Kuhna Ark

sights / Military

Lonely Planet review

To your left after you enter the West Gate stands the Kuhna Ark – the Khiva rulers’ own fortress and residence, first built in the 12th century by one Ok Shihbobo, then expanded by the khans in the 17th century. The khans’ harem, mint, stables, arsenal, barracks, mosque and jail were all here.

The small, low-slung building to the left of the entrance outside the main fortress, on the east side of the building, is the Zindon (Khans’ Jail), with a simple display of chains, manacles and weapons, suggesting how poor an idea falling foul of the Khan would have been.

Once inside the Ark, the first passage to the right takes you into the 19th-century Summer Mosque – open-air and spectacularly ornate with superb blue-and-white plant-motif tiling and a red, orange and gold roof. Beside it is the old mint , now a museum that exhibits bank notes and coins that were minted here, including money printed on silk. Unfortunately labeling is only in Uzbek.

Straight ahead from the Ark entrance is the restored, open-air throne room , where khans dispensed judgement. The circular area on the ground was for the royal yurt, which the no-longer-nomadic khans still liked to use.

At the back right corner of the throne room, a door in the wall leads to a flight of steps up to the watchtower , the original part of the Kuhna Ark, set right against the Ichon-Qala’s massive west wall. It's well worth paying the fee to climb up here – the city views are extraordinary.