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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Alloquli Khan Medressa, Bazaar and
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.
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
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.
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.
to return to Tashkent or to
continue to Kunya Urgench in Turkmenistan!