is the spacious ground that has the mausoleums of Syed Bahauddin Naqsband Bukhari (1318 to 1389) and his mother. There are many Naqshbandis in India especially in Kashmir. Syed Bahauddin Naqsband Bukhari founded the largest Sufi sect.
The path to the two mausoleums is lined with his sayings. Till some years ago people from Multan, Pakistan had been living here for centuries. They were shifted elsewhere so that these shrines could be better looked after.

 All kinds of people- rich & poor, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek, the very young, the old
and recently married (like the girl in the yellow square tasseled topee)  come the year round to seek blessings.

The simple brick lined mazaar is quietly impressive. No blazing tiles here.

The mazaar and its minar. A shop- even here.

Two views of the spacious mausoleum: Top one from the western hall and the lower one from inside it.

The holy tank seen from the grave of the peer.
Pilgrims pray at Naqshband's grave,

The mazaar is a large double storied square with avenues all around.

 Bukhara, between the Amu and Syr Daryas has been a vast cotton growing belt for centuries. It has always had problems with salinity. The fields are flooded and top soil removed seasonally. A meeting is waiting for farmers to discuss how to reduce salinity.
Heaps of saline soil near many fields.

The soil was saline years before the US started their propaganda to blame the Soviets for increasing Amu darya guzzling cotton farming and drying up the Aral Sea. The Amu and Syr Daryas have been irrigated for hundreds of years in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Rice, vegetables and many fruits are grown here too. This region is also known for five qualities of fine (& water absorbing) rice that goes to make their delicious pilaf.

The first impression as one enters Bukhara is of wide streets
 and cleanliness. Men and women clean the streets and remove the garbage four times a day.

 Bukhara has an old town and a new town encircling it. In the old no Infernal Combustion Engines are allowed. And the streets are always clean.

 No litter anywhere.

 First visit in Bukhara was to the summer palace of the last Khan of Bukhara. Built in the beginning of the 20th C. I didn't want to see it but my guide- a leftist- said that I must know how the cruel and plundering Khans lived.  Two of three wings of the C shaped palace are seen here.
 Inside the entrance gate are the ex Khan's helpers' rooms. In them are curio shops now. This one sells susanis and carpets.
 White turkeys in the old aviary.

 A waiting hall copying on a modest scale the profligacy of the Czars. 
 Imported Venetian mirrors.
 A view of the passage and an another rich room. Note the vases erupting flowers!

 The Khan's summer tea room. Dainty pottery from China, Japan, India and Europe.

 Guides and estate managers. They know details of every object here.

 From the tea room a view of the harem palace.

The harem, the pool in which unfortunate ladies were made to swim, while the lecherous Khan watched them from his nest at the right.

The last Khan had built this guest house for the Czar Nicholas's sister's planned short visit. Before that could happen The October Revolution (1917 to 1923) removed all the parasites from this region.
For the last two Emirs the summer palace became their winter residence too as- under Russian influence- they realised that The Ark had limited creature comforts. 

The ticket seller at Chor Bakr- This necropolis for clerics was built in the late 15th C over the burial place of Abu Bakr Said, who died in 971 AD. He was one of the four Abu-Bakrs (Chor-Bakr) - descendants of The Prophet. The complex includes mausoleums of prominent clerics and graves of their families in courtyards. It is in Kalaya on the western outskirts of Bukhara. This site was built by the Uzbek leader  Muhammad Shaybani (1451 - 1510). 

 The tree lined path to the Chor Bakr. That wooden box after the gate encloses an ancient well that is still in use. An old unfailing security system to prevent children from falling in.
 The Chor Bakr at the head of the clerical necropolis. Its two massive arches dominate the complex. To the right is a temporary tarpulin tent that provides warmth for the congregation.
 Many pilgrims bring birds as offerings. They are looked after by the head maulvi and his family. These walls have small mausoleums and graves on either side of the passage.
 Chor Bakr's second ivan or aywan with two wide strips of majolica tiles on either side.

A 17th C vault. These date from 8th till the 19th centuries. Note the restrained use of tiles that highlights the solemnity of the crypt.

As I approached the mosque 's main ivan I felt wind rush and heard flapping of hundreds of wings. 

The kind maulvi had come to feed the birds.

 Look at the feather claws of the hen.
And a house for the peacock.

Forty of such 2' high steps go to the roof top.

