Khiva Things to Do

  • View from the top
    View from the top
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    Summer Mosque
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  • The amazing dome above the tomb of Pahlavon Mahmud
    The amazing dome above the tomb of...
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Most Recent Things to Do in Khiva

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    ALLAKULI KHAN MEDRESSA

    by DAO Updated Mar 12, 2015

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    This versatile medressa was built in 1834 - 1835 commissioned by the khan Allakuli. The main portal and arched niches are richly decorated with blue and black-and-while Khorezm-style majolica (glazed tile work). Allakuli Khan also founded the city library that was housed in several khujdras (single story cells) on the first floor. Today it hosts several enterprises. The Abu Ali ibn Sino Medical History Museum is open during the day. It also hosts a school, the Khorezm Center of Business and Tourism Development. Its students study tourism management. At night these same students run the Khorezm Art Café

    ALLAKULI KHAN MEDRESSA ALLAKULI KHAN MEDRESSA ALLAKULI KHAN MEDRESSA ALLAKULI KHAN MEDRESSA ALLAKULI KHAN MEDRESSA
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    Kalta Minor – big short thick minaret

    by Trekki Updated Jan 9, 2015

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    Upon entering the ancient city through the western gate, you will find yourself in front of this fascinating “building”: Kalta Minor, the small minaret. It was built around 1855, and should have been the biggest and tallest minaret in whole Central Asia – at least this was the plan of Amin Khan who ordered it. Finally it was resigned due to static reasons.
    But, as with so many buildings, there is of course a legend as well, which says that the architect has promised Buchara’s Emir a higher minaret and once Amin Khan has found this out, has killed his builder.
    Now it sits here, 26 m in height and 14,8 m in diameter – a beautiful sight with all the wonderful tile work on it, all kinds of colours from green to turquoise and blue to yellow and to red and white.

    Make sure you go back at sunset time, and Kalta Minor will reward you with the most magnificent gleaming of its colours. I missed it, as I was too long on the ark’s viewpoint. But there is certainly a next time :-)

    You might as well like to sit at the small plaza around it in the evening – check Kalta Minor at night .

    Khiva - Kalta Minor Khiva - Kalta Minor Khiva - Kalta Minor Khiva - Kalta Minor's exquisite tilework
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    KUTLIMURODINOK MEDRESSA

    by DAO Written Dec 31, 2014

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    CB
    This nice looking Medressa is a more subtle almost mirror refection of the facing Allakulikhan Medressa . The intricate blue tile work is virtually identical, but lacks the ornate main portal. This medressa is actually the older of the 2 and was constructed between 1804 and 1812. Today it is a Handicraft Center. One of the towers, on the south side, gives you a better idea of how it was built. You can see some of the large hand-sawn timbers that hold the structure up. Just outside is an elevated area – opposite the white mosque – that is a great place for people watching and photography.

    KUTLIMURODINOK MEDRESSA KUTLIMURODINOK MEDRESSA KUTLIMURODINOK MEDRESSA KUTLIMURODINOK MEDRESSA KUTLIMURODINOK MEDRESSA
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    THE GATE OF DEATH

    by DAO Written Dec 27, 2014

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    The Palvan-Darvoza (‘Great Gate’) serves at the eastern portal to Khiva. It has a bloody and sad history. The gate area grew as a collection of other structures. First was the Anush-Khan Bathhouse (begun in 1664); the Hodjamberdybiya Madrasah (1688), Allakuli-Khan Madrasah (1834 - 1835), the roofed bazaar Tim (1836 - 1838), Allakuli-Khan Caravanserai (1832 - 1833), and Kutlug-Murad-Inak Madrasah (1804 - 1812).

    The outer gate and towers, Palvan-Darvoza, was built between 1804 - 1806 and has an inscription bearing the words Shakhri Khiva (‘the city of Khiva’). As the busiest entry gate – even to this day – it served as a prison, slave market and also the entry point for trading caravans. The gate has an amazing 60 meter long multi-domed interior with deep niches on both sides. These were originally prison cells and the Khans of Khiva were most brutal with prisoners. They received no food or water. They were wholly dependant on passersby giving them food and drink – or starved to death.

    The gate was also known as the "Gate of the Hangman". Condemned prisoners were put to death for the public’s amusement right in front of the gate. Another name the locals called the gate was Kul Darvaza (the Slaves Gate). Just outside of the gate was the busy slave market. Khiva was a well known place for criminals to bring back slaves from their robberies and raids. Escaped slaves who were recaptured had their ears nailed to the wooden doors as a lesson for the others.

