21st November 2019
After walking a few hundred metres up a rocky track, we traversed along the edge of Ayaz Kala, a 2nd century fortress located a few hours from Khiva in the north west of Uzbekistan. We timed it perfectly to watch the sun hover above the horizon to give the whole desert a golden glow. It was possible to see for miles in all directions. A little imagination was required to picture what life would have been like in the fortress all those centuries ago. But standing on the edge looking out into the Kyzylkum desert would have been exactly the same. I wonder if the defenders would have been able to appreciate the beauty of a desert bathed in the late afternoon sun, between periods spent fretting about invading armies.
After descending the track we checked in to our yurts for the night. I was keen to sleep outside under the stars and managed to talk a couple of clients into joining me. But first it was time for a feast! It's always time for a feast in central Asia. Such is the hospitality that food is plentiful and seemingly never ending. Although we were 'camping' in yurts, there were actually wooden framed beds in there as well as electric blankets. However for those used to the luxury of modern hotels it was still outside the comfort zone. The three of us who had decided to sleep outside dragged our beds out and a little away from the yurts. When the son of the family that run the yurt camp saw us, he told us we were crazy at least 20 times before his curiosity was satisfied and he went away.
All tucked in, I gazed up at the immense universe above me and took delight in being able to see the milky way so clearly. It was perfectly still and quiet as I drifted off to sleep. I woke a few times in the night and looked out to remind myself where I was. At one point the wind picked up a little and by 5am it must have been close to zero degrees so I had to keep my head tucked under the covers. I'm not sure the others slept too well, but it's certainly an experience they will remember. After breakfast we drove to Khiva to appreciate a hot shower and a fancy coffee as well as experience sleeping in a hotel that has been converted from a 17th century madrasah - The Orient Star.