A further update on the second part of the trip.
Day Six - Journey from Buchara:
After a very pleasant Shabbat with the handful of remaining Jews in Buchara, we got ready to set off to our last stop in Uzbekistan - the ancient city of Khiva. On the way out of Buchara, we visited the tomb of one of the great Sufi mystics, and met pilgrims from around the world who had come to receive blessings and inspiration at the holy site. The drive through the Uzbek desert, up along the border with Turkmenistan, was pretty long and arduous and took up most of the rest of the day. We might have to rethink this part of the tour! We stopped at the only stop on the way a few hours out of Buchara, and half-slept the rest of the way, but around sunset finally made it to Khiva and checked in to the hotel, just on the edge of the walled city. There were no lights outside, and after a short attempt to explore the city by ourselves, we came back to the hotel and contented ourselves with waiting for our guide in the morning.
Day Seven - Khiva:
Khiva is incredibly beautiful. The intricate geometrical artwork on blue tiles that decorated some of the mosques and mausoleums in other cities now covered every building we could see. Each building outdid the last in size, complexity and sheer beauty. We visited harems, prisons, labyrinths and palaces - some of which have been turned into small half-hearted museums dedicated to various crafts. Pedlars were selling camelskin socks and hand-carved bookstands, and it was apparently wedding season, because we met at least a dozen brides and grooms walking and dancing in every corner of the old city. We ended up in a farmers' market outside the city walls, where all sorts of things were bought and sold. We stayed another night in the hotel, tired but satisfied.
Day Eight - Out of Khiva:
We woke up early and checked out of the hotel, mentally preparing ourselves to say goodbye to Uzbekistan after a week of getting to know the wacky and fascinating country. But things didn't go exactly as planned. A thick fog had descended on the area, and after a cautious drive to the nearest airport in Urgench, we were informed that no planes could take off until the fog had lifted. Since we were planning to take a flight from Tashkent later that day, we were a bit worried, and as the day went on and the fog stayed, our worries were realised. As I write, it's now 4pm and we still haven't moved, and our tentative plan is to fly back via Istanbul tomorrow. We've almost finished all our crisps, and I'm near the end of my badly-translated book of Uzbek short stories. But the last week has been such a great experienced that it's hard to get too troubled, and I'm cautiously optimistic. If we ever make it home, we'll send this email update out to you...
I will be sending out a further email later with practical information about the trip.