Khiva — the successor of the great era.
A legendary Khiva is considered to be a tourist «visiting card» of a modern Uzbekistan, a living heiress and the last capital of the great civilization of ancient Khorezm. Although the main «tourist sites» are quite «young” (XVIII-XIX centuries AD), however the town itself has a very advanced age, and its fate is inextricably connected with the emergence, the assertion and the decline of a powerful state of Khorezmshah.
Khiva is located on the western part of Khorezm region, in the center of the Karakum desert, on the left bank of the Amu Darya River. At different times and eras it was called differently: Horasmia and Hvarezm, also it was was known as Khorezm for a long time.
There are a lot of legends about the origin of the town and its name, which are in one way or another connected with the name of Sim — the son of the famous biblical Noah. The most credible says, that the town sprang up around the well in V-IV century, dug in his order. Water in this well, called Kheyvak, had a peculiar taste and stayed cool even in the most intense heat. Firstly at a blessed place a caravanserai was settled, in the length of time it grow and finally turned into the city.
By the way, even nowadays this well can be seen in the north-western wall of Ichon-Qala.
Originally Khiva was not a state capital, it was a huge commercial city, situated on one of the caravan routes of the Great Silk Road between Merv and Urgench, then the capital of the Khorezm (Gurgandzh, now it is named Old Urgench). But nature intervened in its fate. In 1598 year, Amu Darya River showed its cool temperament and retreated from Urgench (Gurganj). Although it happened before, for centuries the river changed its course for several times, but this time the tragedy occurred. The unprecedented drought and the inability to rebuild the city after a devastating campaign of Tamerlane, forced the ruler of Khorezm to move the capital to a new location. Thus, Khiva became the capital, and Khorezm — a Khiva Khanate. Today, 150 kilometers from Khiva city, on the territory of modern Turkmenistan, the ancient ruins of the once great Urgench (Gurganj) lay.
The time of moving the capital was not the best for Khorezm. However, after some time a period of the decline passed and Khiva in a short period managed to win the status of spiritual, scientific and cultural center of the Islamic world.
After the bloody wars and internal strikes Khiva Khanate impoverished quite much and the local rulers could replenish the treasury at the expense of countless raids on neighboring states (Persia and southern Russia), by capturing trade missions and selling into slavery a captured prisoners. There were the largest slave markets in Khiva and Bukhara. According to the scientists, until the middle of the XIX century, it was a «predatory state».
For this reason, in 1873 during a major military operation, the Russian Empire annexed the part of the Khiva Khanate. The city of Khiva was captured by Russian forces and joined the Amu Darya region of Turkestan. The slave trade was suppressed.
In 1919 year the last khan of Khiva was overthrown by the power of the Red Army.
In 1991year, the Khiva city and part of the Khorezm oasis gained independence like the part of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Today Khiva is an open air museum, rightly claiming the title of «the eighth wonder of the world.» And it’s justified, because none of tourist town except that one, could carry to this day its treasures in the original form.
Extant architectonics of Khiva suggests that it was based on the principle which was characteristic for all the walled cities of the ancient East. The core of the city was considered to be a business center or shahristan, but shopping and residential suburbs, named rabads were located on the outskirts of the city, enclosed by a high city wall.
The inner fortress of Khiva city (shahristan) named Ichon-Qala accommodates everything which considered to be the most interesting in this tourist Mecca. The ancient settlement area, which exceeds 26 hectares, is very densely built, so all the monuments, most of which are dated back to XIX century, are very compact. A clay wall length is over 2 kilometers and a thickness of it up to 6 meters has four gates oriented to the cardinal points, separates shahristan from rabad. About 60 historic structures remained in the Ichon-Qala.
Having entered the inner city through the western gate (Darvaza-Ata) travelers could see a great view. On the left side the ancient citadel of Kun-Ark is located, some fragments of which belong to the fifth century. On the right side is the Madrasah of Muhammad Amin Khan. A little bit ahead one will be able to see a grand minaret of Kalta Minar. And closer to the center a Madrassah of Muhammad Rahim Khan II stands.
Toward to the eastern gate (Pahlavan-Darvaza) Tash Hauli palace and Madrasah of Alla-Kuli Khan are situated. On the southern side of the town, not far from the gate (Darvaza-Tash), there are Madrassah of Shergazi Khan, an exquisite mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud, mausoleum of Said Allauddin, as well as the minaret and the mosque of Islam Hoja.
The complex of buildings of Ichon-Qala is not perceived as a complete ensemble since it was created as a vital necessity. But even in such a diverse cluster of buildings, it could be easily notice a pictorial architectural masses and the fascinating variety of silhouettes. And most importantly, it exemplifies an ancient feudal oriental city.
By the way, the architectural reserve of Ichon-Qala is not a «dead» exposure. On the territory of the complex 30 families of the urban artisans inhabit, and many architectural buildings are open as exhibitions and museums.
An exterior fortress (rabad) called Dishan Qala preserved not as good as shahristan. Unfortunately, only the gate and crumbling fragments of the outer wall left from it. Dishan-Kala was built on the order of Allah Kuli Khan in 1842 year in order to protect the city from the attacks of the Turkmen tribes. More than 200 thousand people participated in the construction, therefore, after only three years, a raising of the external strengthening was completed. General size of Dishan Kala is impressive: the length of the wall is 5650 meters, the height is 8 meters, the thickness of the walls at the base is about 4-6 meters. It is noteworthy that the clay for the building was taken not far, just 2 kilometers from the city in a place of Govuk-kul. Nowadays a large lake that is considered to be holy is splashing at this place. Such clay from this place up to this day is in great demand with local potters and as professionals state, has excellent qualities. Not without reason, as it is claimed in the rumors, Muhammad Prophet, when he was building Medina, sent for the clay into these places.
Much more can be told about the legendary city, but believe me, it is useless to describe Khiva only by words, it should be seen! The real oriental fairy tale is to admire the soaring minarets, to wander through the crooked streets paved with chipped stone, to admire the carved wooden columns of magnificent madrasas, to pay tribute to a lacy mosaic of mausoleums and simply to touch by own hand to the rough surface of the centuries-old earthen walls!