Trans Eurasia travel

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Fourteen minarets have survived in the centre of Khiva. They were constructed so that the muezzin might climb the stairs to call the faithful to prayer five times each day, his voice carrying on the breeze across the city.

The oldest minaret, the Juma Minaret, dates from the 10th to the 13th centuries and has distinctive turquoise stripes around its otherwise sand-coloured cylinder. If you have a head for heights (or want a bird's-eye view of the city), you can climb the 81 steps to the top (US$2). You can see a lot from 33m up!

Every postcard of Khiva seems to be illustrated with a photo of the Kalta Minar. This eye-catching (but rather stumpy) green and turquoise landmark was intended to be the tallest minaret in central Asia: its patron, Muhammad Amin Khan, planned for it to be at least 70m tall, allegedly so that you could see Bukhara from the top. Sadly it was not to be. Muhammad was decapitated by a rogue horseman in 1855 before the minaret was complete and the architect responsible for the project fled.

Rather more graceful looking is the slim Islam Khoja Minaret (1910), which adjoins the Islam Khoja Madrassa. Almost 60m tall, it is just 2m shorter than the Kalyon Minar in Bukhara, but it looks taller due to the tapered shape and the varying widths of the yellow and blue-green stripes. It is possible to climb the 120 steps to the top, where you are following in the footsteps of the city's watchmen. It is said that the minaret was used as a radio tower to summon air support during the 1924 assault on Khiva, though sadly this is probably an urban myth.