 The view is well worth the trouble. The two aywans and the central azure tiled dome at level with the spectator. One gets an idea how these massive arches have not tilted for centuries. The arched buttresses behind the iwans hold them straight. >

And below one can see half of the 3 acre necropolis.

 One more walk was left after a hectic day. A night walk. 
I was staying in Old Bukhara. In Hotel Sultan, across a path to the south of Lab e Hauz. I took a ten minute leisurely walk to the Kalon Minaret. 

Through brightly lit arched gates and courtyards brimming with shops.

Kalon Minaret is the most prominent landmark (48 m high, 9 m diameter at its base and 6 at the roof of the rotunda at the top) of Bukhara. It was designed by a Bako and built by Mohammad Arslan Khan in 1127 so that the muzzein's call to prayer could be heard all over Bukhara of those days. It was also used to throw people that the Emir's didn't like off it. Pity the maulvi who had to climb it five times a day and of course the victims. 
The rotunda has 16 arched windows. 
This tower so impressed Chenghez Khan that he spared it while destroying the rest of Bukhara in 1220.  About this Tower of Death Fitzroy Maclean who made a clandestine visit in the Soviet days of 1938 wrote in his book Eastern Approaches "For centuries before 1870, and again in the troubled years between 1917 and 1920, men were thrown from the delicately ornamented gallery which crowns it." In 1921 the cruel Sultan (of the summer palace) ran away to exile in Afghanistan. 

 Next morning walking in an alley of Old Bukhara I saw a 300 year old door (left) and a three month door (right).
The Ismail Samani cuboid mausoleum was built in the 9th century. He was the founder of the Samanids the last Persian dynasty to rule Bukhara. 
The unique style of this mausoleum combines Zoroastrian and Islamic motifs. There are curved and circular bricks here. They are joined with normal rectangular and square bricks to make intricate and attractive patterns. This was built at a time when Zorastrians had begun to convert to Islam.
When Chenghis Khan sacked Bukhara this shrine was saved as it had been buried in mud brought from a flood. 
These pictures show that colour full tiles alone are not eye catching.
Observe the mathematical confidence the architect had in making these marvellous patterns.
The dome.
The arches.

The door way and the simple tomb. Not so the brick work elsewhere in this mausoleum.
The ancient door.
A 15th C tank by its side. This monument is in a corner of a vast amusement park.

The last two kilometers or so of  the 16th C clay and wattle wall that protected Bukhara. It has at least held an expanding market and car park from encroaching into the park. In this market is a stall that sells Soviet Union days stamps, coins and medals, which after bargaining become a little less expensive.

 Remnants of the 16th C wall still protecting a park from the incursions of the market to the left.
 An ingenious cradle designed to take the over flow from male and female babes!

Near the Samanid mausoleum is a strange conical domed small structure. It is called Chashm e Ayub or Job's Spring.There's a legend that Job (Bible) or Ayub (Quran) got a spring to flow by striking the ground with his staff. This building was made by Timur. 
From the front the cone can not be seen from near the entrance which is plain and elegant.
Its a severely simple building but impressive and attractive.

Next to the present day amusement park is the Bolo Hauz mosque built in 1712. The Ark is beyond the large hauz (tank). Prayers are held everyday.

To the left is the Sukhov water tower made in 1927 and at right is the mosque's minaret from which the faithful were summoned before amplifiers took over.
The graceful interior of the Bolo Hauz mosque.

Completed by the 6th C, the Ark had a palace, rooms for staff and soldiers and a Zoroastrian fire temple. Though no one I met could tell me how water was brought there.

The Ark was destroyed and rebuilt several times even after soothsayers said that it will be safe if its perimeter was designed like the Great Bear constellation.

 In 713, Arabs built the first mosque in Bukhara after destroying the Zoroastrian temple. Then the Persian Samanids and Turkic (?) Karakhanids controlled it from the 9th to the 12th centuries. It was finally levelled by  Chenghez Khan and his Hordes in 1220.

Its present shape dates from the 16th century under the Uzbeks. Now lived an Emir and about a 1000 retainers. It is still the same disorganised and confused hulk it was then, but much cleaner. A living room here and an another there with a spacious throne hall extending into a courtyard in between. There is nothing regal about its insides. 

Today, tourists enter through the western gate that was built by Nadir Shah in 1742. There are two bastions above the gate linked by a balcony from which the Emir etc would look down upon the bazaar out side the fort and on executions. The Ark's original main gate was the one that led to the Kalon minar and the Juma mosque.

