Originally built as a garrison town to house slaves in transit, Khiva, which is also known as Xiva by Uzbeks, was a prosperous city which fell into decline, was abandoned and then left to the ravages of the desert.
Today, thanks to UNESCO, it has been restored to its former glory and unlike many cities in Central Asia it has been preserved in its entirety, although it has the air of a museum, slowly but surely, it is coming back to life. The harem, mosques, bazaar and medressas are all there and to stay a night in one of the small private guest houses allows travellers to experience Khiva at its best, when the moonlit silhouettes of the tilting columns and medressas, viewed from twisting alleyways, work their magic.
Day trips from the city can be arranging taking in some of the local historic sites including a few of the historic buildings in Ichon-Qala, mainly mosques or shrines, but most are museums. Also a trip to Urgench, the capital of the Khorezm province of Uzbekistan, is recommended, providing a good launch point for the ‘Golden Ring’ of ancient fortresses in southern Karakalpakstan.