A fortress within a fortress, the Ark was the earliest residence of the Khiva Khans. The term 'Kunya Ark' means 'Original Citadel' and it was ostensibly military in function. However the Khans were not generally accustomed to a stoic military lifestyle so they ensured that the Ark was fitted with resplendent summer and winter mosques, mint, stables, harem and guest rooms. Despite Allah Kuli Khan's construction of the Tosh Hauli Palace in the 1830's which was followed by later residences, the Ark continued in use until the turn of the twentieth century.
The Ark foundations are the oldest surviving remains in Khiva dating back to the fifth century. Numerous bits and pieces have since been added, such as the walls which were erected in the 1680's under Arang Khan, son of Anusha Khan. Restoration began in the 1950's and more recently an archeological dig has unearthed some interesting finds now on display in the winter mosque. To date, the foundations of the Khan's stables, arsenal and three-roomed reception area have been discovered, along with shattered pieces of pottery. There is also evidence of a well similar to that of the Kutlaq Murad Inaq Madrassah. A disused open-air cinema lies in the far corner, once patronised by guests staying at the nearby Intourist hotel.
The imposing gates of the Ark were once flanked by cannons and sentries. Today, the magnificent carved doors provide an entrance to: