The bastioned walls of Khiva's Ichan Kala culminate in the defensive battlement of the Kunya Ark watch tower. The foundations of the watch tower are the oldest part of the city, built in the same era as the desert kalas and the ancient settlement of Kunya Urgench, although the watchtower itself is a renovation scarcely a decade old.
According to tradition, the hermit Sheikh Muhtar Vali lived at this spot in poverty and solitude. Then in the twelfth century, the marauding Turkoman of the Karakum desert proved such a nuisance that Okh Sheikh (the White Sheikh) commissioned a watchtower to be built on the western wall facing the desert. Turkoman tribes continued to plague the city right through to the twentieth century but were tolerated due to the lucrative income they brought to the city through their slave trading.
By the 1980's the watch tower had crumbled into obsolescence but was restored with a two-storey aywan, reminiscent of the Chadra Hauli. No doubt the Khans would have disapproved of such an aywan offering lingering views of their harem, although it does give a fantastic panorama of the city. The watch tower has become a place of pilgrimage for camera-clicking tourists, especially in the evening light when the whole city glows and glimmers and needs only a few flying carpets to complete the picture!