The wide space surrounding the fort was unpaved and called the Registan which until the end of the 19th C was a crowded market where one could buy everything from cloth to a Russian or Persian slave. Slavery was abolished around the same time (1868) as in the USA, but like in the USA, it continued by another name- in the service of King Cotton. This was the main reason that the USA, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, spread false environmental propaganda blaming the latter for producing so much cotton that the Amu darya no longer flowed into the Aral Sea, which dried up. 

Cotton was being grown in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for hundreds of years by diverting the Amu. Under the Soviets, Uzbeks became the 2nd largest cotton growing area in the world. Now it isn't and USA's cotton has seen a 1000% increase in cost and huge profits. QED!

The picture above was taken from the Shukhov water tower. It shows a large courtyard in the foreground, which was ringed by stables, the court mosque to the right and a path leading to the audience courtyard.

This curved entrance was meant to make it difficult for intruders. Now only ticket windows grant ingress.
The passage leads past cells which have wax recreations of prisoners from about a century ago and older. The actual prisoners were emaciated and diseased. These are well fed.

The passage through the western gate comes onto this clearing around which were stables. The building behind the curio sellers is the pavilion from which a series of blood thirsty Emirs would watch executions in the Registan. Beyond is the Shukhov water tower.
 To the left of the entrance yard is the old court mosque that has a colourful wooden roof
There's a small dome above the mosque, but the curvature is hidden by a flat pained false ceiling.

The view from the court mosque is of an alley leading to more structures to the right and left.

One of the several paths that weave in and out of sunlight. The few steps at the back lead to the Emir's living rooms, which are now a museum. In between is what used to be the audience courtyard.
After one enters the modest sized arched gate there is a thick wall about 6 m long and 4 m high. It was meant to prevent petitioners and courtiers from seeing the Emir directly. Just another one of those repugnant elitist customs of the middle ages.  
The audience courtyard and the throne.  There is an audience hall nearby, but that was closed. A replica of the throne is under the silk canopy.

There are curio stalls at every turn inside the Ark . Fittingly, in this den of cruelty, all kinds of knives for different tortuous purposes designed years ago were also being sold.

In the museum are interesting objects like robes and photographs and instruments. This is of an Italian folding mirror. Folding? Because an open mirror was considered to be bad luck.
This is a photograph taken in 1907 by the famous Russian photographer Potorkin Gorskii. It is of  the corpulent Amir Alam Khan- the last Emir of Bukhara. He never lived in the Ark, but in the Summer Palace. 
Symbols of good luck (!) that were usually put on the graves of royalty or saints.

Shukhov's water tower that was built in 1927. Its 33 m high and there is a lift now to the top and gives a 360 degree view of Bukhara.

 View from the top- Minus the North and South Poles, several prominent locations are given.To the right is a towering synthetic Christmas Tree being installed. The modern times commercial aspects of Christmas have gripped this Silk Route heritage town easily.

 Northern portion of the wall and a truncated but paved and spruced Registan .
 This is a park next to the Bolo Hauz mosque. The trees have shed their leaves for winter, but in addition gardeners have lopped off most of their branches to prevent crows from perching on them.

Kalon minaret from the water tank. Had that ugly modern steel pylon been invisible I would have taken this picture in colour.

A kilometer or so away from the Ark is an horrible reminder of the brutal ways the evil Emirs ruled.  Zindon, was a prison built in the 17th C for 100, but more than five times that number were kept. Some for offences as minor as not paying the cost of a basket of melons. 
 It is grim from outside and frightening from inside. It had a double wall for more efficient and cruel security.
Once one stepped inside that dreadful door there was no light. Many died within months of incarceration.
Two British officers suffered harsher and prolonged torture before being beheaded. This picture from the museum in the Ark is of Col. Charles Stoddart and Capt. Arthur Connolly. The former arrived in 1837 to meet the Bokhara Emir. The Emir was furious when after the meeting Stoddart turned his back to him and walked away and sent him to Zindon. Three years later Connolly was sent to the negotiate Stoddart's release. Far from mollifying the Emir he angered him even more as instead of a letter from Queen Victoria he had brought him a letter from the mere Governor General of India.  

Connolly was thrown into this bug pit that was 6  meters deep and in which Stoddart had been living on and off for three years. For a year they remained here and were finally executed in 1842 in the Registan outside the Ark's western gate (photograph above).