    Yet another name was ‘Hero Warrior’s Gate’. This is in honour of Khiva’s Patron Saint, Pahlavan Mahmood. The road that emanated from the gate ran down to the all important Amu Darya River. After the end of the slave market in 1873, the gate became a series of trade stalls and some are still used today. Just outside is the start of the modern Dekhon Bazaar selling all sorts of produce, household goods and meat.

    Outside gate and towers The former prisoner cells Inside entrance to the gate Modern shop Inside the gate
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    KUNYA ARK AND FORTRESS

    by DAO Written Dec 26, 2014

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    The Kunya-Ark Citadel is one of the oldest parts of Khiva. The original site was created in the 1200’s by a ruler known as ‘Ok Shihbobo’. Written records better documents that Arang-khan began the construction of the ‘modern’ citadel Kunya-ark in 1686. This complex grew to include an arsenal, warehouses, guardhouses, a jail, large kitchen, a stable with a parade area, and official offices. These are now gone, but today you can see the rest of the complex. This includes the official reception hall (kurinishkhana), the ornate Mint, a mosque and a harem.

    The most amazing part today is the ‘Akshikh-bobo’" (The White Sheik) viewing area that can be reached by a series of steep stairs. From here you have commanding views of the whole of Khiva and is the best place to be at sunset. You also get a close view of how the citadel was built essentially into the city walls, making the western side the thickest fortified area of Khiva. It served not only as an important military observation post, but was also a cool place to sleep on warm nights.

    When I entered the front gate after 6pm, there was no entrance fee or any other visitors. Before 6pm costs less than $2 to climb up to the viewing tower. I was able to scale the heights and take photos – one of which is now on the VT Homepage. As you walk through the multiple courtyards, you will see some of the grandeur of this palace from its heyday.

    “Imagine a kind of porch entirely open to the court, thirty feet high, twenty wide, ten deep, and flanked on either side by towers ornamented with blue and green tiles; in the same way as the large tower on the square; a floor raised six feet above the pavement of the court, the roof supported by two carved slender, wooden pillars, the whole resembling much the stage of a theatre, and you will have a good idea of the grand hall of state, wherein the Khan of Khiva sits and dispenses justice”. J. Macgahan ‘Campaigning on the Oxus and the Fall of Khiva’ 1874.

    During opening hours you can still see the Throne Room. From here the Khan or King would dispense instant justice and make the accused walk through one of the 3 doors. If you were directed to exit from the left door, you were free to go. Directed to central door and you were imprisoned. Told to go out the right door and the guards would execute the defendant. Indeed. And if that’s not gory enough, the jail has life-sized depictions of the condemned being executed.

    The Mint with its ornate exterior was built during the reign of Muhammad Rahim Khan I. He reformed the tax codes, created customs rules and minted gold coins. Today there is a museum inside displaying coins made here as well as later bank notes. It was built at the same time as he constructed a summer and winter mosque. Only the summer mosque is decorated with rows of wooden columns and colourful tiles. The glazed blue and white tiles are decorated with stars and the floral and vegetable patterns unique to Khiva. The mihrab (indicates the direct to Mecca) in the southern wall is emblazoned with quotations from the Quran.

    Persian invaders destroyed or badly damaged most of the citadel, but the most amazing piece of engineering is still intact. Anush-khan had a multi-roomed subterranean bathhouse built in 1657. There are a series of ‘rest houses’ around a central heated pool of water. There is a system of under-floor channels to distribute warm air through this amazing bit of architecture.

    The complex has multiple beautiful ‘Iwans’. These are vaulted 3 sided courtyards with the 4th side completely open. For quite a few reasons I recommend that you make this part of your list of sights here in Khiva. And return after 6pm to get the sun setting over the whole city.

    The Winter Mosque Kurinishkhona (the Khan's waiting room) Kunya-Ark Fortress and the city walls Summer Mosque Photo from Akshikh-bobo���
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    THE WHITE MOSQUE

    by DAO Written Dec 20, 2014

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    The Ak-Mosque or Ak-Maszhid (“White Mosque”) was built in 1647 by the ruler of the day, Anush-Khan (1663-1687). Like so many of Khiva’s architectural wonders, this was built upon an older mosque and materials used from other buildings. The present building was finished between 1838-1842. An inscription on the building explains that the builders of the renovated mosque and its amazing outside wooden columns were Nur Muhammad, son of Adin Qalandar and Qalandar, son of Seyid Muhammad. This was purpose built as a ‘quarter mosque’ meaning it was built just for prayer and no other function. It is purposely basic and mostly undecorated inside. The fascinating parts are the amazing three sided veranda with its wooden colonnade and the attached bath house. Most mosques in the eastern tradition only have a patio on one side. This little mosque is a bit of a creative work unique to Khiva. It is essentially the outside of this small structure that is the beauty of the building.

