Over the ancient Khiva’s Kunya-Ark Citadel, on the fortification adobe wall with two semi-turrets, rises a two-tier ayvan- a pavilion-like structure. It is called Akshi-Bobo (‘An Old Man in Love’) or, sometimes, Akshih Bobo (‘White Sheikh’). Now it is hard to guess what gave rise to these names. Somehow or other, the names make one think that high behind the cogged walls a recluse was taking shelter. However, it is obvious that this structure on the turret, called in Khorezm chardara keshk, was designed for a lookout and was a sort of a bastion.
It is really a wonderful vantage point which gives a clear view of the whole territory of ancient Khiva – the city from an oriental fairytale. A number of minarets cut through the skyline, the domes of numerous mausoleums and mosques tower over flat roofs of dwelling houses, peshtak portals of madrassahs with their bright blue glazed tilework rise over shady loggias, cogged fortification walls alternate with great portals of town’s gates. Inside the labyrinth of narrow streets there loom khan’s palaces, surrounded by small yards with richly decorated ayvan pavilions.
Close to Akshi-Bobo Bastion stands Kurnysh-Khan’s Palace, built in 1806. This khan’s mansion-house was used for official receptions. Its traditional Oriental architectural style and richly decorated interiors attract tourists from many countries.
In the center of the palace is a yard with a two-pillar ayvan. The walls of the ayvan have retained their rich decoration of carved mosaics with intricate geometrical and vegetal patterns. There used to be a special entrance from the yard to the throne hall with a splendid wooden throne, which has not survived, though. There is written evidence that the throne was decorated with silver plates containing engraved medallion with intricate patterns interlaced with quotes from the Koran and good wishes for the ruler against a red background. Besides the throne hall, the palace had a treasury and a library with a collection of rare manuscripts in Arabic.
The luxury of the palace and austerity of Akshi-Bobo Bastion above it contrast with each other and yet supplement each other, evoking in the memory an old Uzbek fairytale about a powerful shah and a poor dervish.