Muhammad Rakhimkhan Madrassah
To the east of the square that lies at the foot of Kunya-Ark Citadel there stands Muhammad Rakhimkhan Madrassah. Khan Muhammad Rakhim II was known as an enlightened monarch. He supported poets and scholars. He himself composed poetry under the pen-name Firuz. Under his patronage there was implemented a reform of traditional education, which resulted in opening of new type of schools where not only Arabic and the Koran but also secular subjects were taught.
During the reign of the khan several palaces, mosques and madrassahs were built in Khiva. But of utmost importance for Muhammad Rakhimkhan was the construction of big madrassah, which later started to bear the name of the khan himself. Completed in 1874, this structure has an unusual layout. From the street the entrance leads to the yard enclosed from outside by a continuous wall and from inside surrounded by one-floor hujra cells. The main two-storey building stands at the end of the yard. It has a huge portal with remains of splendid sky-blue majolica. At the corners stand rather tall guldasta turrets with little domes on cylinders decorated with mosaics. The vaults of the loggias and the main entrance ayvan ceiling are decorated with patterned brickwork.
The Muhammad Rakhimkhan madrassah comprised several darskhona lecture halls, winter and summer mosques, and a library. The students could enjoy very good accommodation in the madrassah. The cells were provided with fireplaces for heating and cooking. Each cell had adjoining service premises and rooms for ablution.
Actually, the Muhammad Rakhimkhan madrassah was a Muslim university where alongside with theology students could study exact science and poetry. Within its precincts there used to take place mushoeera literary soirees. Very often Firuz himself and such outstanding Khiva’s poets as Kamil Khorezmi and Tabibi declaimed their poetic pieces at these soirees. The students of the madrassah also took part in scientific and literary disputes along with will-known scholars and poets.
Towering over the surrounding structures, the monumental building of the madrassah reminds us of the golden age of Khiva’s science and art at the end of the 19th century.