World Heritage Sites: The Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan

The Minaret of Jam is located in the centre of Afghanistan, in the Ghur province between Kaminj and Ahangaran (Western Afghanistan). This is a 64m high minaret, like a tower situated over the rocky valley in a dale in mountains heighted 2300m, near the Hari Rud and Jam rivers which flow rapidly. The Minaret of Jam is 1,904 m above sea level. Originally was built during the short-lived Ghorid Empire (1148-1202), by king of kings”. Muizdine of Mohammed ibn Sam” in this very site on the bank of the Harirud River, as lonely watchtower or a lighthouse with a topped lantern in the dry land for the short-lived empire.
The minaret (in Islam history) is believed that the Jam structure was a victory symbol. There is a similar victory tower in Delhi, India, higher than the Minaret of Jam (25 feet), knowing that a minaret is a tower on a mosque, and there is no evidence of a mosque ever existing in Minaret.

It remained unscathed and unknown for over seven centuries. The Minaret of Jam was rediscovered in 1886 by Sir Thomas Holdich who was working for the Afghan Boundary Commission. In May 1944, a discovery of this extraordinary monument occurred again by Ahmed Ali Koazad, president of the Afghan History Society, and having been the first to discover and photograph it before 1943. Then forgotten again and the minaret was again ‘lost from view’. Then rediscovered in 19 August 1957 by the French archaeologist André Maricq. He conducted an initial and very brief study of its architectural structure. Then the Soviet invasion in 1979 it was heavily damaged and again cut this place off from the world. In 2002, UNESCO declared Jam Afghanistan’s first World Heritage Site, one of only two in all of Afghanistan in Danger category due to problems like soil erosion, earthquake and floods increasing. It is the only greatest surviving monument escaped from the destruction wreaked by Genghis Khan 1222, from the medieval Ghorid Empire and The second tallest religious monument made out of brick in the world.

The minaret got a great architecture and is still standing considered one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture. It is decorated with wonderful Islamic verses from the Qur’an (surat Maryam), craftsmanship, beautiful artistic details, carved with Koranic calligraphy of multiple colors, and accented with turquoise ceramics. The minaret is built from baked bricks arranged in geometric and floral designs. The jam is resting on a base which is shaped like an octagon. The entrance is made through a set of double helicoidally stairways that start from the octagonal base about 4 m below the current level to the circular top where there is a lantern. And there are two wooden balconies which make the tower more impressive. Archeologists found remains of a fortress, palace, wall and market, and a Jewish cemetery, complete with carvings in Hebrew.

The minaret still stands today, remains a mystery, a monument to humans’ constant struggle to live in peace together, against all odds. Hope we could all learn something from that tower.