Kunya Ark Citadel

Your guide to the Citadel Kunya Ark in Khiva. Find out information, view photos, read tourist reviews and get the map of the Citadel Kunya Ark in Khiva, a must see tourist attraction.

Kunya Ark Gate

Imagine a kind of porch entirely open to the court, thirty feet high, twenty wide, ten deep, and flanked on either side by towers ornamented with blue and green tiles; in the same way as the large tower on the square; a floor raised six feet above the pavement of the court, the roof supported by two carved slender, wooden pillars, the whole resembling much the stage of a theater, and you will have a good idea of the grand hall of state, wherein the Khan of Khiva sits and dispenses justice. J. Macgahan ‘Campaigning on the Oxus and the Fall of Khiva’ 1874

Kunya Ark which is the “old fortress” was founded in 1680′s by Muhammad Arang khan. Kunya Ark Citadel is located in Itchan Kala (inner fortress) and the western side of Itchan Kala city walls. The Kunya Ark citadel presented a complex containing the residence of Khivan Khans and their family. Kunya Ark citadel was evidently military in function, however it was fitted with several buildings in the 19-century and the beginning of the 20-century. They are the official reception hall (kurinishkhana), glittering summer and winter mosques, mint, harem and guest rooms. There are also a supreme court, powder factory, arsenal, divan registry, kitchens, stables, guard room and an arena for ram figts.

Despite Allah Kuli Khan’s construction of the Tash Hauli Palace in the 1830′s which was followed by later residences, the Kunya Ark continued in use until the turn of the twentieth century.
Plan, Kunya Ark , KhivaPlan of Kunya Ark in Khiva.

1. Khan’s Court and Aywan (photo below). 2. City Walls. 3. Harem. 4. Main Gate (photo above).

The Kunya Ark foundations are the oldest surviving remains in Khiva dating back to the fifth century. Numerous cunstructions have since been added, such as the walls which were erected in the 1680′s under Arang Khan. Restoration of the building has started in the middle of the 20th century. Khan’s stables, arsenal and reception area have been discovered at the archeological dig. These interesting finds now on display in the winter mosque.

Khan’s Court

Constructed by Arang Khan in the 17th century, this fabulously tiled aywan was the courtroom or ‘Auz Hauli’ (literally ‘Voice Court’, see Kunya Ark plan 1) where the Khan dispensed justice to his subjects. In the 1830′s Allah Kuli Khan embarked on a lavish redecoration of the aywan and his strong inclination for exciting majolica tiles and contrasting ceiling colors also heavily influenced the decor in the Tosh Hauli Palace.

Today the courtroom of Kunya Ark is worth a visit for its ceiling alone which has been described as the most exquisite in Central Asia. This has been accurately restored and its warm shades contrast beautifully with the cold blues and turquoise of the surrounding majolica tiling.

Khan's Court, Kunya ArkThree doors of differing heights enter onto the aywan. The first was reserved solely for the Khan, the second was for the rich and wealthy and the third, smallest door was the entrance for the poor.

The aywan of the Khan;s Court at the Kunya Ark in Khiva faces north and so provided a cool interior during the summer months while in winter the Khan would sit on the raised platform facing the aywan, ensconced in furs in his royal yurt. It was here that the Hungarian Vambery and the Russian Muraviev were granted an audience with the Khan who held court for four hours each day.


Ceiling at Harem, Kunya Ark Citadel, KhivaSafely secluded from prying eyes, the Khan’s beauties would while away their days within the glittering cage of the Kunya Ark harem. This was the main residence of the Khan’s female entourage until Allah Kuli Khan built the Tosh Hauli Palace in the 1830′s. However the successor Khan Mohammed Rakhim Khan II (Feruz Khan) preferred the Ark Harem to the Tosh Hauli and in the 1870′s had the Harem renovated and put to use again.

Without the spectacular tiles of the Tosh Hauli, the Ark harem contains a series of aywans with understated and tastefully decorated ceilings. While it’s not officially open to the public, nobody seems to mind the odd tourist wandering around. Ironically, with less attention paid to restoration and more focus on creating a productive garden, this harem seems much more akin to its original state then the manicured perfection of the tourist showpiece in the Tosh Hauli.

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City : Country : Uzbekistan
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