Khiva - an open air city museum

Khiva is so well preserved and often refer to it as a museum town. Walking through the old city walls and seeing the famous minaret gleam in the bright sunshine is like stepping into another era.

There are number of legends about Khiva and the origin of its name. One of them attributes the city's foundation to the son of the biblical Noah - Sim, where it is said that Sim, after the Flood, he found himself wandering in the desert alone. Having asleep, he dreamt of 300 burning torches. On waking up, he was pleased with his omen, he founded the city with its outlines in the form of a ship mapped out according to the placement of the torches, about which he had dreamt. Then Sim dug out the "Kheyvak" well, the water from which had a suprising taste. It is possible to see this well in Ichan-Kala (an internal town of Khiva) even today.

Although the city dates back thousands of years most of the buildings have been created in the last few hundred. Whilst walking through the tiny alleys you will stumble on one of the many mosques, silk workshops or traditional courtyard homes.

Khiva is one of the most ancient and still surviving cities of the Great Silk Road in Central Asia. At the time of the blossoming of Khorezm it was the largest world trade centre: a key point on the Great Silk Road. Merchants travelled from afar; from the Volga region, India and Iran. They gathered here, with trading caravans from the region travelling to the Near East, to East Turkistan and China. There were routes to Mongolia from Khiva, and through the Polovtsian Land - to Saksin, a trading city at the mouth of the Volga River. Goods were traded further afield to Russian princedoms and even to Europe. Archaelogists have discovered new routes which ancient caravans travelled; in particular, from Khorezm to Mangyshlak and from there to the sea in the lower Volga region; proving that Khorezm merchants connected a considerable part of the Central Asian states with Eastern Europe trade.