    The bathhouse was a marvel of its day. It has a subterranean underground heating system to ensure a hot bath. Some small domes to allow in sunlight are visible at the rear of the building.

    Today the entrance of this little mosque is the central shopping area. In fact you may not even notice it if you are shopping. Have a look at the ornate wood carvings on the columns.

    THE WHITE MOSQUE THE WHITE MOSQUE THE WHITE MOSQUE THE WHITE MOSQUE THE WHITE MOSQUE
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    THE CAMEL OF KHIVA

    by DAO Written Dec 20, 2014

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    Her name is Katya. Or maybe it isn’t. In past years the camel’s name was Misha. She is an old camel and the only one actually allowed inside the Dishon Qala (old city). You may read some articles here on VT and on other sites regarding her welfare. I have to say, she lives a better life now than she probably did in her working life. Animal welfare is not high on anyone’s agenda here, but this is a cushy job. I watched the owners walk in with her in the mornings. And she has plenty of room to move around, shade if she wishes and access to water at all times. You have to pay (if you haggle) about $1 to take her picture. Probably a little more if you wish to sit on her and have a picture taken. I never saw her giving rides and I have no doubt she carried heavier loads in her youth. Just remember if you do pay the owners they do feed her. The 2 guys who own her were both fat, so you feed them pretty well as a bonus.

    The only camel in Khiva The only camel in Khiva You must pay !
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    PAHLAVON MAHMUD MAUSOLEUM

    by DAO Updated Dec 17, 2014

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    This mausoleum, domes and courtyard are an amazing collection of tiled tombs, an engraved stone sarcophagus and a beautiful wooden terrace in the courtyard. Pahlavon Mahmud (1247-1326) was an amazing man. He is both the patron saint of Khiva and also the patron saint of wrestlers. Yes, he was the greatest wrestler in the known world in his day. Inside the entry courtyard a sign proclaims that he defeated all challengers from Iran, India and Pakistan. He was also a revered poet. One of his own poetic works is carved above his tomb:

    To crush one hundred Caucasian mountains with a pestle,
    To languish one hundred years in prison,
    To dye the sky red with the blood of one's heart,
    Is easier than to pass one moment with a fool.

    If this was not enough, he is (locally) credited with being one of the founders of Sufi Islam. I have not been able to corroborate this claim.

    If you walk to the left (north west) corner of the courtyard you will enter the tiled tomb of Mohammed Rakhim Khan. This and smaller graves (wives?) are encased in the most beautiful blue tiles. Unfortunately the room is very vertical and narrow, so hard to take good photos of this beautiful room.

    Back inside the main entrance I listened to a young man singing the verses of the Quran – from memory. Inside and to the left you will see Pahlavon Mahmud’s sarcophagus 2 rooms in. The actual grave is blocked by a glass panel, but there are 2 large squares cut into the glass. Worshipers often put their hands through in reverence and prayer.

    Other tombs of unknown Khans (kings) are found walking to the right or in other buildings off to the right. The small compound has a lot of decorative and spiritual beauty in small area. The most dramatic exterior feature is the massive Persian (Iranian) dome that stands out with its smaller decorative domes within the same compound. This amazing dome is covered with blue glazed tiles topped with shinny gilt top.

    Pahlavon Mahmud’s other talent and paying day job was that of a furrier. His mausoleum complex started life as the site of his fur shop. Over hundreds of years pilgrims came and contributed donations and the small shop expanded to a large, but still humble complex. Between 1810-1835 the local Khivan Khans decided to make this an ornate shrine, a work of amazing art and a royal family mausoleum – the last to ever be in created in Central Asia.

    Tomb of Mohammed Rakhim Khan (later Khan) Sarcophagus of Pahlavon Mahmud Inside the main building The amazing dome above the tomb of Pahlavon Mahmud
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    THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL MATHEMATICIAN

