Minaret of Jam – Shahrak, Afghanistan - Atlas Obscura

Minaret of Jam

Shahrak, Afghanistan

200-foot-high minaret and only remnant of Afghanistan's lost city of the Turquoise Mountain. 


For the last three decades, almost constant conflict has colored the world’s perceptions of Afghanistan, and an inhospitable climate and frightening political instability have left Afghanistan on few traveler’s itineraries. But before the war-torn reality of the country today, societies flourished, and left behind traces of their greatness. The minaret of Jam is one of these legacies.

Built in the late 12th century, the minaret was once connected to a great mosque along the riverbank, and evidence of the building and a massive courtyard have also been found near the site. Some scholars have suggested that the minaret is the only remaining structure from the lost city of the Turquoise Mountain, one of the greatest urban civilizations of its time, and a bastion of tolerance, where all religions were accepted. The rest of the lost city perished during Mongol invasions in the 1220s possibly leaving behind only the minaret.

Besides the semi-miracle of its survival, the minaret is an incredible work of architecture. Extending 213 feet into the air, the minaret is made completely of tan baked bricks and is intricately carved with Koranic inscriptions of multiple colors. In 2002, the minaret was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only two in all of Afghanistan.

After staying intact for 1000 years, the minaret still faces threats from war, and the harsh climate of Afghanistan. The minaret of Jam is also currently listed as a site in danger, and many fear that another harsh winter, or earthquake could topple the only legacy of the city of Turquoise Mountain.

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November 18, 2011

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