Uzbekistan is home to historic Silk Road cities and epic Islamic architecture. Uzbekistan is a phenomenal place to visit for these reasons. Unfortunately for its citizens, it is always ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Fortunately, we were insulated from any of that.


From 1717 to the 20th century, Central Asia was ruled by three rival Khans who controlled their Khanates. These three were Khiva and Bukhara (both now in Uzbekistan), and Kokand (now in Kyrgyzstan). The Khans ruled absolutely as feudal despots.


The Khanate of Khiva played a very important role in central Asian history - especially during the Great Game (the 18-20th century struggle between Russia and England to gain control over Central Asia). The fat, turquoise-tiled circular building above, and below right, is the 19th c. Kalta Minor Minaret.



The Khan of Khiva made an offer to Czar Peter the Great of Russia to become his vassal in return for help against marauding Turkmen and Kazak tribes.


The Khans were notorious for their fickleness and cruelty. By the time the Russians sent a 4000-strong force to Khiva in 1717 the Khan no longer wanted Russian protection so he had almost the entire force slaughtered with those remaining enslaved. Khiva’s slave market was the biggest in Central Asia.



On the left the Kalta Minor minaret and to the right the 19th c. Mohammed Amin Khan medressa (a hotel today).


The Russians restored Khiva.



The Islom-Huja minaret and the medressa with the same name were built in 1910.


 It’s 135 ft tall and, of course, we climbed it.



View over Khiva from the Kukhna Ark to the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Medressa and the Islom-Huja Minaret and Medressa. Khiva is a wonderful place to imagine times past.



The Kukhna Ark (fortress and residence of Khiva’s ruler) was first built in the 12th c. and expanded in the 17th c.



Marvelous ceilings, walls and pillars.



Beautiful Islamic architecture.



We arrived in Central Asia a few days before Ramadan. This is the busiest time for weddings because they are usually not done during Ramadan.


This couple was dressed in western style; the wedding party more traditionally dressed.



The Juma mosque has 218 wooden columns supporting the roof dating from the 19th to the 18th c.



Yes, it’s not the camera, the walls are really leaning. A not uncommon sight in Central Asia.




Another example of beautiful Islamic architecture and decoration.



View of the Pahlavon Mohammed mausoleum (with the Islom-Huja Minaret in the background).


The Pahlavon Mohammed mausoleum is Khiva’s most revered mausoleum.




Pahlavon Mohammed was a poet, philosopher and legendary wrestler (what a combination) who became Khiva’s patron saint. The plaque on the right says: “The people of Iran, India and Pakistan also honored him as the patron of wrestlers. Pahlavon Mohammed was one of the prominent founders of Sufi trend of Islam.”


We were thrilled to find out that the traditional “zoor khaneh” (see our Islamic Iran site) that we were so lucky to see in Iran has its roots in Central Asia and not with Sassanian warriors as we were told in Iran. That also explains the strong religious and poetic aspects in zoor khanehs.



In the Pahlavon Mohammed mausoleum there is a beautiful Persian style chamber where Khan Rakhim II's tomb is located (1865-1910).





The Mohammed Amin Khan medressa and city wall as seen from the Kukhna Ark.







Even though a bit touristy, these performers gave a nice demonstration of local costumes, instruments and music. The little fellow on the far right was an incredible ham.



Sunset at Khiva.



The end.