According to legend, Khiva was founded about 2,500 years ago when a son of Noah, Shem, discovered a well in the middle of the desert exclaimed “Khi-wa!” (which roughly translates as “sweet water”). Whether or not the myth is true, Khiva has existed for a very long time. In the 1600’s it became the capital of the Khanate of Khiva. It was one of the stops of the Silk Road. For a large part of its history, it was as a slave trading post sandwiched in between the vast Kyzylkum (= red sand) and Karakum (= black sand) deserts. In the 1870’s the Russian captured the city and removed all traces of its slave trading past.
The old part of Khiva, or the inner part of the present day city, is enclosed by brick walls whose foundations are believed to have been laid in the 10th century, hence its name Itchan Kala which means ‘within walls’. Itchan Kala was the site of the khan’s palace and it was where high officials and clergy and rich merchants used to live. This is why the most important buildings like palaces and large mosques and madrassas are in the Itchan Kala. The ordinary people, small merchants, craftsmen and peasants lived in Dishan Kala (outside the wall).
below: The population of the whole city is about 50,000. Even though the old part of the city is very touristy, there are residents.
below: Examples of some of the many blue and white tiles used to decorate the buildings.
below: One wall of the old mosque
below: A street vendor sells ceramics and carpets and a few other things.
below: Off to school, early morning.
below: A quiet corner in Khiva.
below: Painted wooded ceiling of one of the rooms in the harem of the castle in Khiva.
below: Laundry hanging outside.
below: A line of mannequins model the latest in fur hats and scarves. For some reason, they are all missing their noses.
below: A brass knocker on a very old carved wood door.
below: Ceramic figurines for sale.
below: A small but colourful collection of items for sale outside the K.H. Devanov Memorial Cinema.
below: An old tire has been put to use as a planter. Like most of Uzbekistan, Khiva receives very little rain.
below: A string of chiles and some salt outside the door to and ward off evil and bring good luck.
below: A pink door. The residents of Khiva live behind walls. It could be someone’s house on the other side of the door or it could be a courtyard or it could be the barn. I encountered more than one cow in the town!
below: An old door. The window has some lovely metal (?) work as decoration and you can just see the floral curtains through the window.