In the western part of Uzbekistan, on the left bank of the Amu-Darya River, in the transition zone between the sultry deserts of Karakum and Kyzylkum lies the land of ancient Khorezm oasis. Khiva is an ancient city in the lower reaches of the Amu-Darya River. Khorezm’s agriculture and settlements go back to four, perhaps six, millennia. So, Khiva may be very old. The legend holds that it was founded when biblical Shem, the son of Noah, discovered a well here; the people called it Kheivak, from which the name Khiva is said to have originated. But the archaeological data proves that the city already existed as early as the 6th -8th century. First it appeared as a stopping place and later as a caravan-saroi on the ancient trade road to the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. But while Khorezm prospered on and off from the 10th to the 14th centuries, its capital was at old Urgench (Kunya-Urgench). The changing moods of the Amu-Darya compelled the population of Kunya-Urgench to move to a more safer and habitable place and there was none but Khiva. In the 14th century it appeared prominent among the towns of Khorezm. It became the capital of Khorezm in the 16th century (the later more appropriately known as the Khanate of Khiva). For a very long time the local rulers were fighting against the tribal incursions from the neighbouring lands. The early years of the Khanate had been racked by instability, infighting and invasion. In 1740 Khiva was wrecked by Nadir Shah, and Khorezm became for a while a northern outpost of the Persian Empire. By the end of the 18th century it began taking a small share in the growing trade between Russia and the Bukhara and Kokand Khanates. Khiva had a slave market, the biggest in Central Asia. At the beginning of the 19th century Khiva developed into a prominent cultural centre. The Khanate spread from the Aral Sea to Merv. Expansionist Russian policy always threatened the very existence of Khiva, which was finally taken over in 1873. The enfeebled Khanate struggled on. However, the Khanate was fast approaching the end of its life and in 1920 the "Khorezm People's Republic" was proclaimed in its place. In 1922 the region gained promotion to a Soviet Republic and in 1924 joined the Soviet Union as a part of Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.
SIGHTSEEING AND EXCURSION
Khiva city tour 01 – Half-day
The Ichan Kala - the heart of the city where most architectural and historical monuments are located. It is so-called “inner city” surrounded by a wall 2.2 km long. Ichan Kala with tall minarets and domed roofs surrounded by dwelling buildings represents rich traditions of popular oriental architecture: monumental shapes, fine carved pillars, doors and ceilings, original patterns, and bright and colourful majolica.
Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasah - is the biggest seminary of the city, erected in 1852-1855. Now it is a guesthouse for tourists. The Kalta Minor or Short Minaret - was built in 1852 under one of the most ambitious projects of the ruling khan. It was intended to be the tallest minaret in the Islamic world, but abandoned in the wake of the khan’s death at 26 metres. Kunya Ark - is the fortified citadel at the centre of the city, also the residence of the rulers of Khiva, a city within a city, first built in the 12th century by Oq Shish-Bobo, and then expanded by the khans in the 17th century. Archaeologists have conducted excavations on a one-hectare area under the citadel and found out that this territory had been settled on since the time of Khiva’s foundation. Kunya Ark comprises living quarters, a mosque, the palace of the khan, the harem, the minting, the arsenal, the stables and the jail. Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrasah (1871) – is an unusual seminary with front courtyard built by the order of the khan who was also a very good poet and historian. Now madrasah houses a museum. The Tomb of Sayid Allauddin - is the most ancient architectural monument of Khiva, Mongol-era 14th-century tomb of one of the Sufi masters. Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum - is the most revered mausoleum of the city. Pakhlavan Mahmud, the Hercules of the East, a famous wrestler, poet, philosopher and Khiva’s saints patron. His tomb (1326) has some of Khiva’s loveliest tile-work.
