An 800-year-old minaret considered one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in Afghanistan has been damaged by two earthquakes this week and is in danger of collapse.
The Minaret of Jam, a UNESCO world heritage monument, was in desperate need of repair even before Monday’s quakes. But provincial official Abdul Hai Zaeem said on Wednesday that it had weakened further.
“Some of the bricks have come off and the minaret itself has tilted more,” Zaeem, head of Ghor’s information and culture department, said about the 65-metre (213-foot) structure.
“If proper attention is not given, it is possible that the minaret will collapse.”
“Although an earthquake did occur a few days ago… there is no evidence at the moment to support the theory that the minaret has become fragile,” UNESCO said, but requested verification from their contacts.
Built in the 12th Century during the reign of Sultan Ghiyasuddin, the Minaret of Jam has weathered earthquakes, floods and harsh desert storms – and the years have taken their toll.
In 2002, the minaret and its archaeological remains became the first site in Afghanistan to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Built on an octagonal base, it has an interior double staircase and is elaborately decorated. Its date of construction is given as around 1190.
It sits in a rugged, inaccessible valley along the Harirud river, well off Afghanistan’s tourist track even in the 1960s, when the country was a magnet for hardy Western travellers.
Archeologists backed by UNESCO have tried previously to repair the minaret, but its remote location – in territory controlled by the Taliban even before they took power in August – meant security was always an issue.
The last UNESCO mission to the site was in 2019 and at that time they said it faced no risk of collapse.
Last year, agency head Audrey Azoulay called on the Taliban to help preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, including the minaret.
Courtesy: TRTWorld and agencies