The town-museum in the open air Khiva is located in the west of Khorezm region. Khiva is situated at a height of 100 meters above sea level, in the middle of Kyzyl-Kum desert. Out of a huge quantity of the canals, supplying the water to Khorezm oasis, Palvan canal brings the water to Khiva.
The town is divided into the modern part with the habitable structures and the historical part Ichan Kala enclosed with the massive fortified walls of XVI c. Inside of Ichan Kala there are palace structures, mosques, mausoleums, minarets and numerous madrasahs.
The history of Khiva
The history of the town is inseparably linked with the history of the period of prosperity and decline of the civilization of the ancient Khorezm. The Khorezm state is considered to be one of the early centers of the civilization in the Central Asia. According to the data of the archeological explorations it is known, that the ancient Khorezm civilization existed as far back as in Late Stone Age (IV-beginning of III millennium before new era.)
At the close of X century the representative of the local dynasty Mamun ibn Muhammad seized power and declared himself as an independent ruler – Khorezm Shah. Since this period it starts the prosperity of the medieval Khorezm. In the academy founded by Khorezm Shah Mamun there were working the outstanding scientists, persons of encyclopaedic learning: Abu Rayhon Biruni (al Borone) and Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna).
Khiva was razed to the ground in XII c. by troops of Genghis Khan. The real prosperity of Khiva started since XVI c., when there were erected the town walls with the gate, beautiful palaces, mosques, mausoleums and minarets. They all formed the unique architectural complex remained to this day.
The political importance of Khiva started to surge since XVI c. Khiva became the main town over five other fortified towns Besh-Kala (in translation it means “Five forts”). The architecture of Khiva is considered to be young because Khiva itself became the capital of Khorezm only in the first half of XVII c.
In XVIII c. because of continuous civil dissensions and famine the urban life in Khiva nearly came to a standstill. It was a period of the dire crisis and decline.
In the middle of XVIII c. Khiva was seized by Iranian troops and was laid waste. The town was depopulated and at one time numbered just some scores of inhabitants. At the start of XIX c. the khan from Kungrad dynasty came to power. At that time the stabilization began in economy and in political life. Khiva was lined with new buildings very fast, revived the traditions of the local medieval architecture. The palace Kunya-Ark which was in ruins also revived. The old palace reception room Arang-khana was demolished and at that place there was started the construction of the new palace. At that time there was erected the entrance gate to Kunya-Ark and simultaneously the sister gate to Ichan-Kala – Palvan Darvoza. There was finished also the broadening of the ancient jami Juma and there was erected the new minaret there.
The whole XIX century passed in Khiva under the badge of the intensive construction which was continued at the time of entry of Khiva khanate into the Russia protectorate.
The architectural heritage of the old town Khiva (Ichan-Kala)
- Seid Allaudin mausoleum
- Juma mosque
- Toshkhovli palace
- Pakhlavan Mahmud mausoleum
- Shirgazi-khana madrasah
- Kalta-minar minaret
- Nurullabay palace
- Toza-bog palace
- Islam Khodja madrasah
Khiva and Urgench are located in oasis between two deserts – Kyzyl Kum (red sand) and Kara Kum (black sand). The whole of the vegetable kingdom in this region is due, first of all, to Amu Darya River and the vast channeling like around Nile River in Africa. Amu Darya River is the fruitful stream in the whole Central Asia where the bringing by the stream clay composition has even more minerals and useful substances than in the clay of Nile River. But when you are in the middle of nearly lifeless desert, you’ll not remember about such associations. Only flying over the whole desert you understand that you are really in oasis. Today in this region live about 1 mln people. From the northern part Autonomous Republic Karakalpakistan joins this region.
Many centuries ago Khiva was exactly that place where the thirsting wanderers could find the rest and asylum. During the Muslim Renascence times (IX-X cc.), when Avicenna, Al Khorezmi and Al Beruni lived, Khorezm oasis gained the world fame of the scientific center. Right up to XVII c. Khiva located in the center of several caravan roads of the Great Silk road was the cheesecake for the caravan robbers and brigands from the desert. Minarets of the town attracted the caravans which were bringing a lot of profit and promised successful prosperity. Regular recovery and the flowering of culture of the town came over after XVIII c., after Iranian ruler Nodir shah destroyed the town. In 1715 Russians, in search of the shortest way to India, showed their own interest to this oasis, but at that time all their expeditions were lost and merged with the sand in the desert. Nevertheless Khiva khan recognized the supremacy of the Russian tsar in 1873 when he signed the relevant agreement.
The modern Khiva numbers 60,000 inhabitants 80% of which live in external town. The main bazaar is located from the eastern side of Ichan-Kala (old town). Significant for Khiva is the city park with the park amusements and Ferris wheel. Near it there is the children puppet show, Mamun academy, polyclinic and department shore. Here you’ll not see multistorey buildings. If you look at the town from above, you will see only silhouettes of minarets, mosques and domes, one-storey houses and greenery – nothing else you’ll see as far as the eye can see, it looks quite and pacific. There are no many cars in the streets. You can see many fields near the houses both in Khiva and in the neighborhood. Along with the cotton the locals cultivate also the fruit trees, rice, sorghum, maize, sunflowers and many mulberry trees. Khiva melons and grapes are very famous for their taste. In ancient times just grapes were taken by caravanners to various parts of the world.