Population: over 50,000
Population of Ichan Kala: 4,000
Airport: Tel.: (362) 2260325, 2242580.
Booking Agency: Tel.: (362) 2236222, 2265787. 1, Al-Beruniy str.
Railway Station: Tel.: (362) 2262004, 2255359.
Information services of Khiva
101 - Fires
102 - Police
103 - Fast help
104 - Gaz service
105 - Service of saving
055 - Information service of railway
006, 066 - Information service of airport
007 - Offering of interurban talking
109 - Referral service
Annual average temperature, °С
Khiva is like a fairy-tale town. Capital of Khiva Khanate in the 17th century, it has still retained the exotic flavour of a medieval town which time has not destroyed but has just frozen, a town where you get a strong sense of history, where you can visualize the past.
In reality there are two faces of Khiva: Ichan-Kala, the "old" city, in the heart of Khiva, protectedby its centuries-old walls and UNESCO, and Dishon Kala, the "new" city that has developed around the "old city" and which is the real heart-beat of the town, where people live and work.
The history of Khiva and the Khorezm oasis is fascinating and a walk through the Ichan Kala, the old walled city of Khiva, will give you an insight into the life led there from ancient days up to the present time. You know you are nearing Khiva when you cross the legendary Amu Darya (Oxus) river. As you round the last bend, the huge citadel rises before you and the main gate opens up to the old city, Khiva's vast open air museum.
Today Khiva is the gateway to a region that has much to offer: Ancient Khorezm, stretching up to Muynak, where you may discover lost cities from the 6th century, sleep in a yurt, take river boat rides, mourn the loss of a major water ecosystem, acquire hand made ceramics, woven rugs and silk carpets, embroidery, woollen slippers and many other souvenirs, drive through lovely villages made entirely from clay where friendly peasants lead a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors hundreds of years ago, where donkey carts are a common means of transportation, far away from sophistication and fancy establishments but where hospitality is paramount.
Khiva is one of the most remarkable cities of the Khorezm oasis. Capital of the khanate at XVIIth century, it was one of the biggest markets of Central Asia and it was prosperous up to the beginning of the XXth century. Nowadays, the inner city Itchan Kala is a real wide museum where you could admire authenticity of the Kunia-Ark monuments (the residence of the Khans) (XVIth century), the mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud (XVth century), the Friday mosque an its XIth century minaret, the madrasa of Islam Khoja dated XIXth century, etc. The city is surrounded by pink clay city walls, making it look like a middle age city.
Ichan-Kala is the densest part of Khiva, but is home to the architectural museum, where we can see the best works of national masters. Especially dense are the buildings area of Ichan-Kala, which is situated along the road, passing from the western to eastern gates. The buildings here are situated without any architectural planning. Some groups of buildings formatting constructional estates, where separate buildings interflowing with each other by there sizes. Only the wide arch spans or portals determine the separate buildings. High walls, light angled towers, cupolas, minarets, and light ayvans with wooden columns are everywhere creating unexpected silhouettes.
Town walls are rare samples of medieval fortification, preserved up to present day. Khiva town was surrounded with two rows of walls Ichan-Kala (inner town) and Dishan-Kala (outer town). The wall of Ichan-Kala were embanked in between the 5th and 6th centuries BC, they are higher then the level of Dishan-Kala, probably because of natural relief (according to the legend, the town was built on a sandy hill). The town walls were built of adobe and were rebuilt several times during the centuries. The wall of Ichan-Kala is 8-10 meters high, 6-8 meters in width, and 2,250 meters long. After each 30 meters there are round defensive towers, sticking out the boundaries of Ichan-Kala wall. There are toothed railing with narrow embrasure above the wall and towers, for repulsing the enemies attacks during a siege. In the system of defending fortification there were ditches, filled with water; even today, by relief, this can be seen in the southern part, in northern and western parts asphalt covers the ditches.
The town gates were also a part of the fortification system. They have the special devices, which were used by the towns protecting guards. On both sides of the arch passage, there are "blowing" towers, above the gate there is an inspection gallery.
