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Located in the heart of the Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts, Khiva is the remotest of the Uzbek Khanates. The oasis is fed by the flow of the Amu Darya river whose shifting course have for centuries dictated the flourishing and withering of desert cities. Today it’s damned and channelled flow limps into the disappearing Aral Sea with much of its water taken for irrigation. Remote Khiva always had a reputation as a hide out for slave traders, thieves and brigands and indeed its last slave market was held in 1921. In 1967 the Soviet authorities declared Khiva a museum city which has meant that it is the most complete Islamic city to survive in the world. Ichan Kala is the inner city surrounded by 2.2kms of city walls parts of which are thought to date back to the 5th century and it is here that the main sights of Khiva lie. The Kukhna Ark was the original residence of the Khans of Khiva and while most of the complex was built in the 19th century its foundations are thought to date back as far as the 5th century. Today it is possible to wander through admiring the delicate tile work of the summer mosque, the Kurinish Khana were the Khans wooden throne gilded with silver was located and the Ak Sheikh Bobo Bastion – the citadel thought to amongst the oldest buildings in Khiva. Across the main square from the Ark lies the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassah which was used as a back drop for some of the scenes in the film Orlando, while just past that is the Mongol era Tomb of Sayid Allauddin. The nearby Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum houses the tomb of Khiva’s adopted patron saint who died in 1325. Of Khiva’s many mosques and madrassah’s of particular note is the early 20th century Islam Khodja Madrassah and minaret, which at 44.8 metres is just 2 metres shorter than the Kalon minaret in Bukhara. The Juma Mosque also stands out with 213 pillars, each one 3.15 metres apart. Outside of Khiva the desert fortresses of Ayaz Kala and Toprak Kala are well worth the trip into the baking desert of Khorezm.