I was all shopped out by the time I got to Khiva, my bags were full and I had firmly resolved not to be tempted - at all! by anything!! And then I saw the suzani in the photo here - it was so, so beautiful, quite THE most stunning piece I had seen outside a museum in the whole trip. No - I didn't buy it - my bags really were full to bursting and it was huge - it would have covered a queen-size bed easily, and my wallet was very thin - the starting price was $400. I shook my head, took a photo and moved on.
MrL (the original carpet hound) had bought a silk carpet in Samarkand - he too resisted temptation and, although we went back no less than 3 times, the carpet in photo 2 is still in Khiva.
The moral of this little tale is that just because Khiva is certainly not the cornucopia of gorgeous goodies that Bukhara and, to a lesser extent, Samarkand are does not mean to say you won't be tempted.
What to buy: You'll find suzanis everywhere you go in Uzbekistan, there are carpets aplenty in Samarkand and Bukhara, Rishtan's the place for ceramics, Shahrisabz has its own style of embroidery, Kokand's woodcarvers are said to be the best and Margilan's the place for silk. So what is special about Khiva?
The local saint, Paklavan Mahmoud, was a maker of fur hats back in the 16th century and they're still selling fur hats here today. Whether you choose a wild and woolly Turkman telpak or something more glamorous such as glossy mink or pale-green-dyed fox is up to you.
Not in to fur? How about some handknitted slipper-socks? Worn by local women in winter, they're unique to this region. Knee-length ones make terrific Christmas stockings. You'll find them everywhere, and see the women knitting them so you can be sure they're not cheap Chinese imports (though one day they might be)
Otherwise, it's the usual mix of embroidered skull caps and bags, carved wood (we did buy a great walking stick), silk scarves and crafty bric-a-brac. You will certainly have more choice in other places but our motto is always to put something into local purses so room was found for a handsome skullcap to add to the collection and some embroidered squares from the Suzani Centre to be framed when they got home.
What to pay: $1000+ for a carpet, $hundreds for a fabulous suzani, $12 for a square of embroidery, $5 for a skull cap, a few dollars for a pair of socks, rather more for a fur hat....and the walking stick - we can't remember.
What to buy:
We didn’t actually buy a lot in Khiva as it was the first stop on our tour and we weren’t sure what else we find in the cities still to come, nor indeed exactly what we wanted to buy among all the wonderful handicrafts (and it has to be said, not so wonderful touristy trash). Most of the things we saw here were in fact available (or very similar) elsewhere, with the exception of these shaggy furry hats – but who could face trying these on in 45 degree temperatures, even if you were happy to buy fur? Apart from these the goods we saw on sale here were mainly scarves and embroideries, and the selection was less good than in Bukhara or Samarkand. But if you want to shop, there was one near the Applied Arts Museum which had a colourful display.
What to pay: I didn’t check the prices as I wasn’t interested in buying but nothing in Uzbekistan struck me as being anything other than very reasonable (or downright cheap) for what it was. OK you pay for quality, but still a lot less than many other countries.
Well, if I would be sarcastic, I would say that Khiva has more shopping possibilities than buildings and sights to visit. You will find small shops, street vendors and markets on each and every corner.
Unless you want to buy something specifically from Khiva (such as a miniature of the minarets), I strongly suggest that you do your souvenir shopping somewhere else, like in Bukhara or Samarkand. Prices just will differ very much, selection as well.
Another story is the silk workshop in Alli Kuli medressa. Here you will definitely have a good selection and get fair prices. Prices for silk should be not more than 6-7 USD per metre. The silk rolls are either 50 or 60 centimetres broad and 2,5 m in length.
However, if you plan to visit Ferghana Valley, I strongly suggest you should look for silk in Marghilan. There is a production site as well, and prices and selection are even better than in the Khiva workshop.
Helped by Operation Merci and by the Unesco, this workshop has trained young people into the art of Silk dying and weaving in the old traditional way, using only natural pigments. The paterns of the carpets are those found on old Persian miniatures, or the same as the mosaics found in the mosqs or palaces of Khiva.
The work done their is wonderful, and it's really worth a visit...
Let yourself be tempted. Yes, the carpets are a bit expensive, but they are unique piece, made by hand, and allow the workers a fare wage.
What to pay: Depending on the amount of work that was needed to make the carpet (usually three girls working at the same time for nealy three months). A medium sized carpet will cost around 750USD.
No worries, you will be given all the proofs of purchase and all the documents you will need to take your carpet home without havng to fight with custums!!!