Welcome to Uzbekistan! Welcome to Khorezm!Posted by Uzbekistan Embassy in Israel on Saturday, April 17, 2021
Peace is all we need in any country at any time. By a lucky coincidence, today Uzbekistan Airways relaunches its direct flights between Uzbekistan and Israel “Tashkent – Tel Aviv – Tashkent” for us to see a peaceful country in its spring beauty. From today, all Israelis are offered the opportunity to fly away from the worldly bustle of a country tired of unrest and plunge into the diversity of the East, with its original beauty. Where else have we not been on our virtual tours? What else would we like to see? Where can you rest your soul from modern reality, plunging into antiquity, cleansing it from anxiety? I think it is best to choose Khorezm for this purpose.
Khorezm, the most ancient region of Uzbekistan is a very unique place. It is the center of the origin of the civilization and culture of the Eastern peoples. The first records about Khorezm are found in the book of the Zoroastrians “Avesta”. By the way, it is this land that is home to the greatest genius of antiquity, the creator of the map of the Earth in the form of a sphere and the founder of algebra – Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi.
The Khorezm region is located in a flat area, in some places, there are small hills. In the north, the region borders Karakalpakstan, in the south with Turkmenistan, and in the southeast with the Bukhara region.
Today, the growing interest of the world’s population in tourism is leading to a huge change and growth of attitudes towards ecotourism, especially the most attractive type of tourism.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization, ecotourism remained one of the five main strategic directions of tourism development until 2020. In recent years, the share of ecotourism in the total volume of the global tourism industry has exceeded 10%, and its growth rate is 2-3 times higher than the corresponding indicators in the entire tourism industry.
In this regard, along with the development of historical, cultural, and pilgrimage tourism in the Republic of Uzbekistan, in particular, in the Khorezm region, serious attention is paid to the development of this promising type of industry – ecotourism.
Khorezm region has its own rich resources for the development of ecotourism. It attracts the attention of foreigners for its unique beautiful nature and landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, as well as rare, world-famous archaeological finds. As mentioned above, the fauna of the region is very diverse, including 21 species of mammals, 110 species of birds, 15 species of reptiles, 2 species of aquatic and terrestrial animals, 30 species of fish.
The climate of the Khorezm region is sharply continental, and in this respect, it can be compared with the climate of Egypt, which is recognized by many foreign tourists.
The Khorezm region is distinguished by a variety of flora and fauna. The crossing of the Amu Darya river along the border of the region served as the basis for the formation of unique riparian forests along with it. The tugai forests formed by the silverberry, yulguns, and turangas on the banks of the river are favorites of a number of mammals such as wild boar, tugai cat, badger, and birds such as pheasants, redstarts, oranges, hawks, and also various reptiles.
The fact that the southern border of the region runs along the sands of the Karakum also creates a completely different picture of these places. Saxaul, waders, and rabbits are not evenly distributed everywhere.
Around the natural lakes of the region and in their vicinity grow herbs such as reed and sagebrush. In this area, you can find foxes, sand cats, various rodents, as well as sparrows, blackbirds, wild pigeons, and others.
The natural resources and biodiversity of the Khorezm region make it possible to create new tourist destinations for domestic and international tourism, including the development of ecotourism and hotel services on the banks of the Amu Darya in Bagat, Khanka, and Urgench districts.
In addition, the Khorezm National Park is open for visits. For the convenience of visitors to the national park, 6 ecotourism routes have been developed. The total area of the Khorezm National Park is 21687.5 hectares, it is located in the Khiva, Tuprokkala, Yangibazar, Urgench, and Khankaysk regions. On the territory of the national park, there are a number of unique plants and animals listed in the “Red Book of the Republic of Uzbekistan”.
There are 112 species of tall plants in the national park, 76 of which are medicinal, used in modern and traditional medicine.
29 of the protected national park species are included in the Red Book of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 11 of which are included in the International Red Book of the International Society of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Animals, as well as 3 rare species of animals, are endemic to the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Central Asian region.
It is known for certain that in the 12th century, a powerful state of the Khorezmshahs was formed on the territory of the nowadays Khorezm region, which a century later fell from the Mongol invasion. But already in 1376, the Great Tamerlane freed Khorezm from the Mongol yoke and finally annexed this region to his empire.
The country of a thousand fortresses – this is what Khorezm is called because of the huge number of ancient monuments located on this territory. Ancient settlements with a thousand-year history, palaces, mosques, minarets – here literally every stone breathes history.
