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Towers touching the heavens

The silent beauty of the minarets adds a remarkable spectacle to the ancient cities’ Ensembles. The word minaret (or minora) means light (of height), in the sense of being a lighthouse. Commonplace in Muslim countries, these huge pillars were designed originally for the Muezzin to call the faithful for prayers. Usually Minarets were adjacent to mosques and madrassahs or they formed part of the Ensemble. Typically, the minaret has a round wide, brick base at ground level with a steep, internal, spiral staircase leading to an arched lantern placed at the top of the tower. Construction of the minaret had to bear in mind wind force, seismic forces and soil characteristics.

The minarets’ significant role in religious life meant that the community would add to each pillar’s decorative form and height as further tribute to the honor of the incumbent ruler. Even today, across Uzbekistan, no matter how many modern, multi-storied buildings are added to the city skyline, these magnificent towers still captivate our hearts and are leading examples of Central Asian cultural heritage.

Let your soul be inspired and enlightened by the splendor of our minarets.

Konye Urgench, Turkmenistan

Considered a jewel of Silk Road architecture, its geometric patterns represent a giant calendar signifying humanity’s insignificance. This 59m tower built in the 1320’s is the only surviving part of Konye Urgench’s mosque. Like the famous tower in Piza, the minaret leans over precariously to one side and is considered one of Asia’s iconic landmarks. The tower is the highest in Central Asia.

Konye Urgench, Turkmenistan
Khiva, Uzbekistan

The majority of minarets are located in Khiva, Khorezm province. The stnking panorama of the Ichan Kala from Akshi bobo bastion captures the four main minarets of Khiva, the Juma Mosque (1788) with its 33 metre high minaret in the centre of the old city; the minaret near the Sayid bai mosque (1842); the Kuk-minor tower and the Palvan Kari minaret close by. This spectacular cityscape demands admiration as the minarets tower skywards. Built in 1855, Kalta-minor is another widely known monument in ancient Khiva. It is notable for its dimensions and the shining beauty of the blue, exterior glaze. Originally intended to be the main and tallest minaret for the entire Central Asia, this construction was left unfinished at a height of 26 metres. During the middle of the 19th century, Mohammad Amin khan, possessed with vanity, commissioned this minaret and an adjacent madrassah. The structure was not completed at the time of this ruler’s death, so the project ended prematurely and was renamed Kalta-minor, meaning ‘short’ tower. The green-blue hues of the glaze on this tower are stunning and earn exalted praise for this minaret, as being one of Khiva’s architectural jewels.

The famous Islam-Khodja minaret (56 metres in height) is the pride of Khiva. The tower stands more than ten metres higher than the world-famous Kalon minaret in Bukhara and has a base perimeter of about twelve metres. The internal, steep spiral staircase is accessible to tourists who enjov clambering to the top of the 175 steps for the captivating view. The exterior of this minaret is also worth study. The pillar is lain with glistening enamelled, polished tiles creating a superb interplay of light and colour.

Islam-Khodja minaret, Khiva
Bukhara, Uzbekistan

The majestic Kalon minaret (47 metres in height) towers above single-storey houses and highrise buildings. When approaching Bukhara from the direction of Khiva, the traveller can see the tower from a distance of many kilometres, as it looms on the horizon, at times obscured from view by the hot sands and then appearing again on the road ahead. This pillar is decorated with ten bands of enamelled, lacy brickwork conforming to the traditional pattern. From its circumference of 6 metres at the top, it widens to a circumference of 9 metres at ground level. The foundations of the Kalon minaret extend many metres underground within age-old archeological deposits. A minaret has stood here since 919.

The 16 vaulted lantern rotunda, supported by prominent rows of brickwork in the form of stalactite cornices, hangs over the minarct trunk. A traditional, steep staircase leads to the top. Four muezzins used to climb up every Friday in old times to proclaim a holy prayer (azan) to all four directions of the world. Their toning voices invoked thousands of Muslims to the 16th century Bukhara central Ensemble, consisting of the Kalon minaret, the Kalon mosque and the Mir-i-Arab madrassah. The remarkable view of Bukhara from the Kalon gallery attracts many admirers. This Kalon minaret shaft bears an inscription that dates the minarct construction at 1127 and states the architect‘s name as being Bano. His grave is located amongst the houses nearby.

Kalon minaret, Bukhara
Vabkent, Uzbekistan

Famous for its luxuriant bazaars and pottery, the small town of Vabkent, 20 kilometres from Bukhara, also boasts a fragile minaret named after the town. This refined, 39 metres tall pillar from the 12th century too, is crowned with a multi-arch lantern resting above splendid stalactite cornices. A brick, spiral staircase leads the way to the top. The minaret trunk is decorated with the bands of figured brickwork, carved terracotta tiles, Kufic and divani inscriptions and geometric ornaments alternating with smooth, finished tiles. The Vabkent minaret appears more slender and translucent than its Bukhara counterparts.

Vabkent, Uzbekistan
Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The original minarets of ancient Samarkand were mostly constructed to decorate the adjacent buildings and add to their magnificence. The powerful silhouettes of the Gur-Emir mausoleum minarets are bright and festive. The rickety Registan towers mimic the upward hands of the madrassah. Almost all Samarkand’s minarets have the same profile, with the exception of the two located in the Bibi-Khanum mosque, which were built by Azerbaijan architects.

Gur-Emir mausoleum, Samarkand
Jarkurgan Minaret, Uzbekistan

One of the tallest in Central Asia and #2 on the list of the 7 “must see” minarets in Central Asia. For several decades, the famous Dzharkurgan minaret has haunted archaeologists, historians and simply lovers of beautiful architecture. The thing is that the minaret is decorated with an unusual decorative ornament, which was never used in Central Asia, but rather used in India. The minaret is located in the village of Minor, located between Kumkurgan and Termez in the Surkhandarya region. It was built in 1109 by order of Sultan Sanjar. Now its height is more than twenty meters, but at the time of construction it reached forty-three.

Jarkurgan Minaret, Uzbekistan
Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan

The Uzgen tower, built in the 12th century, recalls the reign of the powerful Karakhanid dynasty. In those years, the city was the center of the life of the state. The height of the Uzgen minaret is 27.5 m, outwardly it resembles the notorious Burana tower. The interior of the tower is also decorated with a relief ornament and three-dimensional elements. A narrow spiral staircase leads to the upper tier of the minaret. It is illuminated only by two small windows facing west and east. To climb to the very top, guests will have to overcome 53 steps. In ancient times, the mullahs climbed the stairs several times a day, which indicates their good physical fitness.

At the top there is a covered observation deck with arched windows, which offers a wonderful view of the city. Those who wish can climb it and admire Uzgen, as well as its surroundings. On sunny days, even the snow-capped Pamir Mountains can be seen from the minaret. Initially, the height of the tower was more than 47 meters, but the top of the minaret was destroyed by 1/3, most likely during an earthquake.

Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan
Burana, Kyrgyzstan

The Burana Tower is rightfully considered the cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan. The Buraninsky minaret is built of baked bricks and juniper beams. The foundation is deepened by 5.6 m, it rises above the ground in the form of a quadrangular podium. A stone plinth - an octahedron holds a trunk tapering to the top, decorated with belts with a brick ornament. There is a door at a height of 5 m from the ground. A metal spiral staircase is installed for entry. The height of the tower is 21 m, its diameter is 9 m. It is assumed that earlier the height of the structure was about 45 m, but the upper part collapsed during an earthquake that occurred in the 15th century.

Inside the tower there is a very narrow spiral staircase that leads up to the observation deck. It offers a wonderful view of the mountains and the ancient settlement. The steps are illuminated only by the meager light that enters through several small windows.

Burana, Kyrgyzstan


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