Khiva also spelled as Khorezm or Xiva, is a city in the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan located in the western part of the country, near the border with Turkmenistan.
Khiva‘s old town, known as Ichan Kala, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the historic walled inner city of Khiva, surrounded by brick beautiful walls.
Khiva is less ancient than Samarkand and Bukhara with a history that dates back “only 😊 “for a thousand years, but the old town is often referred to as an “open-air museum.”
In my view, Khiva is the most beautiful of the 3 Silk Road cities. One of its nock names is the City of a Thousand and One Nights, reflecting the city’s well-preserved historic architecture and its association with tales of the Orient.
Inside Ichan Kala old town, you can find numerous architectural gems, including mosques, madrasahs, palaces, and minarets, that the article below aims to list in a non-exhaustive way, to help travel photography lovers that plan a visit there 😊.
The Kalta Minor Minaret, located in the heart of the historic old town of Khiva, is recognized for its distinctive and unfinished appearance, making it a unique and intriguing architectural piece.
The Kalta Minor Minaret, which translates to “Short Minaret,” was commissioned by Muhammad Amin Khan in 1851. The original intent was to build a minaret that would surpass the height of the Islam Khoja However, the construction was halted after the death of Muhammad Amin Khan in 1855, leaving the minaret unfinished. 😢
The minaret is adorned with vibrant blue tiles, a characteristic feature of Islamic architecture in the region. It has a wide base, giving it a stout appearance.
The unique and picturesque appearance of the Kalta Minor Minaret, with its vibrant tiles and unusual proportions, makes it a favorite subject for photographers. Try the perspective with the Matniyaz Divanbegi Madrasah (a vizier in the 19th century) 😊
Muhammad Ramin Khan Madrasah
Next to the Kalta Minor, this madrasah is one of the largest in Khiva, and its facade is adorned with intricate tilework and calligraphy.
The madrasah was named after Muhammad Amin Khan, a ruler of Khiva during the 19th century.
Standing at over 45 meters tall, this minaret is one of the most prominent landmarks in Khiva. It offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas.
The Islam Khoja Minaret was built in 1910 as part of the Islam Khoja Complex. The complex, which includes a madrasa and a mausoleum, was constructed during the reign of the last Khan of Khiva, Islam Khoja
Traditionally, minarets are used for the call to prayer, and some also serve as watchtowers for defensive purposes. The Islam Khoja Minaret likely had both functions, combining religious and practical aspects.
The Juma Mosque, also known as the Djuma Mosque or Friday Mosque is renowned for its unique and distinctive architectural features. It is a prime example of early Islamic architecture in Central Asia.
The mosque dates back to the 10th century, and while its exact construction date is not precisely known, it has undergone renovations and additions over the centuries.
One of the most notable features is its forest of intricately carved wooden pillars that support the roof. The pillars are made from a variety of wood, and each one is intricately carved with geometric and floral patterns.
The Kuhna Ark is an ancient fortress and residence of the Khivan khan, who were the rulers of the Khanate of Khiva.
The complex includes a variety of structures, such as the Khan’s living quarters, reception halls, administrative offices, and a mosque.
The architecture of the Kuhna Ark reflects the traditional Central Asian style, featuring intricate tilework, arched doorways, and domes. The complex is a fine example of the region’s historic architectural heritage and an amazing photography spot over the old town.
For travel photography lovers, the Jahan Nama Tower provides panoramic views of Khiva🤩
As with many structures in Khiva’s old town, the Kuhna Ark contributes to the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status and stands as a testament to the cultural and historical richness of Central Asia.
Ota Darvoza West gate
The western entrance of Ichan Kala is often referred to as the “Ota Darvoza ” or “Ota Darwaza.” Like other gates in Khiva, the Ota Darvoza features traditional Central Asian architecture.
The gates of Khiva played a crucial role in the city’s defense, and they often served as main entry points for caravans and travelers along the Silk Road.
