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The 12-Century Wonder and Mystery of Afghanistan

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Abudhar View Drop Down

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  Quote Abudhar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The 12-Century Wonder and Mystery of Afghanistan
    Posted: 15-May-2012 at 03:40
The 12-Century Wonder and Mystery of Afghanistan

Built back in 1190s by the once great Ghorid empire, this enigmatic and intricately-ornamented ancient "skyscraper" stands like a missile pointing at the stars - a 65-meter high minaret, the second biggest religious monument of its kind in the world. 

Originally it was topped by the lantern - making it a sort of the dry land lighthouse (!), surrounded by the 2400m high mountains:

(Note a white jeep crossing the river in photo above: there was a bridge before, but it was destroyed during wartime...)

Amazingly, this imposing structure was standing forgotten for centuries... until rediscovered in 1886 by Sir Thomas Holdich; then forgotten again and rediscovered in 1957. Then the Soviet invasion in 1979 again prohibited access to the area, and since then only a handful of people from outside of Afghanistan have seen the minaret, because of its middle-of-nowhere location (check its coordinates on Google Maps)

(image credit: Keith Mellnick)

Perhaps the most intricate religious carvings on Earth

The minaret displays an incredibly intricate baked-brick work, stucco and glazed tile ornamentation (containing Kufic and Naskhi calligraphy and verses from the Qur'an, relating to Mary, the mother of Jesus):

Dan Cruickshank, who visited the place, writes about the carvings: "This chapter, called Maryam, tells of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, both venerated in Islam, and of prophets such as Abraham and Isaac. It's a text that emphasises what Judaism, Christianity and Islam have in common, rather than their differences. It seems the Ghorids placed the text here to appeal for harmony and tolerance in the land, a message that is more relevant now than ever."

(image via)

The Lost City of the Turquoise Mountain

The stupedous structure of the minaret of Jam is actually only a part of The City of the Turquoise Mountain, which is the lost Afghan capital of the Middle Ages - Firuzkuh (Firuz Koh). The city was once a prospering, multicultural center - before it was destroyed by a son of Genghis Khan in the early 1220s. The site even includes a Jewish cemetery, complete with carvings in Hebrew! This seems to prove a sizeable Judeo-Persian trading community, that was thriving there and had connections to other such Jewish centers in Medieval Afghanistan.

The mysterious ruins of Qasr Zarafshan are just across the river, looming over the Minaret - note their location on a hill upper right, in the right image below:

(images via)

Outstanding travel photographer Jane Sweeney has many galleries dedicated to such mysterious and ancient sites in Afghanistan. Below you see another fragment of the Qasr Zarafshan, and on the top right - Caravanserai, Daulitiar, between Yakawlang and Chakhcharan:

(top images, right image below credit: Jane Sweeney)

The "Leaning Tower", threatened by erosion

It's a wonder how this ancient tower still stands at all, considering constant floods and powerful earthquakes frequent in the area! Today, some effort is underway to strengthen the tower's foundation, but there is also another problem: many pillagers dig for gold in the area and sell the findings on the local markets...

View from minaret (note the trucks below to get a sense of scale):

(image credit: Keith Mellnickvia)

Hindu Kush Mountains provide an awesome background to the monument

Here is the Hindu Kush Mountains aerial panorama - read more about this region here

(image credit: J P C van Heijst, Flying Dutchman)

Gilgit, a beautiful village on the Karakoram Highway (Gilgit-Baltistan area), has a kind of background that asks to be put in an epic fantasy movie:

(image credit: Basil Pao, Palin's Travels)

Very colorful scene: Burusho women sorting apricots grown in the Hunza valley close to the Karakoram Highway (which spans Pakistan, Afghanistan and China):

(image via)

Old Kabul has some very imposing and ancient fortresses, haunted by history of some preposterous massacres and almost constant warfare. This is the Upper Bala Hissar viewed from West Kabul around 1879:

(image via)

Scotland-based Turquoise Mountain foundation leads a charitable effort to bring old glory back to Kabul - see photo coverage on National Geographic.

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Nick1986 View Drop Down
Mighty Slayer of Trolls

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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-May-2012 at 19:21
That minaret is impressive. Where did the Afghans lose their way and end up in the miserable condition they are today?
Me Grimlock not nice Dino! Me bash brains!
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oxydracae View Drop Down

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  Quote oxydracae Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2012 at 09:49
Inspired by the Minaret of Jam, and wishing to surpass it, Sultan Qutubuddin started the construction of Qutub Minar (The Qutub Tower) in 1193 at Delhi.
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