The old town of Khiva in which is sited the Ichan-Kala (a medieval fortress with palaces, mosques, madrasas, mausoleums, trading places, and hammams) was declared a historic reserve in 1967. Since then it has been the subject of a restoration campaign. The 10th Century town, when Khiva was a flourishing caravan stop on the route between Gurganch and Merv, was almost completely razed by the Mongols in 1226. The new political capital of the 15th and 16th Centuries was largely destroyed by Nadir Shah of Iran. What we see today is the rebuilt 18th and 19th Century version of the Ichan-Kala. Its splendid monuments, built in the classic style, have been restored to their original pristine state
The objective of the Institute of Restoration of the Ministry of Culture in Tashkent was to revitalise the historic centres of the old towns by restoring, reconstructing or upgrading the monuments. The Ichan-Kala differed from Bukhara in that the whole area within the walls was declared a cultural reserve, to be preserved as a walk-in, open-air museum. In this context, the original role of a building was of secondary importance - the look of the whole was what mattered. Detailed drawings and project outlines were made for all the buildings, and included everything from wall-construction methods, protection against earthquakes, and limited adaptive re-use.
The citadel of Ichan-Kala is rectangular in shape and measures 650 by 400 metres (26 hectares), its long axis running in a North to South direction. There are 54 historical monuments within its walls. These include 23 madrasas, 6 mosques, 1 caravanserai, 6 mausoleums, 1 trading dome, 1 working hammam, 290 listed old houses, and other varia that include the Kunya Ark citadel, the city walls and gates, and cemeteries. The monument that greets the visitor on entry into the town is the truncated but impressive Kalta Minar, a tall, fat minaret that is entirely covered in blue glazed tiles. The Kunya Ark takes up the central portion, its citadel towering over the rest of the town. The restoration programme concentrated on the major monuments of the town and the areas immediately around them. The buildings have been restored to their original forms, using traditional decorative features and motifs. Enough was preserved of each monument and its decorative treatment (glazed tiles, paintings, or carved brick) to be able to reconstruct the rest. The streets and the pavements of Ichan-Kala are all paved, the former with asphalt, and the latter with poured concrete slabs. Open spaces around some of the monuments and mosques are paved with baked bricks. Paving has made it a more attractive place to walk in, and has also reduced the dust. Some trees had been planted in the squares and open areas.