    by DAO Written Dec 16, 2014

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    Love him or hate him (like many of his students for the last 1200 years) – he is here to stay. Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi wrote a dissertation called ‘Hisab al-jabr w'al-muqabala’. His name and research created the word ‘Algorithm’. His published work became Algebra. Most historians just call him Al'Khwarizmi.
    So if you are looking for a date on a dating website - Al'Khwarizmi can help! His work today matches you with a woman or man more your station than your dreams – but you will be compatible. You may still produce ugly children, but that’s not his fault.
    Getting loads of marketing emails and/or post? Yep - Al'Khwarizmi is at fault. He predicted that. So if you notice that you get discounts for things you like to purchase from underwear to bananas – or even resulting ‘combo’ offers – that’s an Algorithm. Forget to delete cookies on your computers and your love interest and/or boss may find out your sexual viewing preferences.
    Ask Siri or some other artificial intelligence (AI) for the fastest way to drive between 2 points or losing body fat and ‘Al’K’ is THE MAN. Ask Siri to get naked – and he already shut down your party trick 1200 years ago. His students hated him then – I hated him years ago – you hate him now. Unless you find your perfect partner on ‘Hook my horny ass up dot com’.
    Now Algebra. Useful. It helps you find the unknown. I have used it in business for years! In Arabic ‘al-jebr’ translates as something like ‘reunion of broken parts’. Sounds like a plaster cast or an undertaker after a car accident. Anyway – I use it for things at work like figuring out how much a supplier charged us per hour. Yes, I know there are really 3 ranges: 1. How much? 2. HOW MUCH? And WTF? Algebra actually quantifies how much you have been screwed! No, I’m not back to the dating things – that’s Algorithms – keep up! You need 3 parts to figure out the 4th part in Algebra

    I once had the following scenario where Algebra was very useful:

    • I have a missing employee for the counter and is a pretty young lady (A)
    • I hired the twin of a young Brad Pitt yesterday (B)
    • The back room storage area is now blocked by a heavy pallet (X)

    I figured out not only the ‘Y’, I could actually hear the how.

    Anyway.
    Al’K was born in the Khwarezm or the general area near Khiva in around the year 800. And his students really did not like him. Remember he was working out the dating site thingy and they were not even allowed to look at girls!
    If you do want the love story of Algebra – yes – they did make a movie:
    Algebra: A Reunion of Broken Parts (2012)

    THE FOUNDER OF ALGORITHMS AND ALGEBRA
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    CHANGING MONEY

    by DAO Written Dec 13, 2014

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    Changing money in Khiva is easy, relatively hassle free and very quick. Quick as long as you change money on the streets. I usually would not recommend doing this, but I do here in Khiva within the walls. Just ask almost any seller and someone will magically appear. Just agree the exchange rate. Its best practice to work this out on your phone and agree the total they will give you. Remember inflation is high here so you will get bundles back. Keep your money until they return. Because of how many notes, they usually have the BUNDLES stored nearby. They will count them for you then take your US Dollars and Euros. I stopped counting all the notes during my journey across Uzbekistan. They were always fine. They do prefer new and clean notes. You will get bundles of all sorts of notes from brand new ones to really worn ones. It doesn’t matter.

    Do not be afraid to haggle on the rate. You will not get a lot better than the official rate, but you will get a better rate. Otherwise, walk away. This usually swings the negotiations in your favour.

    I CHANGED MONEY WITH THESE GUYS ASK HERE OR HERE OR HERE OR HERE
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    DJUMA MOSQUE

    by DAO Updated Dec 10, 2014

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    I have never seen a more boring building and name from the outside – and been as delighted with the magnificence as this very special place. Djuma comes from Arabic الجُمُعة (al-jumuʿah) simply meaning Friday. Inside is an actual forest of wooden columns that has no equal in Central Asia. The original building was created as a boring flat-roofed mosque in the 1700’s. Then they started carving large wooden columns from both virgin trees and from recycled ancient buildings. Some of the beams were recovered from the Amu River bottom and the medieval Khorezm capital of Kyat.

    Today there are 215 wooden pillars with amazing decorations and interesting dates. Both the building site itself and the columns come from earlier years. There are date inscriptions from the years 1316, 1510, 1788, and 1789. There are also inscribed reminders to worshippers that this building belongs to Allah. In typical Islamic tradition, the depictions on the wooden columns are of vegetation and flowers.

    This is truly and easy place to miss and a place not to miss. It took me 3 days to even stick me head in the door. Please make sure you don’t miss out. You can also climb the minaret for better views of the old city.

    It is free to enter and take pictures just inside, but you must pay to fully explore.

    DJUMA MOSQUE DJUMA MOSQUE DJUMA MOSQUE DJUMA MOSQUE
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    TOURIST INFORMATION(?)

    by DAO Written Dec 6, 2014

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    I hope you have purchased a good guidebook if you are coming to Khiva. I found the ‘main’ Tourist Information Office very easily. They were completely harmless. Hopeless. OK, they smiled and were absolutely no use at all. They did not even have maps of the old town. They did have a few leaflets about other areas of Uzbekistan. If you speak Russian, well Uzbekistan and all of Central Asia is amazingly easy to get around. English, French, Spanish, German or Chinese? Not at this office.

