Tour in Khiva, Uzbekistan: where to go, what to see, sights, and local landmarks
Khiva is the brightest stone in the necklace of ancient
Khorezm, a great and glorious civilization of the past that developed in the
lower reaches of Amudarya. Khiva's inner city, so called Ichan-Kala, is a unique
museum in the open with gorgeous architectural ensembles and majolica-decorated
monuments. All tourist coming to Khiva are usually concentrated around or inside this inner city.
The inner city is surrounded by a clay wall (more than two kilometers long and 5-6 meters
thick) with four gate entrances. The West Gate (Ata Darvaza)
has two brick turrets. Bagcha Gates lead to Urgench, recent capital of Khorezm, Palvan
Gates to Amudarya and further eastward, and Tash Gates southward.
The smallest madrassah and the tallest minaret tower are neighbours in
the Complex of Islam Khodja (1908). The intention of the artisans was to
have a tower that travellers would see from far away when approaching the
city. The builders of the minaret undertook its construction with an ambitious task
to surpass Bukhara's Kalyan Minaret and used ancient
traditions of building minarets as narrow towers.
The only blue dome in Khiva, Khanaka near the tomb of Pahlavan
Makhmud, a poet and professional wrestler of 14th century. Legends
were made about his strength and bravery. The majolica-decorated walls of
the mausoleum bear patriotic rhymes that he wrote.
Opposite the Caravan Saray, the Tash Khouli Palace was built by Allakuli Khan between 1831 and
1841. The complex contains several buildings serving the needs of the royal
family, such as the Reception Hall, the Yard of Entertainment and of
course, the Harem. Four official wives and numerous concubines, often
brought as gifts by foreign Embassies, were for pleasures and
relaxation of the Khan after his exausting work for the sake
of his people.
The buildings are generously decorated with ceramic
tiles, carved stone and ganch, carved plaster. Inner premises,
unlike the main yard, underwent little restoration and tourists can make
their way through a maze of dark galleries and corridors to see splendid
inside mosques and palaces.
Every tourist entering Khiva is facing this tower with an unusual profile. It was built in 1851-1854 by Muhammad Aminkhan to become the biggest madrassah in Central Asia (260 students). The Khan wanted his Minaret to be taller than anything ever built in Khorezm. He obliged his people to work free of charge for two years. When hungry and desperate artisans and workers
went on a strike, the Khan ordered to execute their leader, someone named Matyakub. He was wrapped in a fresh sheep hide and buried alive in the basement of the Minaret under a stone slab with an inscription. The
ambitious project was never completed and the tower became the gigantic tombstone for the artisan.
The appearance of Juma Mosque in Khiva is amazingly different from
other mosques in Central Asia. It preserves the features and concepts of
archaic Arabian mosques as they looked centuries ago when Islam was young.
Originally built in the 10th century, it was repeatedly renovated. It
has 218 wooden columns supporting the roof, all of them bear fanciful
carved ornaments. They represent different times, architectural styles and
artistic concepts. In the gloomy dusk of the spacious mosque,
surrounded by majestic columns, visitors can easily imagine ecstasy and
religious zeal of the congregation.