The heart of the region is the real city of the open-air museum – Khiva, which is over 2500 years old, and in the region itself, there are more than 250 objects of architecture and culture.
Khiva is one of the most ancient and unusual cities in Central Asia. It’s a beautiful oasis city with ancient walls, minarets, and unique clay buildings.
It is located in the northwest of the Republic of Uzbekistan – in the Khorezm region. For over 400 years Khiva was the last capital of the Khorezm state. According to archaeologists, more than 2500 years ago, this city appeared on the shores of the Karakum Desert as a transit point for travelers and traders.
Thanks to the Great Silk Road, the city revived, expanded, and grew rich. Trade caravans went through the city from East to West and back. In addition to merchants, the caravans included missionaries and itinerant scientists. The mixing of cultures and peoples in the city bore fruit, so the first prayer houses appeared – the temples of the Zoroastrians, Buddhist temples, synagogues. VII-VIII centuries AD with the conquest of Central Asia by the Arabs, mosques, and madrassas appeared. Mosques, in addition to a prayer house, also served as an elementary school and a madrasah as a secondary specialized and higher education center.
The city is the birthplace of the great mathematician, astronomer, and geographer – Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (783-850), whose name is associated with algebra. His work Al jabr al muqabala (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing) was translated into Latin as Algebra. The modern word “algorithm” also comes from his name Algorithmus in Latin. He headed the House of Wisdom Academy in Baghdad and measured the circumference of the globe in 827 in the Sinjari Desert. His measurements were so accurate that they have remained unsurpassed in accuracy over the past 700 years.
Ichan-Kala is the heart of Khiva, in special and popular literature it is often called the City of Four Gates and the only Shakhristan that has survived in Central Asia, all of whose elements – a citadel, a cathedral mosque, minarets, educational institutions, a bazaar, residential quarters, fortifications still form a harmonious whole. Almost regular, meridional orientation rectangle of the fortress walls of Ichan-Kala, closing the territory of the inner city with an area of 26 hectares, has four gates.
Historically, the city was surrounded by a deep moat and fortress walls 12-14 meters high and about 6 meters wide. The circumference of the inner wall is 2200 meters and has an area of 26 hectares, from west to east 400 meters – from south to north 640 meters.
The city has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its history. In 712, the Arabs invaded and occupied the city for a hundred years. In 1220, Genghis Khan’s army attacked and destroyed the city. The inhabitants resisted to the last – this is evidenced by one of the old burial mounds outside the city of Zirkhi-Shahidan, where the main battles with the Mongols took place. The name Zirkhi-Shahidan in translation means the place of death of the fighters for the faith – “Shield of the fighters for the faith”. The military campaigns of Amir Temur and Sheybanikhan, the campaign of the Russians in 1717 and 1839, the campaign of the Iranian ruler Nadirshah and the constant raids of the steppe nomadic peoples agitated Khiva. At the same time, the city has always strived for revival and independence.
The city developed as an important trade hub on the Great Silk Road – evidence of this is the many markets, retail outlets, and caravanserais both inside and outside the city. The city was also famous as one of the educational centers of Central Asia. This is evidenced by 29 madrasahs with a concentrated area of 26 hectares of the inner city. And there were 64 of them in the whole city.
Khiva is one of the oldest cities in the world. For many centuries it has been making a significant contribution to the development of the spiritual and material culture of mankind. It is no coincidence that Khiva is called an open-air museum city.
This is one of the centers of international tourism, with more than 120 architectural monuments dating back to the 5th century BC, which are under state protection.
The architecture of Khiva amazes with its simplicity and monumentality of forms, the elegance of carved wooden details, virtuoso weaving of ornamental motifs, color restraint of majolica. The residential architecture of Khiva in all its originality is the embodiment of the best achievements accumulated by the experience of many generations.
The world recognition of the city’s cultural heritage is evidenced by the fact that, along with the necropolis of Memphis, the pyramids of the pharaohs in Egypt, the center of Rome, the Moscow Kremlin, the city was the first to be included in the list of World Heritage sites in Central Asia on December 12, 1990, by the decision of the UNESCO Session, and in 1997 under the auspices of UNESCO, the 2500th anniversary of Khiva was solemnly celebrated.
