Kunya-Ark Citadel (‘Old Citadel’) abuts on Khiva’s fortification wall next to Ata-Darvoza gate. The citadel is the oldest remaining khan’s residence in Khiva. It occupies a large area by the western wall of Ichan-Kala (‘Inner Town’). The citadel was built in 1686 by order of Arang-Khan. It accommodated various fortifications, a gunpowder factory, an arsenal, a khan’s palace, a court and some other structures.
The citadel was built not on a blank piece of land; it evidently stands on the ruins of earlier structures. The archeological excavations carried out on the territory of the citadel revealed a block of dwelling houses and craftsmen’s shops with remains of ceramics and coins of the 13th – 15th centuries. Kunya-Ark complex was built up within a few centuries, and was completed by the mid-19th century. Around its small yards, connected to each other, there are a lot of administrative and dwelling houses. In front of Kunya-Ark is a square where khan’s troops used to train and parade. The square also served as a place of execution. The citadel was surrounded by fortification walls with a tower gate surrounded the citadel. To the left of the gate there was guardroom, stables, storage facilities, and repair shops. A long narrow corridor led inside the citadel right from the gate...
What survived to the present day are the domed building of the mint and winter and summer mosques. Among the fine painted patterns on the ceiling and relief majolica on the walls of the summer mosque there are the names of its chief constructors: masters Ibadullah and Abdullah. The khan’s palace was situated in the northern part of Kunya-Ark. Of the former splendour there remained only kurinish-khona – a large hall for official receptions built under Allakuli-Khan. It is rather a yard than a hall, shut off the rest of the palace by an adobe wall. Once there stood a throne on a tall roofed ayvan platform. The wooden pillars on marble pedestals are decorated with carvings, whereas the wall and the ceiling have majolica with elegant decorative patterns. Kurinish-khona also had khan’s treasury and a library with a collection of rare manuscripts.
Later, in the second half of the 19th century, when Muhammad Rakhim-Khan became the lord of Kunya-Ark, next to the palace there appeared a harem. The harem was a two-story building with an inner yard and a pool. For khan’s wives and concubines there were a lot of richly decorated chambers and living rooms in the harem.
Behind the cogged walls of Kunya-Ark, shutting it off the rest of the world, for centuries the city lived its ordinary life of an Oriental town with minarets, mosques and madrassahs. It was only in the 20th century that the gate of Old Citadel was opened to the world.