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Day 2 – Khiva | Eight Days in Uzbekistan

I’m usually hyper active and excited during my travels, which made me wake up at 5am, right in time for the sun’s rays falling over this walled city. Luckily, my hotel was located in Ichon Qala with a rooftop on the third floor. Perfect location to see the minarets glistening in the morning sun, and mullahs (priests) walking along the mud streets to call for morning prayer.

We were asked by our tour guide to assemble at our hotel lobby at 9am for the full-day tour of Ichon Qala. After breakfast, we walked to the west gate of the fortress before we begin our tour.

First off is a short history of Silk Road and how all the places around Uzbekistan came around to be the trading spots for various kingdoms, empires and what it was today.

There’s a huge statue of Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (Latin: Algoritmi), who was a prominent mathematician and the father of modern algebra and the concept of algorithms.

Silk Road map and history]

[Statue of mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī]

Although we were already inside the walled city before re-entering, allowing us to take all the pictures for free, our tour guide had to pay UZS 5,000 as photographer’s fee, which also serves as an admission ticket good for two days.

[Inside the west gate of Ichon Qala]

[A map of the fortress city of Ichon Qala]

The first monument on the right is the 19th century Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa, now converted into Hotel Orient Star, open from March to November. There’s a sultan’s chair in front of the entrance where tourists can dress up at the Sultan and take a picture for UZS 10,000.

[Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa, now converted into Hotel Orient Star]

[Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa, now converted into Hotel Orient Star]

[Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa, now converted into Hotel Orient Star]

The stunningly beautiful turquoise structure beside the Madrasa is Kalta Minor Minaret, which was only half-finished (and destined to forever be so) after the ruler at the time, Mohammed Amin Khan, died suddenly. This iconic beauty can be seen from almost anywhere in Khiva.

[Kalta Minor Minaret]

[Kalta Minor Minaret]

Turned left, walking east past the Kaltor Minor Minaret and on the left is an entrance way to a courtyard where you can see the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa to the east and Kunya Ark to the west. There’s a great description and history in this article.

[Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa]

[Entance of Kunya Ark]

[Outer courtyard of Kunya Ark with Kalta Minor minaret in the background.]

[The high two-column aivan of the kurinishkhana, where receptions were held, is faced completely with majolica. During the devastating invasion of the Iranian troops in 18th century, many constructions of the citadel were destroyed, and the kurinishkhana was damaged. At the beginning of the 19th century Iltuzar-khan renewed it. The cold blue-white and sky-blue patterns of the majolica plate contrast with the red murals of the ceiling. The Khiva masters arranged ornaments freely and picturesquely. The interior of the throne-hall is decorated with carved plaster.]

[The Khiva masters arranged ornaments freely and picturesquely. The interior of the throne-hall is decorated with carved plaster.]

[Kitchen of Kunya Ark]

[Alleyway from outer courtyard to kurinishkhana.]

Hanging out on the south wall of Mohammed Rakhim Khan’s Madrasa is Khiva’s mascot camel, Katya. You can take photos with Katya, or ride her on her back for a few thousand soms!

[Khiva’s mascot camel, Katya.

Next up was Djuma (Friday) Mosque in the center of Ichon Qala. This is built in 18th century to resemble the Arabian mosques of ancient times with its 215 wooden pillars supporting its flat ceiling. About 6 or 7 of these columns date as far back as the 10th century and can be told apart by their relatively wider and larger size.

The forest of pillars standing in the semi-darkness of the hall, adorned with the best patterns of Khorezm carving is expressive of the inimitable art of the local masters.

[Djuma Mosque]

[Djuma Mosque]

[Djuma Mosque]

We wandered around the streets of Khiva, along the tiny alleyways and narrow muddy streets, through small madrasas and souvenir shops, and stopped by to buy some fridge magnets from one of the roadside shops, followed by lunch break for an hour.

After about 10 minutes of walking from the restaurant, we reached Tash-Khovli Palace, summer residence of Khivan Khans, was built in the eastern part of the inner city. This complex of a building, with three yards, has rectangular plan, in the southern part are the receiving yard, Arz-Khovli, and a yard for entertainment, Ishrat-Khovli. The northern part is occupied by a harem. Labyrinths of corridors join the yards and buildings. The brothers and relatives of the khan lived in the palace. All the constructions were built from the high quality bricks. The fencing walls of the palace end up with figured cogs. From the flatness of the wall, the high well-portioned towers stand out.

