Monuments in Afghanistan

Monuments in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a mountainous country landlocked in south-central Asia. From Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. through Genghis Khan in the 12th century and the British in the 19th century, many invaders have left their mark. Few monuments survived, however, and many have been destroyed by war since the Soviet invasion of 1979. Most remaining non-Islamic (primarily Buddhist) monuments were destroyed by the ruling Taliban before the U.S. invasion of 2001. Amazingly, several important monuments still stand.

Tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani

Ahmad Shah Durrani founded the Durrani Empire in the mid-18th century and is considered the father ("Ahmad Shah Bābā") of modern Afghanistan. His tomb is at the center of the city of Kandahar. The monument includes a mausoleum and also houses many of Durrani's personal items, including his brass helmet.

Tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed

The Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammad in Kandahar is the holiest Muslim site in Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Durrani brought the cloak to Kandahar in the late 18th century, and the legends surrounding this acquisition are central to Afghanistan's national mythology. The mosque is a major pilgrimage site, even though the cloak itself has not been displayed publicly since 1996.

Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammad
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Minaret of Jam

The Minaret of Jam in western Afghanistan is the nation's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 12th-century minaret was constructed with baked bricks and is 135 feet high, the second tallest minaret in the world. It is notable for its intricate patterns of glazed tiles and stucco decorations, with verses from the Quran arranged in alternating bands of kufic and nashki calligraphy.

The site of the minaret has not been properly excavated, and the structure has not been maintained, because of perpetual insecurity in the region. Proximity to the Hari and Jam rivers makes it prone to water infiltration and floods. Earthquakes are also common in the region, posing additional dangers. The designation by UNESCO resulted in plans to stabilize the structure.

Minaret of Jam
Shahrak District, Afghanistan

Old City of Herat

The Old City of Herat includes the oldest surviving structures in Afghanistan, dating back more than 3,000 years. The city sits along the ancient Silk Road and was a major intersection of commerce throughout most of its history. The architecture and layout of the city reflect the Greek, Mongol and Muslim influences of previous conquerors.

A Greek citadel dating to the time of Alexander the Great has been used continually for more than 2,300 years; it was an ammunition depot during Operation Enduring Freedom. It sits atop the highest hill of Herat and offers excellent views of the city and surrounding area.

Once home to more than a dozen minarets, only five have survived the wars of the past century. Those that surround the 800-year old Friday Mosque dominate the Old City. Other surviving Muslim monuments include the tombs of Jami, a famous 15th-century Sufi poet, and Khoja Addullah Ansari.

Old City of Herat
Herat, Afghanistan

Shrine of Hazrat Ali

The Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque, is known as the burial place of Ali bin Talib, son-in-law of Mohammad. It is an important pilgrimage destination and a spectacular example of Islamic art and architecture. It is built on the highest ground in the region and provides outstanding views in all directions.

Shrine of Hazrat Ali
Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan

Article Written By Timothy Aldinger

Timothy Aldinger brings 20 years of experience as an instructional design consultant and corporate training strategist in the automotive, environmental, health and insurance industries. His professional writings have been published by Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan and many other major corporations. Aldinger received his Bachelor of Arts in political theory from Michigan State University.

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