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Khorezm and Karakalpakstan
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KhivaKhiva City

While the Khorezm Empire was centre of an enormous Empire in the 4th century B.C. it reached its prime in the 10th century, when the capital of the region was Kunya Urgench and the region was the home of great philosophers, among them, Abu Ali Bin Sina (Avicenna). In the 16th century, after wrecking Kunya Urgench, Timur made Khiva the capital of the Khorezm state and, rivalling the Mervi and Bukharan Dynasties, the city become a major state under the Shaybaids and pivot of the khanate for the next three centuries. Until Russia's General Kaufmann wrested the region from the grasp of the local and Tucoman tribes in the 19th century, even the boldest hearts feared encounters with these fierce tribesmen and their desert territory.

35km south-west of Urgench, Khiva's historic heart, unlike those of other Central Asian cities, is preserved in its entirety. Khiva's visual surprise, after Samarkand's blue and Bukhara's brown, is the use of turquoise tiles, and some parts of the the walled inner city remain inhabited. Morning and evening are the best times to see Khiva.

Ichon-Qala Gates & Walls Kunya Ark Fortress Mohammed Rakhim Khan Medressa Sayid Alaudin Mausoleum & Museum
Juma Mosque Alloquli Khan Medressa, Bazaar and Caravansaray Tosh Khovli Palace Dishon Qala
Islom Khoja Medressa Pahlavon Mohammed Mausoleum & Sherghozi Khan Medressa

Khiva South Gate - Photo: Mark & MichelleIchon-Qala Gates & Walls

The City Walls of Khiva's Ichon Qula are the result of centuries of reconstruction with. The current 2.5 km impressive mud walls date back from the 18th century when they were rebuilt after a Persian wrecking has since again been partially reconstructed.

There are four main gates - the western Ota-Darvoza (Father's Gate), northern Buhoro-Darvoza (Bukhara Gate), the eastern Polvon-Darvoza (Strongman Gate), the southern Tosh-Darvoza (Stone Gate) and about forty bastions.

Khiva Ark - Photo: Mark & MichelleKunya Ark Fortress

The Kunya Ark was initially built in the 12th century, when Khiva was still a minor fort, and expanded by the Timurid Khans in the 17th century. Around the small, interconnected courtyards numerous residential and administrative quarters, the harem, and the Kurinish Khana (Hall of Receptions) were grouped. At the left of the gate, there was a guard house, the stables and a warehouse and have been only partially restored.

The 19th century Summer Mosque with excellent blue and white tiling and a red & orange roof, the Mint (now a museum) and the Winter Mosque form a single complex around a small courtyard.

Mohammed Rakhim Khan Medressa

The19th century Medressa opposite the Kunya Ark was built in the honour of Khan Mohammed Rakhim II, the last Khan wo surrendered the city to Russia in 1873, several years later than Bukhara.

Sayid Alaudin Mausoleum & Museum

A small mausoleum dating back from 1310, the times of the Mongol Golden Horde. The tiled sarcophargus is from the 19th century.

Juma Mosque

East to the Music Museum, the Juma Mosque has an interesting design with the entire roof structure being supported by 218 wooden columns, possibly an early Arabic influence. The two apertures in the roof provide light for only the internal courts, while the opposite walls lie hidden from sight by the many columns. The columns have been taken from the original 10th century Mosque, while the rest of the building is 18th century.

Nearby are the 1905 Matpana Bay Medressa, Arabhana (17th century), Abdullah Khan (1855), and Dost Alyam Medressa (19th century) and the 1657 Aq Mosque and Anusha Khan Baths.

Alloquli Khan Medressa, Bazaar and Caravansaray

Alloquli Khan ruled in the 1830-40's, an apparently very prosperous time according to the row of buildings dating from his reign, a.o. Alloquli Khan and Kutlimurodinok Medressa, and Alloquli Khan Bazaar and Caravansaray.

Tosh Khovli Palace

The Tosh Khovli (Stone House) has some of Khiva's finest interior decoration with ceramic tiling, carved stone and wood and ghanch. It was also build by Alloquli Khan in 1832-1841 as an alternative residence to the Kunya Ark and is supposed to contain over 150 rooms and 9 courtyards. Some of the most outstanding are the recesses of the Harem to the south of the building.

Islom Khoja - Photo: Mark & MichelleIslom Khoja Medressa

Khivas newest monument, with 45 m the enormous Minarett of Islam Khoja Medressa is Khivas tallest building and visible from far away. The Medressa has Khiva's best mueseum of Khorezm handicrafts. As Grand Vizir, Islom Khoja was one of Khiva's most progressive men at the beginning of the 20th century.

Pahlavon Mohammed Mausoleum & Sherghozi Khan Medressa

The Pahlavon Mohammed Mausoleum, surrounded by a multitude of small tombs, is separated from the noisy street by a low, whitewashed wall. It was built on the site of Pahlavon's tomb of 1326, one of Khiva's famous philosophers, wrestlers and it's Patron Saint. There is a beautiful Persian-style chamber, where Rakhim Khan II's tomb is located (1865-1910).

Sherghozi Khan Medressa holds a museum of ancient medicine.

Khiva - Photo: Mark & MichelleDishon Qala

Dishon-Qala is everything outside Inchon-Qala - Khiva's outer city, remains (amidst the modern town) include 1-2 Gates of the outer wall. The palaces of the last Khans - a.o. Isfandiyar Palace (1906-1912) display monumental forms and a wealth of ornamentation, and a mixture of European and Islamic styles of design and decoration.


Frequent buses bump and grind between Urgench and Khiva. Urgench is a handy 16 hours by bus west of Tashkent; flying cuts journey time to three hours. Travellers should plan a whole day for the overland ride from Bukhara across the Kyzylkum desert.


Click here to return to Tashkent or to continue to Kunya Urgench in Turkmenistan!
© 2001-2010 STANtours last modified June 9, 2003