Itchan Qala, Khiva: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Khiva’s Itchan Qala — its walled city — was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list in 1990. It was the first World Heritage Site in Uzbekistan. The Khiva oasis 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 Juma Mosque (Friday Mosque), the mausoleums and the madrassas and the two magnificent palaces built at the beginning of the 19th century by Alla-Kulli-Khan.

Itchan Kala, the inner fortress of Khiva, is located to the South of the Amu Darya River (known as the Oxus in ancient times) in the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan and it was the last resting-place of caravans before crossing the desert to Persia.

Itchan Kala has a history that spans over two millennia. The inner town has 26 hectares and was built according to the ancient traditions of Central Asian town building, as a regular rectangle (650 by 400 meters) elongated from south to north and closed by brick fortification walls that are up to ten meters high.

The property is the site of 51 ancient monumental structures and 250 dwellings and displays remarkable types of architectural ensembles such as Juma Mosque, Oq Mosque, madrasahs of Alla-Kulli-Khan, Muhammad Aminkhon, Muhammad Rakhimkhon, Mausoleums of Pahlavon Mahmoud, Sayid Allavuddin, Shergozikhon as well as caravanserais and markets. The attributes are outstanding examples of Islamic architecture of Central Asia. Juma Mosque, a mosque with a covered courtyard designed for the rugged climate of Central Asia, is unique in its proportions and the structure of its inner dimensions (55m x 46m), faintly lit by two octagonal lanterns and adorned with 212 columns. The madrasahs, which make up the social areas, have majestic proportions with a simple decoration, and they form another type of Islamic architecture specific to Central Asia.

The place of the architectural heritage of Itchan Kala in the history of Central Asian architecture is determined not only by the abundance of surviving architectural monuments, but also by the unique contribution of Khorezmian master builders to Central Asian architecture and preservation of its classical traditions. The domestic architecture of Khiva, with its enclosed houses with their courtyard, reception room with portico or avian supported by delicately sculptured wooden posts, and private apartments, is also an important attribute of the property that can be studied in its 18th- and 20th-century morphological variants.

However, the outstanding qualities of Itchan Kala derive not so much from the individual monuments but also from the incomparable urban composition of the city, and from the harmony with which the major constructions of the 19thand 20th centuries were integrated into a traditional structure.

 

Criterion (iii) : Withthe coherent and well preserved urban ensemble of the inner town of Khiva, Itchan Kala bears exceptional testimony to the lost civilizations of Khorezm.

Criterion (iv) : Several monuments of Itchan Kala constitute remarkable and unique types of architectural ensembles, built according to the ancient traditions of Central Asia, which illustrate the development of Islamic architecture between the 14th to the 19th century.

Criterion (v) : The domestic architecture of Khiva, with traditional architectural style, represents an important example of human settlements in Central Asia by virtue of its design and construction.