Juma Mosque and its Minaret
The main Friday-prayer Juma Mosque stands out among numerous Khiva’s mosques as having a design distinct from other Central Asian structures of its kind. Contrary to the tradition, it has no high portals, entrance arches and domes. It’s a one-story building surrounded by a solid blank wall with three doors. This design can be explained by the fact that during its construction in the early 18th century, the architects tried to carefully preserve the design characteristics of the former structure – the ancient mosque of the 10th century.
The main entrance of the mosque faces the only straight Khiva’s street, which runs from Kunya-Ark Citadel. The entrance has a fretted wooden door, whose age exceeds 700 years. Its archaic patterns, quite different from the intricate vegetal patterns which by the 18th century were brought to perfection, can serve a good example of the medieval Khorezmian craftsmen’s mastership.
The real treasure of Juma Mosque is its praying hall, which is 45x55 meters in area. Its beam ceiling is supported by 212 pillars whose height varies from four to five meters. They also vary in form and decoration. It might be said that this hall is a kind of museum of Khiva’s wood works of the 10th – 18th century. Twenty-five of the pillars were made not later than in the 10th century. Another several tens of them can be dated to the 11th – 14th centuries due to their decoration style and Arabic calligraphy. The pillars of the 16th century, judging from the inscriptions on them, were decorated with flat relief patterns imitating the style of the earlier masters.
Juma Mosque “inherited” some of its pillars from the earlier Friday-prayer mosque on whose site Juma Mosque was built. Some were brought from battlefields as trophies. Every pillar is remarkable not only for its fine carvings and richness of ornament but also for its harmonious proportions and original design of the lower part made in the form of a jug with blooming shoots of a flower.
In the centre of the southern wall there is a mikhrab niche. Through the openings in the ceiling, light gets into the semi-dark hall creating a unique interplay of light and shadow and highlighting various parts of pillars: a column shaft, its head or its base.
Simultaneously with the construction of Juma Mosque next to it there was built a minaret. Though not being Khiva’s tallest minaret, it is the city’s earliest construction of such type. Its tapering brick trunk has seven narrow belts made of small turquoise bricks. The minaret is topped with a stalactite belt with a small blue dome. Juma Mosque and its minaret can serve a landmark of the old town’s center Ichan-Kala and the best start for the sight seeing of Khiva.