Footnote: A group called Young Bukharans began resistance against the Emir from 1912. Despite many such dreadful instances of nauseating and temperamental feudal governance the British and US combined in 1918 to protect his descendant- Amir Alam Khan and his misrule. They sent a joint team of intelligence agents to Uzbekistan under a US diplomat called Roger Tredwell to raise some kind of resistance against the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution of 1917. It failed miserably.

This is a statue of Fayzulla Ubaydullayevich Khodzhayev (1896 - 1938). He was the son of one of the richest Bukhara merchants. His father didn't like the Emir and sent Fayzulla to Russia for education. He returned in 1916 as a Marxist and joined the Young Bukharans who with the help of the Soviet Army threw the Emir out. In 1920 he became head of the Bukharan Peoples Soviet Republic and from 1924 to 1937 he became Chairman of Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. He was executed by Stalin as he demanded greater autonomy for Uzbekistan. Stalin is as detested as the Emirs.

This was the house and office and godown of Fayzulla Khodzhayev's father, who used to trade with Russia in furs among a variety of goods. Caravans would bring or collect goods from the yard in front. To the right under a cart wheel was a sweet water well, now dried up. 

The narrow entrance to the ample house of the Khodzhayevs. 

The Khodzhayev mansion is now used by about to be married couples for photo shoots.They borrow traditional dresses from the Khodzhayev's wardrobe.

Old Bukhara's alleys are a mixture of crumbling tradition and rapidly encroaching modern times. All houses have heating and electricity. 

Before a traditional Uzbek meal of pilaf (non veg naturally)& Uzbek bread a cup of chai from an ornate kettle.

Around the base of the great Kalyan minaret is a collection of religious architecture known as Po e Kalan meaning At the Feet of the Great. 

Near the Kalon Minar and opposite the Kalon or Juma Mosque is the Mir Arab madrassa that was finished in 1536.  This is the view from the aywan or giant arch of the Juma masjid. Again is seen the breathtaking tile art of that era which made fantasy a reality.

An idea of the tile borders on one side of the Ulugh Beg madrassa's aywan.

A detail showing the embroidery like delicacy in making these unlikely patterns from stones. 

Unlike in Samarkand where tile work covered the entire edifice here it is embedded against a simple unadorned background of just bricks.

The courtyard inside the Mir Arab madrassa from a trellis window in the main gallery after the entrance.

Mixing simplicity with grand decorative artistry. The entrance to the Kalon mosque.

 Instead of tiles the arch is decorated with creative geometric calligraphy in praise of Allah.

 After the entrance is a large courtyard, which has galleries running right around the square. The main chamber is straight ahead marked with a blue dome. The monotony of the long galleries to the right and left is broken with gaily tiled and graceful aywans or iwans or arches.

The galleried wings of the mosque are supported by 288 stone pillars. The courtyard and the galleries could contain 12,000 people.

This view is from the maksura (main chamber) looking towards the entrance and beyond to the twin domes of the Mir Arab madrassa. The small cupola in the foreground is supposed to commemorate a well in which Chenghez Khan had stuffed many bodies.

Around Po e Kalyan are numerous curio shops. No historical building is without them. People have to make a living I guess, but so much competition could not be good for any one's business.

This site got as much attention from me as the monuments. Cleanliness is taken so seriously that at any time some part of the city is being cleaned. 

Every section is swept four times a day. These two workers are resting for a while before one more attack on garbage.

Near this Ensemble is a carpet factory producing the famous Bukhara silk & woolen carpets.
Here's a dazzling array of the carpets. Silk on the walls and woolen on the floor.

The Ulug Beg madrassa was designed by  Mahmad Isfahani, who could have been a descendant of one of the many architects and artisans captured by Timur's armies in Isfahan, Iran.  Timur specialised in abducting craftsmen and killing the rest. It was finished in 1417. The extravagant flourish of stalactites and colourful tiles is back here. The calligraphy is just as exquisite and perfect as it was in Samarkand.

A detail from the right support of the huge arch of the Ulugh Beg madrassa. The innermost panel has two peacocks at the base of the vase.
A wing of the Ulugh Beg madrassa with a different arrangement.
Just an ordinary street guide and behind it to the left is a poster advising people to vote in the election of MPs on the 22nd of December, 2019.
 This is Chor Minar- Built in the early 19th C and inspired by Hyderabad's Char Minar. Notice the artificial stork's nest atop one cupola? Bukhara had more than 100 water bodies and many storks which would build there nests in similar perches. Over time these nests were considered auspicious and are replicated atop many domes, as the storks have gone. Bukhara's people overused these ponds for everything. Thus plagues occurred frequently. The Soviets as soon as they took over Bukhara, sealed all but a handful of these ponds. Like the Lab e Hauz as it was the centre of a complex that had a 17th C madrassas.