Around the southern part of the square yards, high single-pillar aivans are built with main houses behind them. On the other sides are the rooms for guests with small aivans on the second floor. Five excellent aivans come one after another in the harem. Two rooms were built behind the aivans through a main majolica entrance with a painted ceiling. They are simply decorated dwellings.

[Tash-Khovli Palace]

[Tash-Khovli Palace]

[Tash-Khovli Palace]

[Tash-Khovli Palace]

After the palace, we found ourselves at the east gate of the fortress city. There’s a minaret just outside the east gate, on your right, which tourists can climb to see beautiful sunrise. Our experience was harrowing though – read next day to see why.

[Khiva’s Ichon Qala east gate]

[The only minaret in Khiva that tourists can climb to the top.]

We were escorted back in the city, because except for some street-side shops, there’s not much to see at the east gate.

Next up was the Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan, a famous poet and warrior of the XIV century. This is the only one blue dome in Khiva. There are a lot of legends about his strength and courage. One of the legends tells that Pahlavan conquered the Indian ruler, and the latter agreed to reward him with whatever the hero would wish. Then Pahlavan Makhmud said: “Release my countrymen from prison.” And when the ruler asked how many people he should release, Pakhlavan told all those who would fit into a cow skin. He cut the skin into thin strips, tied them into one large belt and wrapped all the prisoners with the belt. So Makhmud rescued many people from slavery.

[Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan]

[Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan]

[Entrance to Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan]

[Backyard part of Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan]

[Inside Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan]

[Inside Mausoleum of Makhmud Pahlavan]

Just turn right from the entrance of Makhmud Pahlavan’s mausoleum, and you will see the towering Minaret of Islam Khoja complex.

This “modern complex” dates back to the 1910 and has a minaret and a mosque. The complex is called in honor of Islam Khoja, Prime Minister of Isfandiar Khan. It is narrowed upwards, which dates back to the earliest examples of the architecture of the XIV century. The brickwork alternates with bands of glazed patterns on the minaret. The height of the minaret 56.6 meters, diameter of the fundament is 9.5 meters at the base.

For UZS 5000, you can give your glutes a workout and climb up to the top for panoramic views of Khiva.

[Taken from one of the viewing points from the outer walls.]

[Minaret of Islam Khoja complex]

[Mosque and minaret of Islam Khoja complex]

[Panoramic view of Khiva from Islam Khoja minaret.]

This was the end of the tour with our guide. After which I walked to the east gate, followed the road in the city to the post office to get a stamp in my Postal Stamps Travelogue book.

Walking back in the fortress, we headed to Allakuli Khan Madrasa for a cultural dance show that begins at 6:30pm, lasting for an hour. Tickets need not be booked in advance, but it’s recommended in high season.

[Inside of east gate, Khiva]

[Cultural dance show at Allakuli Khan madrasa.]

[Cultural dance show at Allakuli Khan madrasa.]

[Cultural dance show at Allakuli Khan madrasa.]

Right after the show, we headed out to the north gate, from where you can climb the walls of the fortress and walk to the viewing tower. It costs UZS 5,000 per person to access the rooftop from where you have some of the best views of this magnificent fortress city.

We strolled around until it was after dark, then stopped by a restaurant for dinner, before heading back to our hotel, drained from an all-day walk around Khiva.



Note: All values in USD, unless otherwise mentioned, are approximate and based on the exchange rate of USD 1 = UZS 6,000 at the time of publishing. Each cost is for one adult.

What Cost Notes
Souvenirs $6.67 Fridge magnets, postal stamps, postcards – approx UZS 40,000.
Lunch $1.67 UZS 10,000 for one person.
Viewing tower $0.83 UZS 5,000 per person.
Islam Khoja complex Minaret $0.83 UZS 5,000 per person.
Cultural Dance show $9.17 Entrance UZS 10,000. Drinks and tips UZS 45,000.
Dinner $4.17 UZS 25,000 for one person.
Tip to tour guide $20 Khiva tour guide.
Water & snacks $3.33 From local store. UZS 20,000.
Total Costs $46.67 Per person
Overall Costs $1,145.01 Per person


« PREVIOUS – Day 1

Tashkent, Khiva

Sights of Tashkent & flying to Khiva.

Day 2


Ichon Qala and its sights.

Day 3 – NEXT »

Khiva to Bukhara

Traveling from Khiva to Bukhara.


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