    There are actually 2 of these offices and I have detailed where they are below. Supposedly they are open 9am – 7pm everyday and provide guides of the city. I would not count on either. Having said that, Khiva is one of the easiest tourist cities on earth to discover for yourself with just a reasonable guidebook.

    Khiva Tourist Information Khiva Tourist Information Khiva Tourist Information Khiva Tourist Information Khiva Tourist Information
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    HOW TO CLIMB THE WALLS

    by DAO Written Dec 6, 2014

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    The mud (yes mud) walls surround Khiva and extend a staggering 2.5kms around the ancient city. There is only one way to gain access, and you need very good shoes to get started. The ‘stairs’ are just inside the west side of the North Gate. I have no doubt that there were very good stairs cut into the walls years ago. With rain and plenty of visitors, it’s now a slippery and crumbly steep incline – in dry weather. At the top of the stairs, you need to make a short climb through something closer to steps than before. Once you are up to the walls, the ledges are massive and you can climb all the way around the walls. The most interesting direction is to walk southwest at the top of the stairs. This takes you towards the Kuhna Ark – the widest and most amazing part of the walls. As you walk along you will see holes cut through the walls to allow archers to repel raiding Turkmen.

    If you want to go towards the southeast, you need to climb over a few obstacles above the North Gate. This involves stepping over pipes and electrical cables. It is safe to do so, but take it slow as you go over. The rest of the section of the walls is then very wide again.

    The best times to be up here are sunrise (east side of the walls) and sunset (west side).

    THE NORTH GATE - ENTER AND TURN RIGHT THE STAIRS ARE INSIDE THE GATE THE 'STAIRS' AND THE SMALL CLIMB UP GO THIS WAY FOR THE EAST WALLS THE WEST WALLS AND THE KUHNA ARK
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    WASHING CLOTHES

    by DAO Written Dec 6, 2014

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    If you need to wash clothes, Khiva is an extraordinary place to do this. Really. If you have packed a washing line (photo 2), you will be able to dry any clothes within 1 hour just by putting them out. The old walls keep the city from being windy and blowing clothes over a balcony. The dry desert heat means things dry quickly. All you need is a bucket (about $1) and some small packets of clothes washing powder (about 20 us cents or less). You can definitely find the buckets in the main market and at a few corner shops. All the small kiosk type shops I saw sold laundry powder. Ask for ‘OMO’. They may not have this fantastic brand, but they easily understand what you need. If you do your washing, remember to rinse with lots of water. And hang the clothes out carefully. They dry so quick that you will get loads of wrinkles if shirts are not laid out properly.

    WASHING BY HAND IN KHIVA MARITIME WATERPROOF ROPE MY NICE BALCONY ! MY CLOTHES MR BUCKET IN KHIVA MARKET
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    KALTA MINOR MINARET

    by DAO Updated Dec 4, 2014

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    ‘Kalta or Caltha Minor’ simply translates as ‘short minaret’. In a city driven to build minarets taller than the rival city of Bukhara – this is a very unique monument. It’s very short and amazingly beautiful with its intensely glazed multi-colour exterior. The Khiva ruler Muhammad Amin Khan commissioned this amazing minaret to be a staggering 87 meters (285 ft) tall. It was started in 1851 and had it been fully built, it would have been the tallest minaret in the world at that time. Muhammad Amin Khan died in a battle with rival Turkmen in 1855 and the construction halted forever.

    Today it is a stunning mix of blue, white, green and yellow glazed tiles are the symbol of Khiva. It is the only minaret in Uzbekistan that is fully covered by glazed tiles and it changes colour throughout the day as the sun moves in the sky. It is 29 meters high (95 ft) and has a diameter of 15 meters (49 ft) at its base. The unfinished top has a smaller diameter of 14.5 meters. It was designed to taper in as it rose to give it full stability.

    There is a legend that the architect was thrown off to his death when it was discovered that the rival city of Bukhara had built a taller minaret. There are other variations of this, but basically the guy with the money died and the ones left behind squabbled over the money.

    Today the minaret forms part of the Orient Star Hotel. There is a walkway leading to a door near the top from inside the hotel. The minaret is not open to the public, but a small financial gift may just get you a view inside.

    KALTA MINOR MINARET KALTA MINOR MINARET KALTA MINOR MINARET KALTA MINOR MINARET KALTA MINOR MINARET
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