The structure of the museum-reserve consists of 54 architectural monuments, there are 14 museums, 28 expositions, 4 interiors, and 6 objects of visit. The funds of the Khiva Museum contain over 50 thousand exhibits, of which 10%, that is, 6 thousand items are documents.
The basis of these exhibits is made up of various items confiscated from the khan’s court in 1920: weapons, khan’s photographs, coins, porcelain, women’s jewelry, and household utensils. Among these items were documents from the archives of the khan’s office, these are khan’s letters, waqfnama, and many other written sources of history.
Khiva was declared the cultural capital of the Turkic world in 2020.
The modern city of Khiva strives to become the center of world tourism. Every year more and more tourists from different countries visit the city. For example, in 2019 alone, more than 30 4000 foreign tourists from 154 countries visited Khiva. This is twice as much as in 2018. For the convenience of tourists, infrastructure continues to develop, along with tourist information centers, tourist police, a new railway station, museums, parks, hotels, and catering facilities. The city is gradually turning from a trade and educational center into a promising destination.
The pages of history are full of stories about the luxurious life of eastern khans and emirs. And, of course, every ruler tried to surround himself with palace chambers, marvelous gardens, and imposing royal halls. For this, the most skilled craftsmen, jewelers of the architectural craft were invited.
Would you like to visit the past? See a real historical town, wander through the old streets? All this is real, you just have to come to Khiva, and you will see with your own eyes a real oriental fairy tale – the open-air fortress city of Ichan-Kala, which is a treasure of Uzbekistan and contains numerous madrasahs, mosques, minarets, cells, craft workshops, and inns courtyards.
Ichan Kala is the heart and soul of ancient Khiva. An open-air city and a unique repository of the oldest architectural monuments. In the very center of Ichan Kala, there is a unique spiritual institution of the early XX century. This is the Islam Khoja madrasah. The architectural ensemble consists of the madrasah itself and a minaret almost 45 meters high.
In addition, oddly enough, in this unique historical city people live and work, who at any time of the year will greet each guest with a smile, show and tell about all the wonders of this place. The walls of the city were built in the V-VI centuries.
Most of the buildings in Ichan-Kala have retained their original appearance – stone-paved streets, minarets, mosques, madrasahs, and cells, even the buildings that have been built today are decorated to match the local architecture.
The madrasah and minaret of Islamkhoja were built at the beginning of the 20th century by the vizier of the Khiva ruler of Asfandiyarkhan – Akbar Islam Khodja in 1908. The madrasah consists of 42 hujras with 100 students. Its facade is two-storied, and the high roof makes the madrasah especially luxurious. Islam Khoja allocated 14451 tanab (5780 hectares) of land from his property for the foundation of a madrasah.
A marble plaque is fixed above the entrance to the madrasah, on which the history of the construction of the madrasah is written.
Prominent masters and architects of the Khiva Khanate worked on the construction of the madrasah, including the famous master Khudoybergan Khoji, who left his name on one of the tiles to the left of the entrance, as well as the best masters – ornamentalists of that time.
As conceived by the architects, 2 buildings were built like a game of contrasts: the tallest minaret in a small area is adjacent to the smallest madrasah.
Inside the madrasah, you can see more than 40 prayer rooms and a large domed hall. Mihrab – a prayer wall facing the direction of Mecca, is decorated with elegant majolica and ganch, and the walls are decorated with tiles and blue glaze.
In 1910, the construction of the ensemble was completed. The height of the minaret was 44.6 meters. It was one of the tallest minarets in the East after the Kalyan minaret in Bukhara.
The madrasah currently houses the Museum of Applied Arts of Khorezm. It displays samples of such collections as woodcarving, textiles, carpet weaving, copper carving, and jewelry from priceless masterpieces of the art of the 13th – 20th centuries.
The minaret, built in front of the Islam Khoja madrasah, amazes the viewer with its luxury and beauty. The tower is 51 meters high. Half a million bricks were used for its construction. The top of the tower is crowned with a graceful cornice and a domed background. The surface of the window sill is faced with porcelain stoneware of various shapes, and the space between them is filled with multi-colored glazed tiles. The window sill and cornice are faced with glazed bricks of green-blue, blue, and white colors.
A circular staircase with a height of 35-40 cm leads to the tower, consisting of 118 steps. There are 10 holes made around the circumference so that the light gets inside. There are 6 lattice windows on top of the common observation deck. The tower is decorated with a belt of 14 tiles. Above it is a copper dome with a height of two and a half meters, on which there is an image of a crescent that rotates depending on the movement of the wind.