 A  synagogue in Old Bukhara, looking well  used. What is more important- No harassment of Jews or any other minority whatsoever in this Muslim majority town. All have the same rights.

A tea vending rehri with an electric engine in the old town around Lyab e Hauz.

An electric rickshaw.

Lyab e Hauz- One of the two or at best three tanks left after the Soviets filled more than a hundred in Old Bukhara because of recurrent plagues. It was made in 1618 by Nadir Divan Begi, a wazir or minister in the cabinet of  Imamkuli-khan, had this pool made between the khanaka (a retreat for Sufis to reflect and rest) to the west and madrasah to the east- both still bear his name. This artificial reservoir was named Lyabi Hauz and became the most popular gathering spot in Bukhara.

Temur's array of dishes is incomparable in Bukhara. Its opposite Asia Hotel near Lyab e Hauz.

To the east of Lyab e Hauz is Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah at the back.  It is a part of the architectural complex around Lyab e Hauz. It was finished in 1617. The reign pf Imamkuli-khan (1611-1642) was the most stable and relatively peaceful in Bukhara. It was a time when governors were not at constant wars and thus had time for town-planning.

The statue is of the famous 13th C wit, poet and philosopher well known all over Central and South Asia. Though he lived in Turkey, Bukhara has adopted him as one of its own and have a legend that he was born in Bukhara. This statue is a recent one. 

Lyab e  Hauz is a favourite site for taking pictures of to-be-married couples . At the back, in the first picture, is the Kukeldash madrassa built in 1569. It is to the north of Lyab e Hauz. On the right is the Nadir Divan Begi madrassa built fifty years later. 

Kukeldash is a title of respect. It is the largest Bukhara madrasah. It was built by Bukhara governor Kulbab, who was sly enough to have got on with all Khans he served under. Kukeldash is different from other madrassas as instead of a perimeter wall it has niched balconies all around and within that rectangular building is a large courtyard with trees inside.

 Lyab e Hauz is a commercial focal point too. From early morning, even in December, hopeful retailers such as this elderly lady, occupy places to sell whatever they have to sell.

 The Nadir Divan Begi Khanaka (1617) to the west of Liyab e Hauz. It was meant for Sufi preachers to meditate and rest.

The Uzbek National Bank is in a Soviet era building. Under that domed building at the back is a cross road where a 17th C bath house is.
Cross roads under the dome.

 A fashion statement that has made no difference to the lady in the foreground.
To the south of the Uzbek National Bank is one of the few remaining hauz or tanks. To its west is Khoja Kalon mosque, a madrassa and a short minaret. This complex is known as Khoja Gau Khushan Ensemble. It was finished in 1579. At this place cattle used to be traded and killed.
The Khoja Gau Khushan minaret and a corner of the madrassa to its left.

About a kilometer to the west of Lyab e Hauz a hotel was to be built at this spot in Old Bukhara. Then they discovered the ruins of some ancient building. End of hotel. Excavations are on to find out more.
To the right are the arches of two caravan serais- Fathulojon and Ahmadiyon- built in 19th C.
Ahmadiyon Caravan serai.

This caravan serai is still being used, but for a different purpose. All these caravan serais were usually built close to bath houses. Naturally.
 Ever optimistic, even late in a frozen night, a souvenir seller waits and waits.

Bukhara earns most from gas and King Cotton. Canals from Zeravshan and Amu daryas provide the water for this crop that is planted in February and picked in October. It not only cotton that is grown here but fruit, vegetables, wheat and an another water guzzler- rice. Its been so for ages. This heap is of cotton sticks to be used for cooking.  Bangladesh is the largest importer of cotton.

The Government, keeping a tradition from Soviet days, provides cheap housing for farmers. 

Logs from Russia outside a carpenter's house. Russia is still the largest trading partner of Uzbekistan.

