THE TILES OF KHIVA, UZBEKISTAN
A journey along the ancient Silk Route in Uzbekistan leaves memories of turquoise domes and also the exquisite tiles that adorn the palaces, minarets and madrasahs
old town of Khiva is called ItchanKala, which literally means ‘internal fortress’. Surrounded by an eight-metre high mudbrick wall, the historical centre of Khiva is a UNESCO World Heritage site with more than 60 architectural monuments: palaces, mosques, madrasahs, minarets and mausoleums.
The minaret known as the Kalta Minor (above) was started in 1851 by Mohammed Amin Khan. Unfortunately he died in 1855, so it was never finished, which explains why it is a little vertically challenged.
blue tiles used throughout the palaces and other monuments, are often breathtaking. Most of the monuments that you can see in Khiva today were built in the 16th-19th centuries, as the original city was destroyed over the years from fierce fighting.
The tiles above are from the summer mosque in the Kuhna Ark, the Khiva rulers’ own fortress and residence, first built in the 12th century by Ok Shaykh Bobo, then expanded by the khans in the 17th century. These tiles date to the 19th century.
the usual turquoise tiles, you may spot some that are an unusual shape - they look more like a cross. They are in fact reminders of the Zoroastrian faith that was prevalent in this area. Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest continuously practised religions.
The purity of fire was an important part of the Zoroastrian faith, and these tiles are a symbol of that. Interestingly, they show that Zoroastrianism was still practised, and was a popular religion in the area, at the time these buildings were erected.