Monday, October 3, 2011

Inspiration: Necropolis of Pahlavan-Mahmud, Uzbekistan

I recently stumbled across this real life location in my rambles through the internet: a necropolis built around the tomb of a Muslim saint in what was the Khanate of Khiva, in present-day Uzbekistan.  Check out the map above.  I wish I could find a clear, detailed map of the old, inner city: Itchan Kala (also see here).  It looks like it would be a wonderful source to base a game map on.  The old town is a walled fortification, but it seems to be dominated by mausoleums and mosques.  Getting lots of information about it off the internet in English is posing a bit of challenge, but it seems that my initial impression that I was looking at a single vast necropolis was mistaken.  Pahlavan-Mahmud's is one of many mausoleums in Itchan Kala.  However, I like my initial misapprehension: a fortified town, dominated by a sprawling necropolis and enough temples to keep the whole thing semi-contained.  It sounds like the makings of a great location in Aryanastan: The Empire of the Immortal Sun in my Ygg setting.  A Google image search or a search in Flickr for some of the key words in this post, and you will see more reasons why I find the place inspiring.

Here are a few more views of Itchan Kala (other spellings out there include Ichan Qala).

Google Maps

Arun Narayan Sabnis' photograph of another city map.  It's not downloadable, but it is hi-res and zoomable.


  1. Thank you for this. I had not heard of the city before and it has provided some nice inspiration for something I am working on right now.

  2. I recommend FG Burnaby's classic A Ride to Khiva for some local colour as revealed by Brian Blessed's spiritual forefather.

    Khiva as it now stands is a hollowed-out museum town: it's dominated by mausoleums because those are the prized archaeological remains, the stuff UNESCO was willing to call "world heritage." A similar thing happened to Bukhara, but people still live there.

    If you want I can hit you with some bibliography on the region: I wrote a master's thesis on a mausoleum at Merv (check out Georgina Herrmann's and Tim Williams' publications on that - one of the major cities of the Islamic world sacked in 1220 and left mostly intact in the ground ever since). And if you want mausoleum plans for adventuring, check out the mausoleum of ahmed yasawi at

  3. Richard: Thanks! I have taken step one.

    A Ride to Khiva
    What is the connection to Brian Blessed?
    I'd LOVE to have your bibliography. :D

    I believe that site you directed me to would provide me with all the mausoleum floor plans I would need for my town dominated by the dead.

  4. There's no actual relation between Fred Burnaby and Brian Blessed, but reading Burnaby I can't help but imagine him as a Blessed character: he's bullish, unflappable in the manner of the stereotypical Victorian British Army officer but always hovering on the edge of rage, physically huge and alarming... In short, a classic Toblerone.

  5. Got ya. My version of the stereotypical Victorian British officer is closer to Commander McBragg. :-)