In Khiva there are up to 50 mosques and almost as many minarets. These towers, creating a fanciful and scenic townscape, seem to step to the modern life directly from the Middle Ages. The most extraordinary among them, at least in respect of its shape, is Kalta-Minor minaret, which means “short tower”
In the middle of the 19th century ambitious ruler Mukhammad-Aminkhan conceived the idea of building the biggest madrassah with adjoining minaret which had to become the tallest tower not only in Khiva but also in the whole Central Asia. It had to achieve 70 metres in height. It must be said that by that time many minarets had exceeded the dimensions practical for such kind of constructions. In like manner the new tower was intended to show the might and eminence of the Khiva khan. But the minaret remained incomplete. The local legend says that emir of Bukhara, having heard about the ‘tallest’ minaret planned for Khiva, secretly made a deal with the architect to construct another giant minaret in Bukhara. When the khan of Khiva learnt about this treachery of the court architect, he commanded the architect be thrown from the minaret. For fear of being executed, no-one ever dared to complete the minaret.
From historical data, however, it is known that in 1855 Makhammad-Aminkhan started military campaign against the nomadic tribes, but his army was defeated and the ruler himself withdrew from the battlefield and never returned to his estate. By this time the construction of the madrassah had been completed. As to the minaret it was only 26 metres high with 14.2 metres in diameter at its base. It was decided to stop the works for the time being; but eventually they stopped forever.
Mukhammad-Aminkhan’s successor was short of money to sponsor the construction of the minaret and the project ended prematurely. Thus the minaret was renamed Kalta-Minor, meaning ‘short’ tower. But the citizens got used to the unusual silhouette of the minaret. The best craftsmen decorated the huge short-cut cone with blue-and-green glazed tiles. In the middle the minaret is intersected with three wide ornamental bands. The selection of decorative patterns makes the minaret look a completed structure – an original creation of ancient architects. Kalta-Minor minaret has become the symbol of Khiva and one of its main landmarks.