The passage is covered by an arched roof (Koy-Darvaza), or if the passage is too long, by several cupolas.
On the sides of the passage, there are domical rooms, where sentries and customs officials lived, there also were a room for a court, and sometimes a room for a prison. In the eastern towns and cities, the gates and entries to the public and private places have a special meaning: the more impressive they are the more honor and acknowledgment the town has.
In the course of time, the defending function of the gates lost there importance, and the gates became the part of the towns design. The gates were trimmed with beautiful and multicolored glazed tiles and ayats from the Koran. Sometimes on the gates were written the text, for instance praise for khan, or a fragment from the poem. Some gates, as the time passed, were made over the shops. The walls of Ichan-Kala have 4 gates: Ata-Darvaza, Palvan-Darvaza, Tash-Darvaza, and Bagcha-Darvaza. The walls of Dishan- Kala had 10 gates, but presently there are only 3 gates preserved.
The minaret was built by the order of Islam-Hoja, the prime minister of the khan. This minaret is called the symbol of Khiva, its shape, narrowing up, goes to the early samples of architecture (Kunya-Urgench the 14th century). The brickwork takes turns with stripes of glazed patterns the height of minaret is 56.6 meters, and the bottom diameter 9.5 meters.
Minaret Kalta Minor
Minaret Kalta Minor (short) was planned as the biggest minaret in Muslim East (bottom diarpeter is 14.2 meters). According to the plan, the height of the minaret should have been 70-80 meters, and the diameter should sharply narrow according to the height, which would made the minaret more strong. But the construction was stopped at the height of 29 meters. According to the Khivenian historian Munis, the construction was stopped because of the death of khan in 1855. The minaret is unique owing to the dimensions and decor. This is the only minaret totally covered with glazed tiles and majolica.
Madrasah of Shergazi Khan
It is situated in the center of Ichan-Kala in front of the entrance to Pahlavan Mahmud mausoleum. Madrasah of Shergazi Khan is on the list as the oldest and biggest madrasah of Khiva. Its entrance is 2 meters below the road level, because of natural floor convergence and increase of burial places. The building of madrasah is one-floor, except for the two-floor entrance part, including its four-aywan yard, vestibule rooms and lecture-room.
Madrasah of Muhammad Rakhim-Khan the II
It is situated to the east from Kunya-Ark. The full name of the khan was Said Muhammad Rakhim Bahadur-khan (people called him Madrim-khan the II). He was writing poems under the pseudonym Feruz. The construction of madrasah, which was started by his order, was over in 1876. The madrasah of Muhammad Rakhim-khan is one of the biggest in Khiva and the most popular in Central Asia.
Madrasah consists of two yards, in the inner yard there is a one-floor building with hujras, behind it, there is a two-floor building with high portal of the main front of madrasah. In the main yard, there are a row of arch hujras. Madrasah consists of darshona, library, winter and summer mosques. The majolica is abundantly used in tympanums, in fancy edging, and in frontal columns.
Madrasah of Muhammad Amin-Khan
Madrasah is situated in the western part of Ichan-Kala. Two-floor madrasah of Muhammad Amin-khan is the biggest, not only in Khiva, but also in Central Asia.
Beside the theological school, there is also the Chancellory of Muslim Supreme Court. The striking architecture of madrasah building: here, the first time in Khiva, living hujras are of two-rooms that are situated on the ground floor, and hujras, which are situated on the first floor, have loggias looking on the front side of building. The front of madrasah trimmed with ornamental glazed bricks.
According to the investigations of Arabic geographer Mukaddasiy, the mosque Juma is dated at the 10th century. This mosque is unique in construction; it has no portals, cupolas, galleries or inner yard. There is access to the mosque from three sides. From the northern side come to light Palvan Kari street, with its 33 meter height minaret. The ceiling of the big hall leans on 213 wooden columns. There are small openings in the ceiling for light and ventilation. The southern wall has stalactitic niches, and on the right, there is a marble sign with indication of profits and estates. Doors and columns evoke special interest with hand working wood engraving, which were made in different years: 1316, 1517, 1788 and 1789.
