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Khiva travel guide and tourist informations, Uzbekistan

Khiva is open air museum

Khiva is an ancient city in the lower reaches of the Amu-Darya. In the fourteenth Century it became prominent among the towns of Khorezm, and in the eighteenth century it was the capital of the Khiva Khanate, Only at the beginning of the nineteenth century did Khiva develop into a prominent cultural centre.

One after another a number of monumental buildings were erected. They filled the older part of the city—the shahristan Ichan- kaleh, many of them were built by the Eastern gates of Palvan-Darvaza and along the street which runs towards the western gates.

In none of the Central Asian cities have whole parts of the city such as the Ichan-kala district in Khiva been preserved in such good condition. It is a historical and architectural reservation giving an idea of what a feudal Central Asian city used to be. Hardly any of the structures dating back to the first eminence of Khiva have survived to our day. But of those which have reached us the best known is the modest fourteenth century mausoleum of Sheikh Said Allauddin, famous for its beautiful majolica tomb.

Evidently the earlier mausoleum of Pakhlavan Mahmud, the poet and national hero who died in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, was also very modest. Soon afterwards the construction of the necropolis of Khiva ruiers was started beside the poet’s mausoleum, and the tombs of the earlier rulers were transferred there.

In 1825 the interiors of all chambers of the Pakhlavan Mahmud complex were faced entirely with majolica tiles with the typical Khiva patterns and the domes were covered with turquoise tiles while the portals were also decorated with majolica. The square by the main thoroughfare of Ichan-kaleh was flanked by the Juma mosque with its minaret and several madrasahs nearby. The architecture of the Juma Friday mosque, built in the eighteenth century is very unusual. The blank brick walls, devoid of any division of embellishments, surround the building, which extends 55 metres in one direction and 46 meters in the other.

The flat ceiling is supported by 212 wooden columns, of which 20 are very old and decorated with unique carving. One of the busiest parts of Khiva was its western gates, the Palvan-Darvaz. Nearby the Anush-khan baths and a single storey madrasah of Khoja Amerdibey were built back in the seventeenth century. In 1804—1812 opposite the Khoja Amerdibey madrasah, another madrasah was built, the two-storey Kultug Murad-inak, which had 81 khujras (sells) and was one of the biggest buildings in Khiva.

In 1806 a long gallery of shops with dome surmounts was built adjacent to the Palvan-Darvaz Gates. It was around these Gates, which marked the end of the liveliest thoroughfare in the city, that the trading life of Khiva centered in the reign of Alla-Kuli-khan (1825—1842).

Not far from the Gates, during the same period, under Alla-Kuli-khan, a caravanserai was built, which protruded beyond the walls of Ichan-kaleh. To its main facade was added a closed-in gallery passage (tim).

Of the entire complex of structures by the eastern Palvan-Darvaz Gates the Alla-Kuli-khan madrasah is conspicuous with its fine portals. In 1830—1838 the palace of Alla-Kuli-khan, the Tash-khauli, was built. It consists of several buildings of residential and official purposes, united by a number of courts. Among them are the harem, the mihmankhaneh or khan’s reception hall, the arzkhaneh, the court of justice, and a number of subsidiary and service quarters and passages. Thus, the complex around the Palvan-Darvaz Gates was completed: the gallery of Palvan-Darvaz, the Alla-Kuli-khan madrasah, a Tim, and a caravanserai on the one side; and on the other side of the square the Tash-khauli and the Kultug Murad-inak madrasah.

By the western gates (no longer existing) stands the Kunya -.Ark surrounded with a crenellated adobe wall—the ancient fortress with what remains of the Akshikh-baba castle which once served as the nucleus of the city.

ther ensembles were formed at Ichan-kala. To the south of the Kunya-Ark, the Amin-khan madrasah was put up in 1851 — 1852, and to the east of Kunya-Ark, the Said Muhammed Rak-him-khan II madrasah was built in 1871; the two structures comprising an architectural ensemble around a square. The Amin-khan madrasah was the biggest in Khiva.

The minaret which was never completed has a diarnetre of 14.2 metres and was built only to the height of 26 metres. Because of that it was named the Kalta-minar (the short minaret). The tallest minaret in Khiva was built by the vizier Islam Khoja. The minaret dominates over the rest of the buildings in Ichan-kaleh (it is 50 metres high).

The above-mentioned architectural examples in Khiva by no means exhaust the list of all” the splendid structures of the city. Other buildings, too, play an important role in the general aspect of Khiva.

What is valuable about Ichan-kaleh is that it is not only the individual structures, but the entire ensemble organically united by its architectural and construction methods, that gives the exceptional unity to this city. This gives grounds for looking upon Ichan-kaleh as a historical and architectural reservation. In Dishan-kaleh, Khiva’s suburb, unlike at Ichan-kaleh, there are many water reservoirs and foliage, which make an attractive addition to the buildings. The mass construction of houses shows here an interesting spatial solution of which the liwan (a covered arcade) is the most characteristic feature. The columns, beams, doors and other wooden details are frequently decorated with magnificent carvings. The national type of dwelling preserves and develops further the artistic tradition of Khiva. 

Historical and architectural monuments of Khiva

- Ichan-Kala fortress UNESCO World Heritage site 
  - Kunya Ark small old town - mosque, minting, harem, reception hall and watch tower Aq Sheikh bobo
  - Islom-khodja Minaret and Medrasah
  - Arab-Mukhamad Khan Medrese
  - Toshkhovli Palace or Stone Palace, the harem of Khiva-Khan
  - Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum
  - Juma mosque - 200 wooden pillars and with minaret
  - Sayeed Alauddin Mausoleum
  - Oq-Masjid Mosque
  - Hodjan Berdi-biya Medrese
  - Shirgazikhan Medrese
  - Abdullakhan Medrese
  - Allakulikhan Medrese
  - Mukhammad Amin Khan Medresah
  - Kalta Minor
  - Mukhammad Rakhimkhan Medresah
  - Caravan Saray
  - Abdurasulbay Madrasah 
  - Amir Tura Madrasah 
  - Atajanbay Madrasah
  - Dost Alyam Madrasah 
  - Musa Tura Madrasah 
  - Mazari Sharif Madrasah 
  - Qozy Kalyan Madrasah 
  - Matniyaz Devan-begi Madrasah
- Ata-Darvaza - Tash-Darvaza
- Bagcha-Darvaza - Kosh-Darvaza
- Khazarasp-Darvaza - Palvan-Darvaza
- Dishan Kala
  - Bikanjan Bika Madrasah
  - Khorezmshakh Madrasah 
  - Mamat Maram Madrasah
  - Palvan Kari Madrasah 
  - Sayid Muhammad Khan Madrasah
  - Tort Shavvaz Madrasah