There are many interesting perspectives, especially early morning, in that area
Bakcha Darvaza (North Gate)
A great opportunity for a different perspective over the Remparts is to reach the north gate access.
It is possible to walk both across the north and west walls, but you can’t go back to the “main” area of Jahan Nama Tower.
This is however a great spot, especially during twilight, when the old town lit up
Madrasah Allakuli Khan
The Alla Kuli Khan Madrasah was built in 1834 with the funds of the khan of the Khanate of Khiva, Alla Kuli.
It is located between the Covered Bazaar (Tim Alla Kuli Khan) and the East Gate (Palvan Darvoza). Its main façade overlooks the courtyard of the Khodjamberdy Bey Madrasah.
Next to Alla Kuli Khan Madrasah, the small Ak Mosque (meaning “the White Mosque’) is a 19th-century mosque, built over a seventeen-century previous mosque.
Its elegant wooden poles with a view over Allakuli Khan Madrasah (and the eastern gate) make it an interesting photography spot.
As you’re there, have a look at the eastern gate as well 😊.
Rooftop terraces at sunset
One of the popular tourist activities in Khiva is to have a drink and dinner on one of the many rooftop terrasse in the old town 😂
One of the best views of Khiva (with amazing food as well) is the Terrassa Café and restaurant, with unbeatable panorama over the Kalta Minor, especially around sunset.
The terrasse offers also fantastic views over Muhammad Rahimkhan Madrassah
It is recommended to book, especially if you want a “prime seat table” as it is quite a popular place, rightly so.
The waiters are friendly and I was even able to get access early morning for sunrise 😊
Muhammed Rahim khan madrassah
As I mentioned the Islamic school above, the Mohammed Rahim Khan Madrasah is named after the Khan who built it in 1876, Mohammed Rahim Khan II. His full name was Saïd Mohammed Rahim Bahadur Khan, but his people called him Madraim Khan.
Mohammed Amin Inaq Madrasah
As you go around the (small) old town, you’ll find many other (less famous & decorated) madrasahs, like the Mohammed Amin Inaq one as an example.
Amin Inaq was a wealthy merchant and philanthropist who funded the construction of this madrasah.
Pahlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum
Pahlavan Mahmoud was a famous poet, philosopher, and wrestler who lived in the 14th century. After his death, a mausoleum was constructed in his honor, and it has become a revered place for both locals and visitors.
The mausoleum is known for its beautiful tilework, intricate carvings, and traditional Islamic architecture.
Inside the mausoleum, you can find the tomb of Pahlavan Mahmoud, and the complex includes a mosque and a Khanqah (a building designed for gatherings of Sufi brotherhoods). Here is a (distorted 😢) panorama to give a feel of the place.
Last but not least, Tash-Hauli Palace, also known as Tosh-Hovli is a historic palace complex known for its impressive architecture and historical significance.
The name “Tash-Hauli” translates to “Stone House,” reflecting the substantial construction of the palace. It was built in the 19th century during the rule of Allakulikhan, the Khan of Khiva, as a residence for his son, Isfandiyarkhan.
The palace served as a royal residence and administrative center. Key features of Tash-Hauli Palace include its large courtyards, intricate tilework, carved wooden columns, and beautifully decorated rooms.
The palace complex consists of living quarters, a harem, reception halls, and various rooms for different purposes and is really worth a visit.
Keep walking around … for the statues…
The city of Thousand and One Night displays an endless number of beautiful statues, so it is worth getting lost in the town, especially in the morning when most visitors are still sleeping.
That place is clearly a paradise for photographers and travel lovers…
Get lost and continue exploring …
The (very) small historical center offers wonders, everywhere you watch so keep walking around ….
Last but not least, take the time to connect with local people…
So I hope my little takeaway of Khiva, the city of a Thousand and One Nights will engage you to travel there
If you are interested, you can read my articles about the two other wonders of the Uzbek Silk Road.