Itchan Kala (1990)
Uzbekistan

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Itchan Kala is the inner town (protected by brick walls some 10 m high) of the old Khiva oasis, which was the last resting-place of caravans before crossing the desert to Iran. Although few very old monuments still remain, it is a coherent and well-preserved example of the Muslim architecture of Central Asia. There are several outstanding structures such as the Djuma Mosque, the mausoleums and the madrasas and the two magnificent palaces built at the beginning of the 19th century by Alla-Kulli-Khan. 
  • Uzbekistan 1992. Itchan Kala. Kultug-Murad-inak Mosque. Khiva 19th century. 

Uzbekistan 1992. Itchan Kala. Kultug-Murad-inak Mosque. Khiva 19th century.

A day-trip from Bukhara is Khiva, a small city -- its population barely tops 40,000 -- but its history as the best preserved stop on the old Silk Road gives it a broad appeal for tourists tracing the historic trading route. In the Khorezm oasis of the Kara-Kum Desert, Khiva was the capital of the Khivan Khanate from 1592 until the Bolshevik take-over in 1920. Nobody seems to know exactly how old this ancient city is, though the story goes that Khiva was founded by none other than Shem, the son of Noah (of “and the Ark” fame); at the very least, the city dates back to the 7th century, and probably much earlier. Despite its seemingly romantic history as a Silk Road oasis, the city became most notable as Central Asia’s biggest slave trade center. Practically all Khiva monuments are placed in Itchan Kala. 

 Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th anniversary of the Silk Road. Islamkhodzha Minaret, Khiva.

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th anniversary of the Silk Road. Palvan-Darvasa Gateway, Khiva.

Uzbekistan 1997. 2500th Anniversary of the Silk Road. Kultug-Murad-Inak madrasa, Khiva.

For those who’ve seen old cities at their best and worst, Khiva may feel a bit like the Williamsburg of the East, for its genuine dirt and din were swept clean by an aggressive Soviet sanitation in the 1970s. Intent on transforming the traditionally teeming city into a living museum, Khiva was purged of much of its ancient bustle, and its buildings were scrubbed down (or, in the case of some landmarks, such as the 9th century Dzhuma Mosque, rebuilt) and turned into public exhibits. 

Sources and links: 

Many thanks to Mr. Leonards Naglis (Latvia) for all help and advice. 

World Cultural Heritage Properties in Uzbekistan (on this web site). For more information about the individual properties, please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Uzbekistan-section.

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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