The Minaret of Jam

Around 1174-1193 CE, in what is now Afghanistan, the people of the Ghurid Dynasty (a medieval Muslim empire) built a large tower. It’s construction was a symbol of peace and understanding between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today it stands in a location where this peace has been nearly lost.

The tower is built of just baked bricks with wooden supports but has stood in the same spot for nearly a thousand years. In fact, it lay unknown for a long period of time, surviving floods and earthquakes, only to be discovered again in 1886 by geographer Sir Thomas Holdich. And while Sir Holdich rediscovered the site, it was more fully studied in 1957 by two archaeologists by the names of André Maricq and Gaston Wiet. This was when the minaret gained notoriety in the rest of the world.

The minaret itself is covered in text from the Koran and glazed tile decorations. It was topped by a lantern to function as a sort of desert lighthouse. It is even considered to be the second tallest brick minaret in the world and is thought to have inspired the Qutb Minar in India (the highest brick minaret in the world).

the Qutb Minar

The BBC sent a team headed by art historian Dan Cruickshank to the minaret in 2008. While there Cruickshank examined the minaret and was able to describe the importance of the text itself:

But, more importantly, the lower portion bears the entire 19th sura of the Koran. 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.

In addition to being an incredibly unique monument to peace, the area around it is thought to be the location of the lost city of Turquoise Mountain. The city of Turquoise Mountain was one of the greatest cities of it’s age. It served as a trading post between Jewish and Islamic groups and is another reason why the site must be preserved but is instead being torn down by treasure seekers.

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