There were once nearly 100 mosques in Khiva, emphasising the city's importance as a religious centre. Usually built from mud or clay bricks, they didn't stand up well to the ravages of time and so were continually knocked down and rebuilt on the same site, or heavily restored.
The oldest mosque in Khiva is the Juma Mosque (Friday Mosque), which has its origins in the 10th century. It was the largest mosque in the city and caught the attention of medieval Arab travellers, including Al Istahri and Al Makdisi. Four of 213 karagacha (the elm columns supporting the roof) survive from this earliest period of the building's history, though most of what you see is from the rebuild undertaken in 1788 for Khan Abdurakhman Mekhtar. The mosque is unusually simple in its design and as you step into the open courtyard, a sense of calm washes over you, even if the crowds are jabbering and hustling outside. The hand-carved pillars and doors and the marble plaque on the south wall detailing the mosque's land holdings are the main attractions, though the mosque also provides access should you wish to climb the Juma Minaret.
The small, domed Said Ata Mosque was built for Yar Muhammad Divan in the 18th century. There is nothing really to see inside.
Restored in 1997, the Hasan Murad Kushbegi Mosque dates from 1800 and was the joint endeavour of Kushbegi and his cousin, Shah Niyaz. Kushbegi was the chief of police in Khiva and amassed significant wealth, hence his ability to endow the mosque. The mosque is divided into two parts, an open area for use in summer, and a closed section for winter, and there is a small, whitewashed minaret in the northeastern corner.
The Bogbonli Mosque (1809) seems to serve as an unofficial monument to the artisans of Khiva. Funded by two horticulturalist brothers, the mosque is rectangular in shape and is decorated with domes and carved pillars. A stone plaque east of the entrance portico remembers Pakhlavan Quli, the mosque's architect, and engraved on the doors is the name of the woodcarver, Ruz Muhammad.
Perhaps the most beautiful of Khiva's mosques is the Ata Murad Matriza Kushbegi Mosque. Built in 1800 and again in the 1830s, its graceful pillars are reminiscent of chopsticks. When a breeze blows through the building you realise how well it is designed for hot weather.
The Ak Mosque (White Mosque) was founded in 1657 but the current building dates from 1838-42. The domed hall is surrounded on three sides by an open terrace, and inscriptions name the artisans responsible for the elegant columns: Nur Muhammad, Kalandar and the sons of Adin Kalandar and Sayyid Muhammad. Stop here to admire the finely carved doors and also the diminutive minaret.