Khiva, one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia, has a 2500-year-old history. Khizauv “Fort”, Kheykanik (the name of canal which run in the area), Kheykanik, Kheyvak and Khiva are some the names given to this unique city.
The natural abundance of the Amu Darya (Greeks named it Oxus and Arabs Sayxun), where an old city Khiva was founded, was praised in the hymns of Avesta (ancient scriptures of Zoroastrianism).
History has preserved many legends and stories about the foundation and the name of the city. The city was founded by Shem, the son of biblical Noah. The legend says that Shem after the flood found himself wandering in the desert alone. Having fallen asleep, he dreamt of 300 burning torches. On waking up, he founded the city with its outlines in the form of a ship mapped out according to the placement of the torches, about which he had dreamt. Then Shem dug out the “Kheyvak” well, the water from which had a surprising taste. And later the name of the well shifted to the name of the city Khiva (this well in present day located in Ichan Kala—inner town of Khiva City).
One of the ancient cities of the world, the city Khiva, has got deep history. The early reliable information about Khiva was mentioned in Arabic and Persian historical-geographic sources of the X century. For instance, Arabic historian Al-Istakhriy in X century wrote that Khiva was included one of the 30 largest cities of its time.
The city of Khiva was mentioned in the works of Yokut Khamavi (XIII century) and Nizomiddin Shomiy (XIV century) as the famous city which is located on the caravan route. The scientist of Balkh (Afghanistan) Makhmud the son of Vali, who lived in XVII century, wrote about this city: “Khiva is an enormous and beautiful city. It is the hometown of Najmiddin Kubra (lived in XIII century, a famous Sufi from Khorezm area and his method is an exemplary of a “golden age” of Sufi metaphysics).
Till the end of V century BC Khiva was a part of Khorezm government under Achaemenid Empire of Persia and then the city became part of newly independent state of Khorezm. In early medieval times from Khiva crossed the Great Silk Road connecting East and West. From the beginning of IV century AD it became part of Persian Sasanian Dynasty. During this period, it was surrounded by walls. In 712 the Arabs invaded Khiva. A famous Arabian traveler Istaxriy is mention about Khiva as the one of the largest city of that time. In 1221 the Mongolian invasion, the city was buried. In 1389 Amir Temur (known in the West as Tamerlane) conquered the city. From 1511 till 1920— the Khanate of Khiva (from 1511 till 1770 Shaybanids ruled in Khiva and from 1770 Khungrat or Qungrat dynasty) and Khiva became the capital of Khanate (Kingdom). In 1873 the Khanate of Khiva was conquered by Russian army and according “Gandimiyon” agreement it became protectorate of Russian Empire. Between 1920-1924 Khiva became the capital of Khorezm People’s Soviet Republic.
Today Khiva is the most architectural intact and tightly packed of Uzbekistan’s Silk Road city. Its intense green-and-blue tile work ranks as some of the most opulent in Central Asia, but it also has a the feel of a movie set or a museum city.