The construction of the minaret was completed by the poet Niyazi.
Nurullabay Palace is another reason to come to the Khorezm region and see the magnificent Khiva. It conveys the history of Khiva at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries and is not inferior to other palaces in beauty charm, and splendor.
The history of the construction of the palace is interesting.
Several remarkable monuments have survived in Dishan-Kala or the Outer Fortress of Khiva. And one of them is the Nurullabay Palace, founded in 1906 by Muhammad Rahim Khan II of Khiva, who lived in the period 1864-1910.
Its construction was completed in 1912. By tradition, the palace is surrounded by a powerful fortress wall with a length of more than 650 meters, with many semicircular guldasta towers. The palace complex includes several courtyards and gardens, arzkhana – the hall where the khan ruled the court, ceremonial and living quarters, and a reception hall. The building of the madrasah adjoins the palace. The main building is surrounded by two-story rooms with double-height iwans.
It is known that the remarkable Khiva master-mason usto Kuryaz Babadjanov erected the palace walls, and the usto Khudoybergen Haji, famous for the construction of the Islam-Khoja minaret, decorated them with ornamental calculations of glazed bricks.
Usto Nurmat and Ruzmet Masharipov and usto Babadzhan Kalandarov performed ganch carving and painting in the ceremonial interiors.
The color of the luxurious ganch murals of the octahedral hall and other palace premises, richly decorated with gilding interspersed with red and dark green colors, significantly differs from the restrained combination of blue, white, and blue tones traditional for Khiva.
Usto Ata Shikhov and Ismail Abdiniyazov created carved wooden columns, as well as supporting iwan floors and carved stone bases for them.
Mohammed Rakhimkhan II asked a rich man from Khiva Nurullabay to sell his garden. The merchant Nurullabay agreed, but on one condition that the name of the garden remains the same. Khan agreed to the condition. Thus, the name Nurullabay has been preserved.
Mohammed Rakhimkhan II decided to build a large summer palace on the territory of the garden for his beloved son Asfandiyar Khan (1871-1918). The palace is located in the northwestern part of Ichan-Kala. It is surrounded by a high wall and consists of four courtyards. You can get to the palace through the front gate, inside which there were special rooms for guards and the office.
The house for official receptions is located separately – the so-called reception room of Asfandiyar Khan, who ruled Khiva in 1910-1918. In the creation of the palace apartments, not only the leading Khiva masters participated, but also invited Russian and German decorators, who introduced elements of the European Art Nouveau style to the decoration.
The palace acquired its final appearance after the death of Muhammad Rakhimkhan II when his son Asfandiyar Khan ascended the throne.
The palace was rebuilt at the request of the khan, in particular, a separate building was erected with a ceremonial hall for receiving dignitaries.
For the construction of the reception hall, the chief vizier of Khiva went to Moscow for consultation with leading architects. Later, architects, led by the famous Russian engineer Roop, came to Khiva to build a city post office, a hospital, and, of course, the palace reception hall.
So, in the staterooms, there were fireplaces lined with tiles, Venetian mirrors, and bronze gilded chandeliers with crystal pendants. Especially characteristic is the “newfangled” marble fireplace in Asfandiyar’s reception room, decorated with Ionic columns, meander patterns, and a wrought-iron gate. Art Nouveau murals and stucco moldings on the ceiling of one of the halls are also made in the spirit of new trends introduced from the West.
Among the many historical sights of the old part of the city of Khiva – Ichan Kala, the residence of the Khiva khans – the Kunya Ark Fortress, built at the end of the 17th century, deserves special attention.
Upon completion of the citadel construction in 1688, Kunya-Ark turned out to be a kind of “fortress in a fortress”, separated from Ichan-Kala by a high clay wall. There were winter and summer mosques, a reception hall, premises for the female part (harem), a mint, stables, workshops, living rooms, etc.
Military parades and training battles were held on the square of the fortress, there was also a prison (zindan) with a place for the execution of sentences.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the citadel was restored.
“My ardent spirit is a fire that melted everything around.
And the rivers of these tears fill my flames on the ground.
And the clay that is involved in those tears – I myself!
And I, a potter, have the right to be proud of myself”.
