Ichan-kala means “internal defensive circle”. Ancient complex is fully preserved city within Khiva.
It demonstrates how medieval eastern cities were built. The city has over 400 habitations in traditional style and about 60 architectural monuments, used for various purposes. They still look like century ago and they have their own legends.
There was a legend that it is forbidden to bring in dead people. Therefore, people died outside Ichan-kala and they were buried near city walls. As underground water was close to the surface, people tried to place graves as high as possible. This is one of reasons for high foundations of the buildings in the city.
Construction of Ichan-kala was started in 1598. Then Amudarya river suddenly changed its direction. It forced to move capital of Khorezm from Gurgandj (now Urgench) to Khiva.
The medieval city has an area of just one square kilometers. It is protected with strong unassailable wall with the height from 8 to 10 meters and the width from 5 to 6 meters. Its length on outer perimeter makes up 2,250 km. The walls were built from sun-dried clay bricks. Cogged railings with small loopholes were put on top of the walls. There are defensive towers, located 30 meters to each other.
The city had gates with viewing galleries on each side. The defensive towers also protected them.
Moat also surrounded Ichan-Kala, which also served as defensive line. Moat was one of important defensive elements in ancient and medieval times. At the same time, moat served as sewage and drainage systems. Currently, it is fully covered with earth, however its relief can be seen from southern part of Ichan-kala.
Medieval city was destroyed several times, but local people rebuilt it each time. Ichan Kala was the first historic monument, which was included to UNESCO World Heritage List.