Khiva - The open Air Museum



Khiva – the magic city of Khoresmian Heritage. Today in Khiva we witness the past of Khorezm Kingdom, once the most powerful kingdom on the way of Genghis Khan. It is an oasis indeed, surrounded by two largest desert of Central Asia, The Kara-Kum and Kyzyl-Kum, washed and given life by the famous Oxus – Amu-Darya River.  It was the place where Caravans stopped crossing the deserts and it was as illusion after a long trip in desert. Where people met, cultures met, trade and crafts where developing. But unfortunately it was too important point for many, and was a reason for many destructions and invasion. Turkmens, Karakalpaks, and other nomadic tribes where ruling here time after time. City was not once destroyed, but for locals it took some time to recover back and flourish.
For a long period Khiva was a small town on the Caravan routes, while Kunya Urgench was the Capital of Khoresmian Kingdom till it was damaged and destroyed 2 times, first under Genghis Khan, and century later by Tamerlane. Kunya Urgench was abandoned and people moved to other places. Khiva on that time was a big city and many people came here to find job, home, new life. And each of the newcomers made his contribution to the development of arts, architecture, crafts, science and life in general.
After disintegration of the Great Empire of Tamerlane in 16 century, Khiva became a capital of Khorezm Kingdom. And it existed as capital of independent state till the end of the 19th century, it happened in 1873 when Russian Empire took over the Kingdom and made it protectorate of Russian Empire.
In 1920 Khiva People Republic was founded, but later it was included as a province to Uzbekistan Soviet Socialistic Republic. Today Khiva lost its role as capital, but has kept more, in historical, monumental heritage of the region.  Ichan Kala is a well-kept city with the monument from 18-20th centuries. It is an open air Museum for the visitors from all around the World. 

Khiva Sights:  

-       Itchan-Kala

-       Kalta-minor Minaret

-       Muhammad Aminkhan Madraah

-       Kunya-Ark Citadel
-       Muhammad Rahimkhan Madrasah
-       Juma Mosque
-       Mausoleum of Makhmud Pakhlavan
-       Tash-Khovli Palace
-       Shergazikhan Madrasah
-       Ak Mosque
-       Allakulikhan Madrasah
-         Islam Khoja complex 
-       Sayid Allauddin Mausoleum
-         Kibla Tozabog

City Gates.

The main sights lie within the massive Ichan Kala, which contains almost all of the ancient buildings of Khiva. There are four gates on each side of the wall;
-          North Gate (Bakhtscha Darvaza); it is also called Urgench Gate as direct to Urgench today;
-          East Gate (Palvan Darvaza) is the entry and exit to the caravanserai; It is the best preserved gate in Khiva, its passage is 60 m long with deep niches on both sides. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was the prison of the khanate, the niches serving as cells. The prisoners had to solicit alms of the passers-by in order not to die of starvation. Slaves who escaped and were captured again were nailed with their ears to the gate. The Palvan Darvaza was also called the "gate of the hangman": public executions took place in front of the gate. On the right hand side of Palvan Darvaza near the walls of Ichan Kala was the place of the slave market. Bukhara and Khiva were famous for their slave trade. The nomadic tribes moving through the desert and earning their living by robbery were reliable suppliers of slaves.
-          South Gate (Tosh Darvaza) is probably the least used, except by locals who live inside the Ichan Kala;
-          West Gate (Ata Darvaza), which is the main exit and entry point for almost all of the visitors. 

Kunya Ark 

Khiva rulers commanded from this fortress-residence from as early as the 12th century up to the 17th century when the khans expanded the structure to include a mosque, a harem, and a jail. After you see the see the gorgeous open-air, blue-tiled mosque, check out the throne room where the khans dispensed swift and brutal punishments against any transgressors. The three doors across from the throne decided your fate: the left door meant freedom, the center door meant imprisonment, and the right door meant death. Above the throne room is a lookout tower where you can capture a great view of entire Ark structure. Be sure to pay a visit to the jail, located just outside the entrance to the Ark, where you'll see gruesome paintings that depict the various ways the khans meted out punishment. Most of the buildings date from the 17th century The fortress covers an area of 130 x 90 m and was enclosed by a fortification wall 9 m high. Have a close look at the well preserved Summer Mosque. The glazed blue and white tiles are peculiar for the decoration used in Khiva. The ornaments in the form of stars and the floral and vegetable patterns clearly differ from those used in Bukhara. The mikhrab in the southern wall with quotations from the Quran is especially beautiful. Its tiles date from the 19th century In the corner on the left hand stood the minbar on top of which quotations from the Quran in Kufic script can still be seen. The tiles in the Reception Hall in green and white and with flower motives on a blue background were executed under Alla-Kuli Khan in the 19th century The Reception Hall is surrounded by a small courtyard with stone pavement which is separated from the other parts by a high wall. In the courtyard is a round elevation characterizing the place of the khan's winter yurt. On the left of the Reception Room is an Eyvan with two beautiful carved wooden columns. Eyvan and Reception Hall are decorated with painted ceilings. Behind the Eyvan was the Throne Room with the khan's throne in a niche. 
Mohammed Rahim Khan (Feruz) Madrassah
The madrassah is mostly dedicated to its namesake, the Khan Mohammed Rahim who managed to keep Khiva independent from infiltration by British and Russian forces until the late 19th century. He was poet and writer, philosopher and scholar same time using Feruz nickname. Lots of his books are preserved and the poems are translated to local language from the old script.
Kalta Minor
This short minaret is an iconic symbol of Khiva, mainly because of its exquisite blue and green tile work and the fact that it remains unfinished. It was originally supposed to rival the Kalon Minaret in Bukhara; however the architect fled before seeing it finished, fearing he would be put to death by the khan. Kalta Minor dates from the 19th century Apparently it has never been completed. It is 14 m in diameter at its base and 26 m high. According to the legend Amir Khan intended to build a a minaret from the top of which he could see to Bukhara, 400 km away. After his death in 1855 the construction works came to a halt. The varied pattern of colored glazed tiles in white, blue, green and a brownish yellow form a perfect harmony. 