Fish in dry Bukhara! To the east of the airport is the large Bukhara Oasis called Tudakul. Maybe the fish are from there or an another oasis to the west of Bukhara close to the Turkmenistan border. The Amu (Oxus) is just inside Turkmenistan and these could easily be smuggled from there too.
 This is how bandits obliged each other in pre Russian Revolution years. This palace was built by the Bukhara Emir for a proposed 1918 week long visit by Czar Nicholas to Bukhara. It is near the Khogan railway station. The Czar lost his head before he could use it. It is an office now.
The neat, clean and grand railway station of Bukhara.
The train on the left is the high speed train to Bukhara from Tashkent. The train on the right is a thob Soviet monster that does the 437 kms journey to Khiva non stop in a little more than five hours.
Several Amu daryas will be required to water this parched land that took nearly two hours to cross. Cane bushes have been planted to protect small plots sheltered by crescent shaped dunes in the hope that some vegetables or crops (certainly not cotton!) would survive. In a land that gets only 10 cms of rain in a year water is the biggest problem. And yet when waters of the Amu, Syr and Zeravshan rivers are diverted for agricultural use the west sanctimoniously criticises. After a few years of listening to them the Governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have rebuffed their enivronmental concerns.

About two hour before Urgench the train crosses a very full and rather wide Amu, which is near the end of its 2620 kms long journey. Its furthest tributary is Kyzyl Su, which starts as a spring 10 kms south of Kyrghystan's Ishyk Kul lake.

This is where the lie of the US propaganda is exposed. They repeatedly blamed Bukhara's cotton cultivation for depleting the river to a trickle. But here under this bridge near Kichik-Dzhuvarkhaz, and far north of Bukhara, it was in full flow. Its waters from here on are diverted for agriculture and orchards leaving only a trickle to flow beyond Nukus in Karalpakstan (Uzbekistan). People have to live. Better to grow food than be food gatherers.

End of the line at flood lit Khiva. This was a small train with only four bogies. One of them had a compartment and kitchen for the railway staff.

KHIVA:  Population: About 100,000; 2500 years old, bordering Kyzl Kum and Kara Kum deserts

The linguist (he knew Sanskrit too), mathematician, physicist, astronomer, poet, philosopher and traveller Al Biruni (973 to 1048 CE) was born and raised here. But the city is better known for brutality, slavery of the whimsical and ill tempered Khans who misruled it. In comparison the Emirs of Bukhara and Timur of Samarkand were in Kindergarten in the School of Cruelty.

This is the region where Old Testament and Islamic legends are common. There was Danial in Samarkand, Job in Bukhara. In Khiva  tradition tells of one of Prophet Noah's sons Shem ( Semitic is from this root) was wandering here after the Flood in the deserts here.  Thirsty, he dreamed of a well where Khiva is. He dug at the spot of which he had dreamt and the water so good that he exclaimed "Khey vakh!" ("How splendid!" or some such praise). This well in Ichan Kala can still be seen.

It is at the edge of Western Siberia and about 800 kms ESE of Aktau (Kazakhstan) and formerly the Russian Fort Alexandrovsk on the Caspian Sea. From 18th C Russian armies had tired to invade Khiva but severe blizzards defeated them. The pretext for these attempts was to free the Russian slaves (not the thirty thousand others) that were held in Khiva. 

In 1840 a daring English spy Lt. Richmond Shakespeare set off from Herat and convinced the Khiva Khan to give him the  416 Russian slaves and handed them to a surprised Russian Commandant of Fort Alexandrovsk. Russians had been trying since 1717 to have Rusian slaves released from the clutches of the Khiva Khans. The first attempt was by the Cossacks in 1602. Then in 1717 Prince Chekassky led 4000 troops to the gate of Khiva. The Khan welcomed them and divided them into four camps- and slaughtered all. The next debacle was in 1840 when the rescuing Russian troops got caught in a prolonged blizzard and couldn't even come close to Khiva.

Russian attempts continued and finally in 1873 they controlled Khiva but allowed its Khan to rule within strict limits. By 1925 it was firms within the Soviet Union. By 1970s many of its mosques and madrassas and minarets had been restored and the old town was uncharacteristically squeaky clean. 

Khiva had many gardens and orchards- thanks to the Amu darya. Lt. Frederick Burnaby (Ride to Khiva) who got to Khiva in January 1885 from Orenburg in Western Siberia by a sledge. Except for the last three days the 40 days journey was on snow. 

