This is the Minaret of Jam. It’s about a 4 hour drive northeast of Herat on the road to Chist-e Sherif. The tower has the Sura of Miriam inscribed on mud brick mosaic tiles on it’s outer surface. The sura of Miriam is the story of the mother of Jesus as told in the Qur’an. Very little is known for certain about the origins of the tower. Only that it is an ancient relic dating to sometime around the Ghurid Dynasty of Afghanistan’s history.
he Minaret of Jam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Afghanistan. It is located in the Shahrak District, Ghor Province, by the Hari River. The 65-metre highminaret, surrounded by mountains that reach up to 2400m, is built entirely of baked-bricks. It is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, which consists of alternating bands of kufic and naskhi calligraphy, geometric patterns, and verses from the Qur’an (the surat Maryam, relating to Mary, the mother of Jesus). For centuries, the Minaret was forgotten by the outside world until rediscovered in 1886 by Sir Thomas Holdich, who was working for the Afghan Boundary Commission. It did not come to world attention, however, until 1957 through the work of the French archaeologists André Maricq and Wiet. Herberg conducted limited surveys around the site in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion of 1979 once again cut off outside access. The archaeological site of Jam was successfully nominated as Afghanistan’s first World Heritage site in 2002. It was also inscribed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, due to the precarious state of preservation of the minaret, and results of looting at the site.
The photos below were taken by an Afghan friend and colleague a few years ago. He actually took them with a cell phone camera. Great photos for a cell cam. At the time, he was working with the Province Governor as a liaison for NGOs. He and a few friends climbed in a 4WD and took the 8 hour trek over some nasty terrain to visit the Minaret. They came south and west from the city of Chagcharan which is the capital district of Ghor Province. Ghor Province is a part of Herat Region which is where I am working at the moment.
It would be amazing if I were able to visit the Minaret of Jam myself and get out to Chist-e Sherif which is a few hours drive from the area where the Minaret was built. Alas, it is a treacherous drive and if the terrain doesn’t get you, the taleban or bandits might give it a go. Perhaps, I will get my chance at some future time. As for now, it is not to be…
I just returned from Ghor where I picked up this carpet depicting the Minaret. (21 October 2009)