Afghanistan’s Endangered Minaret Of Jam

On February 14, 2015 by Tim Newman

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I’ve decided to write a short article on an impressive monument, area or natural wonder from every country in the world. I’m starting with Afghanistan, because there’s nothing quite like an alphabetised list of articles to get my blood flowing.

Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam is a new one on me. This surprising tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in western Afghanistan. It sits in a remote and nearly inaccessible region of the Shahrak District, Ghor Province, next to the Hari River. The tower is made of over 1000 baked bricks and is famous for its beautiful glazed tiles and intricate calligraphy.

Afghanistan - Minaret Of Jam

The tower has stood in its current location since some point in the late 1100’s but its future is unclear. The Minaret of Jam is not being actively maintained and cared for and according to a BBC report in 2014 it may even face imminent collapse.

This particular patch of Afghanistan is victim to relatively frequent flooding and occasional earthquakes. The unfortunate minaret has developed a bit of a jaunty angle to it which isn’t likely to get any less jaunty unless it’s given a bit of TLC. According to locals 20-30% of its original tiling has also fallen off and been washed away or stolen by looters.

The tower is currently dangling with a 3.47 degree tilt, which isn’t as bad as the Tower of Pisa’s 5.5 degrees, but the Minaret of Jam is substantially taller and has much crapper foundations.

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At 65m (213-foot) tall the Jam Minaret is the second tallest of the 60 minarets spread across central Asia and the Middle East. The tallest is Kutlug Timur Minaret in Old Urgench, north-eastern Turkmenistan. These minarets are thought to have been symbols of Islamic victories in the areas that they were built; so they are decorative monuments rather than functional, like watchtowers.

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Hopefully the dire situation in Afghanistan will ease over time, not least for its poor residents. Until things calm down UNESCO will be chomping at the bit to get in there and sort the beautiful minaret out. Only time will tell.

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