In Western Afghanistan stands a 63-meter high minaret, built of yellow baked bricks with glazed tile and stucco decoration. This tall monument was constructed in the 1100s as part of a city, though few specifics about the city are currently known.
Archaeologists believe the city was a cosmopolitan area, home to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, who were able to live harmoniously despite their differences.
It’s thought by some that the minaret, known as the Minaret of Jam, may have been part of Turquoise Mountain, the lost medieval capital of Afghanistan… though this is, presently, only speculation. More on that below!
First, however, the minaret:
The minaret would have been illuminated by a torch at the top, and inside the structure are opposing spiralling staircases constructed in such a way—like a double helix—that the fragile-looking building has remained standing, despite many earthquakes in the area.
The most remarkable aspect of the minaret, however, is the decoration. The writing on the structure is from a section of the Quran that speaks of the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, which clearly highlights the similarities between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. And with Jewish graveyard nearby, it’s hard to deny that there were people of different faiths living here at one time!
Historians and archaeologists postulate that the Minaret of Jam is placed at the ancient location of the Ghruid Dynasy’s summer capital, called Firuz Koh (Turquoise Mountain). During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Ghurids controlled the area here, which is now part of Afghanistan, as well as parts of northern India, Pakistan, and eastern Iran.
The specific dating on the minaret is somewhat unclear, leaving the exact construction date unknown, let alone its purpose (which might otherwise be guessed at by the date).
The landscape around the Jam does include some “palace” ruins, along with a pottery kiln and some fortifications, but no one lives there now—and the site is very difficult to reach.
That said, it’s impressive, and seems unique in its mystery of being a potentially unifying monument for religious beliefs that have often clashed (to a deadly degree) throughout history.