Djuma Mosque.  

The old mosque was already mentioned by the Arab traveller Mohammed al-Magisi in the 10th century According to the inscriptions above the entrance the actual mosque was built in the 18th century and covers an area of 55 x 46 m. The interior is square in plan. It has two octagonal openings in the ceiling. Apart from wooden beams and columns it has no decoration. It contains 212 ornately carved columns that support the roof, dating back to the 12th to 15th century. The wooden columns were removed from other buildings which have been destroyed. The columns are masterpieces of wood carving. The whole surface is covered by leaves, flowers and tendrils, pomegranate blossoms and acanthus leaves. The columns are peculiar in form: they are spherical at their base, get a little bit narrower and end with a part similar to an oblong drinking glass. In some columns the base is a square marble or a round piece of wood only. Similar carved columns were not only used in palaces and mosques, but also in farmers' houses where they carry the roof of the verandah.  

Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum

The mausoleum is one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in Uzbekistan. Pakhlavan Mahmud ("the strong man") was famous for his extraordinary bravery, physical strength as well as his good nature. He was a furrier, but also a wrestler, doctor, poet and saint. The people gave him the title "Pakhlavan", meaning brave and handsome hero, as he defended the poor and is said to have had mystical powers. Pakhlavan Mahmud is also revered in Persia and India. His grave became an important shrine for pilgrims and became the burial place of the Khans of Khiva. Tradition says that the first building was erected over Pakhlavan Mahmud furrier's shop. The present building was erected in the 18th century, it covers an area 100 x 50 m wide, on which the saint's grave, prayer rooms, a pilgrims' lodge, a summer and a winter mosque have been built. According to an inscription the building was erected by architect Abdullah Din. It is considered as one of the most important buildings of Islamic Central Asia due to its interior totally covered with glazed tiles and due to artfully facade. In the 19th century the mausoleum became a necropolis of the princes of the Kungirat dynasty. It is considered as the last great mausoleum building in Central Asia. The southern entrance is the oldest part of the present building. It has an inscription on the wooden door indicating the date 1701. The mausoleum has an oval turquoise dome with white ornaments on the lower edges. Within the mausoleum are the richly decorated sarcophagus of Khan Mohammed Rahim and two sarcophagi of black marble of the historian Abu Al Gazi Khan who died in 1663 and of Anush Khan who died in 1681. Beside the prayer room is the crypt with the grave of Pakhlavan Mahmud. The walls are covered with ornaments all over, depicting interlacing stalks of flowers, leaves and zigzag or crossing lines. The wooden door with ivory work, the wooden columns and the glazed tiles make Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum to the best museum of applied arts in Khiva.
Islam Khodja Minaret.
One of the prominent officials of Kihva Khanate at its last stage was Islam Khodja, a Prime Minister who developed education, medicine, and life of people. He built Madrassah, Minaret and the school in Ichan Kala. The minaret is 45 m high and 10 m wide at its base. It was built in 1908, however using the same methods as the much older minarets at Bukhara and Kunya Urgench. You can see the minaret from every place in Khiva and even from far away in the desert. It is probable that the minaret served military purposes as well. 


Uzbekistan Hotels

Hotel Old Khiva

Sgl: $50 Tw: $70

Hotel Grand Tashkent

Sgl: $45 Tw: $55

Grand Samarkand Superior

Sgl: $75 Tw: $110

Yurt Camp

Sgl: $50 Tw:

Hotels in Central Asia

Hotel Margush

Sgl: $55 Tw: $80

Hotel Dashoguz

Sgl: $80 Tw: $110

Hyatt Regency Dushanbe

Sgl: $180 Tw: $220

Hotel Nussay

Sgl: $175 Tw: $210
Useful Links
The Governmental portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
National Company "Uzbekistan Airways"
National company "Uzbektourizm"
APTA - Association of Private Tourism Agencies