Probably, Khiva is the most peculiar Uzbek city. Its history is inextricably connected with the history of Turkmenistan, because the territory was part of the legendary Khorezmshah’s State with its capital in Urgench before. Khiva is a very ancient city.
Khiva may be a small city - but its history as the best preserved stop on the old Silk Road gives it a broad appeal for tourists tracing the historic trading route. In the 10th century Khive is mentioned as a major trading center on the Silk Road.
All the caravans had a stop here on their way to China and back. From dawn to dusk, until the gates were opened, an endless stream of moving string of camels with baggage passed them.
At the beginning of the 16th century Khorezm State became home for Uzbek nomadic tribes, who founded Khive Khanate here. However, Khiva did not become immediately the Khanate’s capital. It happened only after Urgench, an existing capital, had been destroyed due to the change of Amudarya’s channel. In 1598 Khiva became the main city of the state.
In the 19th century Russia annexed part of Khiva Khanate. One century later, in 1919, the last Khan was liquidated of the ruling dynasty. So Khiva became the capital of the new Khorezm Soviet People's Republic. In 1924 territories of Khorezm oasis became a part of modern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
There is an interesting legend that tells about the origin of Khiva. Allegedly, the city grew around the well Hewvakh, with tasty and cool water. The well was dug by the order of Shem, the son of Biblical Noah. Today one can see this well in the old part of Khiva, Itchan Kala.
Khiva - a unique city, rightfully claiming the title of "the seventh wonder of the world", thanks to its authentic atmosphere of the 'era of the beginning of time. "Most of the city of Khiva is similar to the open-air museum. And the nucleus of this museum - castle Itchan Kala. It is inside this fortress concentrated all the architectural masterpieces of Khiva. Everyone who enters the fortress, are among the marvelous minarets, stone-paved alleys curves, leading to a madrassa with lacy rough mosaic of the ancient walls. This oriental tale! In 1990 the city was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Khiva is a day-trip city — good hotels and other tourist services are in short supply — but it’s a popular excursion from Urgench. Most of the city’s mosques, minarets and other landmarks, renewned for their delicate majolica tiles and naturalistic paintings, are located in the historic Ichan-Kala area.
Nobody seems to know exactly how old this ancient city is, though the story goes that Khiva was founded by none other than Shem, the son of Noah (of “and the Ark” fame); at the very least, the city dates back to the 7th century, and probably much earlier. Despite its seemingly romantic history as a Silk Road oasis, the city became most notable as Central Asia’s biggest slave trade center.
Fairy-tale like city Khiva has managed to retain its exotic image of an Oriental town in the older part of the city called Ichan-Kala. Ichan-Kala is a place where all the monuments of architecture are located. Among them are the Kunya-Ark citadel and the the Tash-Khauli Palace, residence of the Khan had been preserved intact along with its ornate gates. Besides, that, Ichan-Kala displays simplicity and monumentality of medieval architectural forms, the delicateness of woodcarvings, and skilled interweaving of ornamentation. The silhouettes of its towering minarets, hemmed in by clay blit houses with their flat roofs and surrounded by the fortress's powerful clay built walls, give a clear idea of a typical Central Asian feudal city.
Here you will find the Pakhlavan Makhmud mausoleum (1835), the Muhammad Aminkhan madrasah (1855), the Palace Ensamble Kunia-Arki Jash Hauli (1841), and the Allajulikhana caravanserai (1855). In fact, Khiva is made up of madrasahs, mosques and minarets such as the tall and beautiful Islam-Khodja minaret, plus having the most number of minarets in Asia, the most remarkable being the Kalta-Minor minaret (1835) and it is still standing. The Djuma Mosque which has an amazingly 218 ornate carved wooden columns is another of the main attractions.
The main sights: