Photographer's Note

Khiva Ichan-Qala is the oldest part of the old city surrounded by mud brick walls and contrasting these earth tones are the abundance of dazzling flashes of blue, green and turquoise (turquoise means 'colour of the Turks') tiling for which Khiva is famous. The Tosh-Hauli Palace Complex is a stunning example, its collection of premises; offices, reception halls, the harem, living areas, courtyards is lavishly decorated with the intricate blue and turquoise floral motifs majolica designs which weave across in a seemingly endless array that soothe the eye throughout the year even the hottest of summer days. The facade of the palace and the surface of the walls surrounding inner courtyards are trimmed with ornamental majolica, with blue and ultramarine colours being dominant. Many of Khiva’s tiles have been designed to resemble hanging carpets, especially in the harem. These usually have an inner field pattern and a thick, ornamental border, much like a carpet.

Tiles were never used as mosaics in Khiva, instead majolica tiles were nailed into the walls through a small hole in the centre of each one. The designs would then continue faultlessly across the expanse of asymmetric tiles in mesmerising detail. The Khan was particularly fond of the tiles' cooling colours and decided to have all his 'aywans' entirely decorated with them. To cover such large areas, the tiles were not all produced or fired in the same kiln. Arabic numbers were painted onto each tile so that they could later be assembled like a large jigsaw puzzle onto the 'aywan' walls.

The ancient masters knew the secret of making coloured ceramic glaze made from desert plant called 'ishkor' the dyes of which keep their original deep blue colors for centuries. The procedure was a closely guarded secret and by the 1960's there was only one aging ceramist who remembered the traditional method. Thrilled that the Soviets had decided to begin restoration of the Ichan Kala, he offered to divulge the mystery of the deep blue colouring to the Russian archaeologists. Unfortunately they showed no interest in his old-fashioned ways, preferring instead to use modern, chemical pigments. The secret was lost and the walls of the Tosh Hauli have been scarred with the result. Tiles added in restoration are easy to distinguish as they fail to achieve the deep blue of the originals and look as though they have been applied with a marker pen.


This is a picture of Tosh-Hauli Palace, 'aywan' of the public audience. An 'aywan' or outdoor living spaces, has three walls and a high ceiling with the open side facing north to catch and circulate cooling northern breezes. Often one or two ornately carved pillars prop up the open side of a large 'aywan' Traditional Khivan houses have simple, unadorned 'aywans' where the family lives in summer.

Additional Pictures:
Workshop1: Tile close up view. Tosh-Hauli Palace 'aywan' of the public audience. If you look closely you may see an Arab numeral on a tile. This was so the tiles could be laid out in the right order.

Workshop2: Tile close up view. Tosh-Hauli Palace 'aywan' of the Summer mosque. Showing complex interface, the tiles again had numbers painted in the white stalks to make assembly easier

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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6672 W: 150 N: 14594] (64301)
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