It has two parts Itchan Kala and Dichan Kala. Ichan Kala is the inner city in which the Khan and his courtiers lived. It had about 300 houses and 60 historical palaces and mosques then and the same even now. No new construction is allowed within the old fort walls. Dchan Kala is the city within the outer fort walls. Its crowded with hotels.  There are modern schools, hospitals and stadiums. Khiva has expanded beyond the outer fort walls too. 

In both Ichan and Dichan Khiva re 94 mosques and 63 madrassas. 

Turkmenistan border and Amu darya are five kms to the west and Urgench the capital of Khoresm is 35 kms to ENE. 

 From Khiva railway station the drive was past rows of new hotels and more being built. There was also a brand new school that looked like a hotel and as well lit. We entered through the south gate into Ichan Kala- the old city within the inner wall. It has about three hundred houses, which can't be rebuilt or resold. There was a rough road to Hotel  Khivyak Khiva. I looked out of my window and this is the sight that stunned me. The 45 m high Islam Khodja minaret was only 60  m away!
 I stepped out.

 Instead of turning left I turned right and saw the Juma minaret. First the simple, rugged and functional base.
 Then the whole minaret. It is much simpler than the Kalon minaret of Bukhara and even the later Islam Khodja minaret that I had seen from my window.

Ahead of it was the Kalta ( half) minaret . That was enough of a walk in the sub zero December night.

 This 45 m tall minar was built in 1908- the latest and last Islamic building in Khiva. For a while it was used as a lighthouse too to guide caravans crossing the Kara Kum desert to the north in today's Karalpakstan (a semi autonomous region of Uzbekistan). It has flawless bands of turquoise and red tiling around it. It has 118 steps but no one is allowed to use them.
 It was a very cold morning and even the choy shop had not opened till 10.00 hrs. Also, as there weren't enough tourists demanding tea.
 Many astrakhans (fur caps) had been laid out expectantly.

While all Khiva was shrouded and cold in -2 C....

.....in came this couple from the Western Gate, on Pahlavan Mahmud street for a photo shoot. The bride had only this gauze like finery on. Must have had a half a bottle of brandy too.
 A large 6 X 3 m clay map of Ichan Kala.
 The Western Gate and cleaning brigade enters Ichan Kala (inside the inner wall).

The Ichan Kala fort clay wall has a circumference of 2 kms, height of 10 m and width at the base is 8 m. It has four gates- N, S, E & W.

 Outside the wall is Dichan Kala  (within the outer wall) that was meant for the citizens not working for the Khiva Khans. Soviets had built wide roads in this part of Khiva.

Dichan Kala has many hotels. Every month a new one is added. About a million tourists come to Khiva ever year.
Huddled in an ATM booth- more for the warmth than for the money I presume.

A 19th C madrassa - replete with the usual pretty tile work - converted into a popular hotel (Orient Star) since the Soviet days.

Restaurant in an annexe of the madrassa.

The corridors are empty of customers and the staff sits near heaters.

 This hotel is closed for winter as it still does not have heating.
 Old frescoes are well preserved.

A sloping bridge connecting the Government owned Oriental Star Madrassa Aminoxn with Kalta minar. Kalta means half done.

Across the street is this entrance to a Soviet days open air cinema house within the palace compound where they would screen films of labour struggles and murderous Khans. Now, but not in winter tourist films are shown.
 The hotel is next door to the gaily tiled Kalta minar that was begun in 1851 by Khan Mohammed Amin but the beautifully tiled structure remained incomplete after he died in 1855. No words necessary. Just marvel at what would have been had this tower been completed.

This is in the heart of Ichan Kala, Khiva.

The southern wall of the palace inside Ichan Kala.

 Pahalawan Mahmud Mausoleum (near the Juma tower): Pahalawan (1247 - 1326) was a wrestler, doctor, poet and patron saint of Khiva. It is the religious center of Khiva. The mausoleum was made in 1810. Since then it had become the favoured  place of burial of the Khans' and their families.

Near and to the south of Kalta minar is the Kunya-Ark Citadel. 

Ovens for making samsas.

Opposite the Ark is a small shopping centre made by the Russians in the late 19th C.

                             The entrance to the Ark encased between two minarets with geometric calligraphy on tiles covered drums with blue cupolas on top.

It was completed in 1686 by Khan Arang.  From the many constructions only few buildings of the 19th C and the beginning of the 20th C remain. Among them are the reception courtyard, the throne room, a mosque, a mint, and an harem. A high-cogged wall separated the ark from the rest of Ichan Kala.

