CHAPTER 5
KHIVA: A CONSERVED HERITAGE
WITHIN THE SANDS
İSMAIL MANGALTEPE
CONTENTS
Introduction ............................................................................................. 92
Historical Background ............................................................................ 93
Tourist Attractions in Khiva .................................................................. 100
Conclusion .............................................................................................119
Keywords ...............................................................................................119
References ..............................................................................................119
92 Tourism in Central Asia: Cultural Potential and Challenges
INTRODUCTION
In Central Asia, after covering hundreds of kilometers along the steps
alongside an endless desert, one can imagine that, oasis settlements, flour-
ished near the rivers and gave life to deserts, have been here for thousands
of years. However, as seen in the Amu Darya (Oxus) river example, rivers
can sometimes change their beds or even flood, resulting in the destruction
of the old civilizations, that themselves had nurtured, and then creating
new ones along their new routes. The biggest challenge of archaeologists
digging this vast region is not to work in the most difficult environment of
the world, fighting with sandstorms and burning sun, but to decide where
to start excavating to bring out thousands of years-old cities lying under
the sands, without a trace. Some settlements came alive thanks to man-
made irrigation channels, but later disappeared when these channels dried
and dams were destroyed due to invasions. Then, they laid silently under
the thick sand layer until a new tribe discovered them and adopted the
land as their homeland. The story of Khiva is a result of these two Central
Asian facts.
Khiva is a historic city in the Khorezm province of Uzbekistan, situ-
ated south of the Aral Sea and the lower parts of Amu Darya. It is one of
the oldest agricultural centers in Central Asia. Fishing, and water transpor-
tation done for commercial and military purposes on Amu Darya irrigation
channels, were always important for this wetland and woody region. By
Islam geographers, Khorezm is dened as being surrounded by the Usty-
urt plateau in west, the Turk territories which refer to the Kirghiz steps in
north, Khorasan in the south and Mawarannahr (Transoxiana) in the east
(Özaydin, 1997) (Fig. 1).
Its importance for Silk Road trade comes from connecting roads from
the East to the North towards Russia, the Black Sea and the Scandinavian
countries. Khiva, connected from the South with the Karakum Desert and
the Kizilkum Desert from the east, has very cold winters and very dry, hot
summers. Additionally, the fact that the Aral Sea is drying more each day
due to the wrong irrigation policies conducted during the Soviet period, is
a very important problem for the region’s future and makes the continental
climate even heavier every day.
Khiva: A Conserved Heritage within the Sands 93
FIGURE 1 Uzbekistan Map and Khiva (www.orsam.org.tr).
Retrieved November 15, 2013 from http://www.orsam.org.tr/tr/haritaGaleri.
aspx?HaritaID=45.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
According to one legend, in the days when the Khorezm territory was not
occupied by any settlement, people escaping from the cruel Persian ruler
Zahhak started to live near the small river streaming in these lands and
almost transformed this red desert into a forest. Years later, when found by
the Persian ruler Feridun, who intended to take them back to their country,
they didn’t want to leave these lands where “even a gold coin gets green
when seeded.” But they asked the ruler to open a channel for the river
loosing its water in August. A big riverbed was dug and the river was
given the name Belkendi Peridun. Getting the name Amu Darya over time,
the river streams anywhere it likes since its bed is not cleaned out of its
sands every year (Galima and Corayeff, 2001). Another legend about the
exiled people mentions that the rulers soldiers witnessed the Khorezm
people fishing and cooking what they caught in fire. As meat is Hâr (pro-
nouns as “Khar”) and wood is rizm/rezm in the old Khorezmian language,
they started calling this land Khwarezm (Özaydin, 1997). The meaning

Get Tourism in Central Asia now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.