Without a doubt, the memorial complex of Pakhlavan Mahmud can be considered one of the main architectural monuments and a place of pilgrimage in Khiva. This grandiose ensemble appeared around the burial place of the great poet and educator, Sufi and philosopher – Pakhlavan Mahmud (1247-1326). The ensemble includes a khanqah, a mausoleum with a bright green dome, the silhouette of which has become one of the main symbols of ancient Khiva.
Pahlavan Mahmoud was famous for his nobility, wisdom, and poetic talent. In addition to a bright mind, he possessed excellent physical qualities, for which the poet was called Pakhlavan – Champion. He took part in fighting and strength tournaments in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.
Pakhlavan Mahmud wrote extensively using literary forms such as ruba’i and poems. His famous book Kanz ol-Haghayegh, literally The Treasure of Truths, reflects the ideas of Sufism. Unfortunately, some of the poet’s manuscripts have not survived to this day, but there are samples that can be seen at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.
The mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmoud is considered sacred since it’s the burial place where the Sufi saint rests. Pahlavan Mahmoud was also known as Pir Yar-Vali, which was his literary pseudonym. The saint was buried in 1326 in the courtyard of his leather workshop. Over time, his burial began to overgrow with other graves, turning this place into a large cemetery.
“Where the honests’ shelter is a tombstone,
Where the mask of evil is a half-face smile,
To be a faithful dog with a faithful one is more honorable,
Than to be considered the first person of a scoundrel”.
The first mud brick mausoleum was built over the tombstone of Pahlavan Mahmoud in the 17th century. It was a small single-chamber mausoleum with one dome. Subsequently, the structure collapsed.
Later, in 1835, a new structure of baked bricks was built on the ruins of an old building, which we can see to this day. The structure was built during the reign of Allah Kuli Khan.
Today the building consists of ziyoratkhana and gurkhana, which have a domed ceiling. On the back, there is an entrance blocked by an old carved door. It was made in 1810 and is decorated with delicate ornaments and ivory details.
Also, a large khanqah was attached to the mausoleum, which eventually turned into a necropolis of the rulers of the Khiva Khanate. Now khanqah is the central building of the ensemble.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a two-story korikhona (dormitory for Quran reciters) and a summer iwan mosque on the east side were added in the western part of the complex. On the left, there is a room with three sagans, which were intended for Asfandiyar Khan, his mother, and his son.
By the way, Asfandiyar Khan initiated the construction of new structures on the territory of the complex. But there are no burials in the two sagans since Asfandiyar Khan and his son are buried outside Ichan-Kala.
Behind the main mausoleum, there is a cemetery, which is part of the complex. In addition, the ensemble includes the Shir-Kabir winter mosque, the iwan-shaped summer mosque, and several small mausoleums.
The interior decoration of the Pahlavan Mahmoud mausoleum has an elegant interior. At first, the eye is drawn to the solemn portal covered with Khiva majolica. A spectacular chandelier is located in the center of the hall, the walls are covered with interior majolica cladding. The interior is designed strictly in the same style, the luxury and variety of compositions delights.
The architectural complex of Pahlavan Mahmoud is another example of how, from a modest mausoleum, the building over time turned into a magnificent ensemble, decorated with poems of Pahlavan Mahmoud, religious sayings, and the names of masters.
Located near the western walls of the Tash Khauli fortress in Khiva, the Uch-Avliye mausoleum was erected in the second half of the 16th century in honor of three saints.
The hall of the building is decorated with a huge dome with a cell vault. The mausoleum contains many graves, the earliest of which dates from 1561, indicated on the carved door. Here you can also see the name of the master – Abdullah Ibn Said.
The first reconstruction in the mausoleum was carried out in 1821-1822, the second in 1980, when the entrance door, the columns of the mosque, and the iwan were damaged after heavy rain and wind.
Traveling around Khorezm, do not miss the opportunity to visit the historical town “Ulli-Khovli”, built in the 17th century by two peoples – Uzbeks and Turkmens.
Ulli-Khovli or The Big yard, is located in the Urgench district of the Khorezm region.
Initially, it was built by a Khiva Khan as a military town for the brave Turkmen, who at that time lived on the territory between Khiva and Urgench and defended the trade caravans passing here from enemy raids.
Now the fortress, surrounded by a wall, is intended for everyone who wants to look into the past and learn the culture of the two peoples. Concerts with songs and dances of Uzbeks and Turkmens are held here almost every day.
In the fortress, you can ride camels and horses, walk through craft workshops and a gallery, take selfies with real Turkmen warriors and dine in Uzbek yurts.