Mausoleum of Said Allauddin
The building of mausoleum borders upon the eastern walls of Matniyaz Divan-begi madrasah. It was built in honor of the famous Sufi sheikh in 1303. Burial-vault with cupola and unique majolic headstone are dated as the first half of the 14th century, and in the 17 century was built a ziarathona. Architecture of these buildings is manifold.
The old fortress Kunya Ark is connecting the western wall of Ichan-Kala with abode of hermit Ak-sheikh-bobo. The construction of Kunya Ark started around 1686-1688 by Arang-khan, the son of Anush-khan. In the end of the 18th century Kunya Ark became a "town in town" and was separated from Ichan-Kala by a High wall. At One time the fortress consisted of khan chancellery, reception hall, harem, winter and summer mosques, and the mint and barns (stable, storehouses, workshops etc). The existence of present day's complex of Kunya Ark was restored in the beginning of the 19th century. The square near the entrance to Kunya Ark was used for military parades and training battles.
There were also a special place for serving a sentence and zindan (prison), bordering upon the eastern walls of Kunya Ark. The entrance to the palace was guarded. Only some buildings remain out of the once dense territory of Kunya Ark: The eastern gate with guard room; cell of Ak-Sheikh-Bobo; Kurinishhona the room for people registration reception; summer and winter mosques and harem. The cell of Ak-Sheikh-Bobo the dwelling of Ak-Sheikh-Bobo, the mentor of Muhtar Vali, previously was served as an inspection rower, and there the gunpowder was kept. The first building kurinishhona was built somewhere around 1686-1688 by Arangkhan and was destroyed in the middle of the 18th century at the time of Iranian invasion. The modern building was raised around 1804-1806 by Iltuzar-khan. Ayvan of kurinishhona was covered by majolica during the Alla-Kuli-khan governing. Kurinishhona consists of several lodgments: open yard, ayvan, and a hall with throne and side rooms in western part of the yard (treasury, the room for manuscripts, lounge). In the middle of the yard there is a round eminence, there was mantled a jurt where khan meet with the ambassadors of nomadic neighbors. The throne was near the southern wall of throne-hall; now this throne is in the Moscow museum. It was made of wood and decorated with silver plates with carved ornamental patterns.
Tash Hauli Palace
The palace is situated in the eastern part of Khiva, and was built by Alla-Kuli-khan. The construction had taken about 8 years, from 1830 till 1838. First, there was built a living quarter for the harem, then mehmonhona the place for official reception, and last was built an arzihona, courtroom. Munis were writing that the best architects of that time were impaled because they refused to build the palace in two years. It took 8 years for Usto Kalandar Hivagi.
In the southern part of harem's yard were built small aywans, four of which were meant for khan's wives (according to the Shariat, a man could have no more then four wives), the fifth aywan, abundantly decorated was serving as a living room for khan. In each ayvan there are rooms for servants. The Harem was constructed according to the Khorezm tradition of women side (ichan hauli) formation. There are some details of defensive fortress in the design of the palace, which corresponds the secluded way of life of the harem inhabitants. After the harem was built mehmonhona (ishrat hauli), the square yard with round eminence was built up with rooms and ayvans. The southern ayvan served for messengers reception ceremonies. The ayvans of mehmonhona, decorated with majolica with light covered with drawings ceiling and small towers by the sides, analogous by interior with theater and full of solemn. Arzhona (courtroom) is situated in the South-Western part of Tash Hauli. It is two times bigger then mehmonhona. As well as mehmonhona, arzhona is decorated with majolica. The work was done by the famous master Abdullah, nicknamed Genius. This master was decorating all yards in Tash Hauli. The period of Alla-Kuli-khans governing is characterized by strong power of khan, the successful international politics and progress in trade with Russia. And as a result, there was a possibility to ornate the buildings. The palace of Alla-Kuli-khan is the'most outstanding architectural object of the 19th century. Insignificant restoration works did not changed the peculiarity of the palace, and it can be quite accepted as Khiva architecture of that time.