At the left of the entrance is a chamber of horrors informing the morbid, with pictures and paintings and records, of what horrible tortures were inflicted on people often for no crime at all- marrying out of one's religion was one, which infuriated the maulvis and the Khans.

On passing through is an outer yard, serving as a waiting room for the khan's audiences.

From spring to autumn films are shown here. A custom started by the Soviets in 1930s.

This is the courtyard where the Khans would listen to petitions and hear cases. Little justice only temperamental, eccentric and quirky decisions that could not be questioned.

The courtyard with cold blue, white and sky blue patterns with majolica (Italian Renaissance 15th C). The tiling was done by a local artisan Mukhammad from 1814 onwards.

Our guide explaining that this delicate and magnificent 'embroidery' has no beginning or end. It was meant to soothe the Khans! The blue is a spectacular contrast with the red of the wooden paneled roof.

This door leads to the throne room- meant for special people.

The throne room. The walls are decorated with carved plaster and the throne is made of turned wood with silver inlay.

The mint within the Citadel and a diorama showing how coins were minted.

It was a cold day. Never more than 4 C. Outside the mint was this lady selling woollens

and people of Khiva were more interested in those than the mint.

This was the harem, which had its own wall.

There are a couple of passages in the fort that one can get lost in. The doors as well as the pillars in the fort and the mosques elsewhere ought to be admired for their intricate designs.

They lead to attractive and mysterious dead ends.

This attractive Khorasem restaurant is in a house in which once lived a courtier.

Instead of tile panels are hung carpets and susanis.

In  his book A Ride to Khiva written in 1875, Lt.Fredrick Burnaby mentions that in Khiva, in frozen January, he had juicy water melons and melons. Wherever I went asked for these, but couldn't them. In this restaurant they had.

Burnaby describes that these melons were stored in basements at 2C temperature.

I was told that they are hung individuallywithout touching each other, like in this picture.

Kutli Murad Inak madrassa

Ichan Kala allows only cars of tourists and its 250-300 residents only. The roads are rough and unpaved. No minaret it seemed to me in these parts is left without tasteful decorations. This is a small one next to a mosque.

This one has these symbols which according to the guide meant water and sea.

The muzzein's turret had an almost conical cupola and  band of bright azure tiles near the very top.

Big houses, which could be modest palaces, and smaller ones are hotels now. All have a character and individuality about them.

A shop in Ichan Kala.

Buying bread.

Bosh means a head policeman! This privileged person has a popular restaurant added to his exploits now.
At the base of the rather unusually simple Juma tower is the old Juma masjid. 
It is completely different from the typical open-air courtyard-centric architecture that dominates in Khiva. The prayer hall's rectangular form is 55 x 46 m. It has 214 karagacha (black elm) columns. Apart from two small light wells and the small entrances on four sides of the hall, there were no windows or other openings.  Its an early Arab-style mosque design that prevailed till the 18th century.

A light well.

Carvings on the pillars always differed.

This is the east gate next to yet another madrassa. On account of so many madrassa Khiva was known as the most religiously important city in Central Asia. Though religion did not make the Khans kinder or charitable. That is the east gate in the background.

Any slave that displeased his master would have his ears nailed to the door there. And this was a minor punishment.

Ichan Kala- the old city within the inner wall- has an area of about 300 acres with intriguing alleys and paths lined with history- monuments and old houses nudging each other. Its mesmerising to saunter down these paths. One discovers sights that guides forget to mention.

Though there were many sites left to see this one I didn't want to miss. That square in the distance has two decks of an observation platform from the past. Some had said that one could see the Kara Kum desert (close to the west in Turkeministan) and some that Kyzl Kum (to the north in Uzbekistan) could be seen. I saw neither.
 Views from the top. The fort wall surrounding Ichan Kala. The modern building at the back is the mayor's office.
 The Dichan Kala, which is outside the inner wall but inside the outer one with its mosques and madrassas.
Kulti Murad Inak madrassa and the 33 m Juma minaret to the right and the 45 m Khodja Islam minaret further on. The cupolas above the main gate of the Ark are in the foreground.
Kalta minar and Oriental Star Hotel in a madrassa.
Clay and wattle fort. 

Dream trip over.

My dream trip would not have been possible without the help of Ashita Mittal and her sister Kiran.

Advice- Credit cards don't work in most places, but as conditions are improving every where, it would be better to confirm before starting. Visa can be got online within 48 hours now.