As many Eastern cities, Khiva was born “on the water” – in the lower reaches of the Amudarya river and grew up on the irrigated lands of Khorezm oasis.
The written sources confirm the considerable age of Khiva. The historical information on Khorezm is given in “Avesta”. The “father of history” Herodot made a mention of Khorezm and the Khorezmian people. Beruni wrote about the ancient agriculture of Khorezm. Archaeological excavations also prove the age of Khiva to be 2500 years old. All these facts have enabled UNESCO to proclaim Khiva a city-reserve, and its inner part Ichan-Kala has been recognized as a historical monument of the world significance.
Khiva is one of the few cities in the world, where the historical building up has actually been preserved; as a matter of fact it is a whole city in the open air. Monumental architecture of Khiva of the end of the 18th – mid-19th centuries formed this newly built city and the energy with which the city grew up in the course of only two – three generations of masters fascinates us until now. What could be ruinous for the urban settlement in different circumstances, namely casual constructions on little spots of land alongside with rather high congestion of population, became a source of unusual diversity of architectural forms. Ichan-Kala in particular, this most densely populated part of Khiva, became as the fate willed an architectural museum whose buildings represent the best masterpieces of ancient architects.
Traditionally, the spiritual centre was a congregational or Friday mosque. Juma mosque in the Ichan-Kala was also rebuilt at the end of the 18th century; however it preserved the features of classical buildings of the East. This peculiar one-storied building without portals arches and domes has a big hall with a flat roof resting on 213 wooden carved columns.
The biggest madrassah is Mukhammad Amin-khan madrassah. Its double khujras are just fantastic. The facades are trimmed with coloured bricks designs and majolica tiled bands of vegetable ornament. The doors and pandjara are decorated with a wonderful carving.