According to legend, Khiva was founded by Shem, Noah's son discovered a well in Khiva. Khiva existed since at least the 8th century as a minor fort and trading post as a branch of the Silk Road. Khiva was made the capital of a state in Khorezm in 1592 and was made infamous for running a busy slave market for more than three centuries.
In current days, Khiva's old town is contained inside Ichon-Qala gates and walls. Ichon-Qala is so well preserved that it is criticised and commented as a "museum city". Well, it is though it still has it's charm and rustic feel.
1. Ota Darvoza
The main gate to get in Ichon-Qala is Ota Darvoza, the West Gate which mean 'Father Gate'. When there's West Gate, there is also North, East, South Gate. One can climb up from the North Gate and walk along the top. It's a free of charge option to see the amazing sunset view if you have not or decided not to pay for the watchtower ticket. Though both does have a different set of scenery.
Moving just a little away from the above sign board (picture #1), also outside of the West Gate is the statue of Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a famous scientist born in Khiva in 783 AD. Do you remember him? You don't? Well - meet the father of algebra, al-Khwarizmi. His name was rendered as Algoritmi in Latin, which in English - algorithm.
I kid you not, there are tonnes of medressa, mosques or mausoleums compacted in this little gated "community". You can request for a free printed copy of map from the Tourist Information Centre. When I say printed, it is computer printer kind of printed, in grey scale. Of course, some are little ones and some are obviously the star attractions. Anyway, once you have purchased the ticket (UZS 39,000 pp) for this you can enter almost all of the sights. One other sight that isn't covered by this entrance ticket is the Kuhna Ark watchtower (UZS 4,000 pp). Both tickets are valid for 2 days.
Edit: I found a copy of the computer printed map obtained from Tourist Info Centre so here's how it looks like.
3. Kalta Minor Minaret
If you go enter through the West Gate, you won't miss the turquoise shades tiled minaret - Kalta Minor Minaret. Foundation of the minaret is at 15 meters, diameter is 14.5 meters and at 29 meters. The construction started in 1851 by Mohammed Amin Khan. He wanted to build a minaret so high that he could see all the way to Bukhara. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1855 and the minaret was left unfinished, leaving it's current stumpy state.
As for the rest of the sights, pick some or visit all depending on the time you have, your interest and tolerance of the heat especially if you travel in summer like we did! Beautiful blue sky but no clouds and harsh sun made one sluggish and thought of siesta often!
Well, here are a few more others (aside from the above). ^^
4. Kuhna Ark
This was Khiva rulers' own fortress and residence. It was first built in the 12th century. Most of the rooms are locked. After getting through the entrance, one won't miss a circular area on the ground, it was for the royal yurt.
Khiva sure knows how to make money. As mentioned above, watchtower in Kuhna Ark is not included in the 2 days ticket but it's worth paying for the extra ticket to see the aerial view of Khiva. When we were there, the person who guard the watchtower entrance requested for payment in USD but it is cheaper to pay in UZS with currency conversion. If this happens, just insist to pay in UZS or tell them that you don't have USD.
|Staircase to the top|
|View at the top|
|View from the top|
A mosque with 218 wooden supporting columns supporting its roof. A couple of the columns were from the 10th century. Just ask the staffs who checks the entrance tickets if you cannot guess which ones - easy cheats :P
6. Tosh-hovli Palace
Tosh Havli said to mean "Stone Court". It was so named because the this building was made from stone-hard bricks instead of the usual clay. It was built by the other of Allakuli Khan from 1832 and 1841. It consists of 3 courtyards - reception area, harem and guesthouse. Nowadays visitors allowed to tour the harem courtyard. The interior decorations including tiles and ceiling details are colourful and striking.
7. Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum
This is another sight that needs a separate entrance ticket (UZS 5,000 pp). Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum was a poet, philosopher and legendary wrestler who became Khiva's patron saint. The tomb was from the yaer 1326 and then rebuilt in the 19th century. In 1913 it was requisitioned by the khan as the family mausoleum.
We bumped into a fellow traveller who stayed at the same B&B coming out of this mausoleum when we walked passed and he told us it is a good place to get some refuge from the hot sun! Psst.. this place had air-con. :P
8. Islom-Hoja Medressa
This medressa houses the Museum of Applied Arts but in my humble opinion, the exhibits are not of much interest to me. My unfortunate memory of this medressa was it was a stuffy place. :(
The selling point was obviously the highest minaret standing at 57m tall. In fact, the first thing we were asked when we were there was, "Do you want to climb the minaret?" We decided that the view was watchtower was spectacular enough for us and did not climb. The exterior was beautiful though.
Katya is Khiva's token camel, you can sit on it and take a photo with Katya for a small fee. The Hungarian traveller who informed us about the air con in Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum really wanted a selfie sitting on the camel. I can't remember how much he paid but any fee very much depends on your bargaining skills too. Grin.
10. Handicraft - window shopping or shopping
Some are widely found across the country - like the suzani and potteries. However not so much for the paper puppets, hand painted jewelry box.
|For some reason everybody in Khiva was knitting|
|Cloth made box|
|Teapots and cups|
|Puppets made from paper|
|Hand painted jewelry box|
Side note: Ok, full disclosure here - I'm totally cheating. I backdated this post a day... happy birthday to me. lol. :P