Khiva city tour 02 – Half-day
Shir Gazi Khan Madrasah - was erected in 1718-1720 by 5000 Persian slaves brought to Khiva from Meshed. The inscription above the entrance reads: ”I accept death at the hands of slaves”. The slaves were promised freedom but soon it became clear that they would not live to see the end of the work. They killed the khan and even succeeded in capturing the city’s citadel. The Islam Khodja Madrasah and Minaret - are the newest monuments of Khiva, both built in 1910. The minaret, 45 metres tall, is a stately, tapering pillar belted with sixteen decorative friezes. The madrasah houses Khiva’s best museum - the museum of handicrafts: fine wood carving, hand embroidery, carpets, household utensils, pottery, work, traditional Uzbek clothes are on display. Juma Mosque - Friday mosque, once the khanate’s religious heart has 213 columns. The oldest columns are from the original 10th century mosque; other 17 columns are of the 11th-12th centuries origin. The most recent mosque was built in 1788. Tash Khauli (Harem) - was erected by Allakuli Khan between 1832 and 1841. It is the most beautiful architectural decoration of the city: ceramic tiles, carved marble, painted wood. It contains 163 rooms and 3 courtyards, the biggest courtyard being the Harem. Nurullabai Palace – consists of living quarters of Asfandiyarkhan, a garden, audience hall – kurinishkhana built in European modern style and a court – arzkhona. Kubla Toza Bog Summer Palace (1893-1913) was a summer residence of Mukhammad Rakhimkhan II. It has three courtyards, which are very attractive from architectural point of view. They are surrounded with galleries on tall, carved columns. It was built by Russian, German and Uzbek craftsmen.
Urgench is the capital of Khorezm province, 450 km northwest of Bukhara across the Kyzylkum Desert. It's located between the Amu-Darya River (in the delta of the river) and on the border with Turkmenistan. The population is 130,000 people. Urgench is mainly a home for most tourists, somewhere to stay before going to Khiva, 35 km southwest.
Full-day sightseeing (around Urgench)
The Amu-Darya delta, stretching from southeast of Urgench to the Aral Sea, has been inhabited for millennia and it was regarded an important oasis. Whenever irrigation canals were destroyed, stranded cities withered and died. The ruins of many Khorezmian towns and forts, some well over two thousand years old, still stand to the east and north of Urgench. Toprak-Kala is 2000-years-old ruined city fortress grew up around the first century BC and became the capital of the Khorezm in the 3rd and 4th centuries. It was a fort and temple complex of the rulers estate with high walls, round towers and numerous rooms and halls. The city was abandoned in the 6th century, when Turkic invaders upset the irrigation system. Koi Krylgan Kala (30 km south-west of Toprak-Kala) is a circular fort, temple and observatory complex dating from the 4th century. Ayaz Kala (60 km far from Toprak-Kala) - is an impressive mud-walled hilltop fortress of the 6th and 7th centuries. Kyrk Kyz-Kala - is a fortress dating back to about the 4th century. Guldursun Kala - is a fortress with huge city walls (12th century) destroyed by the Mongol invasion in 1221.
Usually people travel to the regional capital of Urgench, whether it's by air, train, or taxi, and then take a taxi to Khiva.
Khiva is about 40 km away from Urgench Airport. Uzbekistan Airways] operates twice daily flights from Tashkent.
Trains from Tashkent leave twice a week and make the 19 hour journey across the desert to Urgench. Trains leave Tashkent on Mon, Wed and Sun at 6.15 pm and arrive in Urgench at 1.45 pm next day.
Trolleybus: An interesting (and cheap) way to get to Khiva from Urgench is via the trolleybus, which you can pick up near the Urgench Bazaar. Trolleybusses leave Urgench every 30 minutes during daytime and the journey takes about 60 minutes.
Khiva is about 470 km from Bukhara, 1370 km from Fergana, 630 km from Karshi, 740 km from Samarkand, 200 km from Nukus, 750 km from Shakhrisabz, 1020 km from Tashkent and 850 km from Termez.
Fashion and Traditional Dance Show, in the ToshHovli and Alloquli Khan Medressa.
There are many souvenir vendors in Khiva and they all will want to sell something to you, trying to attract your attention with some knowledge of English.
• Zerafshan Chaikhana, Islom Hoja, near Islam Hojar minaret, serving specialities from Khorezm
• Bir Gumbaz in the old quarter Ichon-Qala),
• Farrukh in the old quarter Ichon-Qala with a decorated yurt, nice atmosphere
• Restaurant of hotel Malika Khiva
• Khorezm Art Restaurant, Medrese Allakulikhan
See: Hotels in Khiva
Some photos of Khiva
Khiva by night
To Khiva from Urgench via the trolleybus