Khiva is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, and has the second largest population in the Khorezm Region, after Urgench. Khiva is fairytale town with an ancient history. According to the archeological evidence, Khiva originated at the end of the 1st century BC. The official date of the foundation of the city is the 17th century when the city was mentioned in historical sources as a large town of Turkistan.
Khiva is an unique monument to the past, a treasury of remarkable monuments. It has an exceptional position among the other cities of Uzbekistan because it has its own sharply distinctive characteristics.
Khiva is unique because it has very well preserved neighborhoods, beautiful buildings and religious, military and palace structures, in addition to houses of a specific national type.
Ichan-Kala and Dishan-Kala, the two parts of the city, contain most of its wonderful monuments.
Ichan-Kala is the oldest part of the city surrounded by brick walls. It has many monuments displaying ancient Uzbek architecture, such as madrassahs, mosques, mausoleums and covered markets.
Dishan-Kala consists of houses of traders, craftsmen and also has several mosques and a madrassah. It was divided into residential quarters inhabited by people of one and the same profession which was reflected in the names of such quarters.
The architecture of Khiva captures the imagination by its monumental forms and graceful ornaments. Its buildings are remarkable examples of high artistic mastership and the bold engineering solutions of local masters and architects of Khoresm.
Among the highlights of Khiva are:
- Kunya Ark – the Khiva rulers’ own fortress and residence, first built in the 12th century, then expanded by the khans in the 17th century. The khans; harem, mint, stables, arsenal, barracks, mosque and jail were all here. Only parts have been restored.
- Juma mosque. The large Juma mosque is interesting for the 218 wooden columns supporting its roof – a concept thought to be derived from ancient Arabian mosques. The few finely decorated columns are from the original 10th century mosque, though the present building dates from the 18th century. ]
- Tash-Hauli (Stone House), contains Khiva’s most sumptuous interior decoration, including ceramic tiles, carved stone and wood, and ghanch. It is said to have over 150 rooms off nine courtyards with high ceilings designed to catch any breeze.
- Islam Khodja madrassah & minaret. The minaret of Islam Khodja is considered to be the newest Islamic monument, built in 1910. The minaret with bands of turquoise and red tiling looks rather like an uncommonly lovely lighthouse. At 45m tall, it’s Khiva’s highest. One can climb its 118 steps for fine views across the Karakum desert.
- Pakhlavan Makhmud complex (XIV – XIX c) – the most remarkable architecture memorial complex in Khiva with unique tiles.
- Toza Bog Palace 1893-1913 – the summer residence of Mohammed Rakhim Khan II stands halfway between the European and Central Asian worlds, craftsmen from St. Petersburg brought square windows and large doorways to the traditional pillared iwans of the servants’ courtyard and girikh designs of the green ganch reception rooms.
- Nurulla Bai Palace 1906-1912 the fortified courtyard of Isfandiyar Khan’s residence today languish in a largely sorry state of disrepair, but the modern-style reception hall is still in good condition.