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

Timeless Travels Magazine - - TT LOVES... -

The

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.

The

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.

Along­side

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.

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