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Uzbekistan: Kalon Minaret

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Kalon Minaret | Uzbekistan | Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

On our first morning in Bukhara, we made a very early start and walked through the city to the west. Passing an empty Lyabi-Hauz and an empty souk, we reached an open space on our left, and immediately spotted the main goal of our walk. Ahead of us, dominating the square and the surrounding area, a tall, round, and sturdy tower: Kalon minaret. Aptly named: kalon means big in Tajik. We walked to its base, and walked around it. The early morning sun had just started climbing the sky, the shadows were still long, and we were virtually the only ones on the square.

Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Calligraphy and decorative frieze on the great dome of Kalon mosque

The minaret left us in awe. We were looking at a tower that was built in 1127, had survived wars, invasions, earthquakes, and although it has lost in brilliance and most of the exterior is now finely carved bricks, with a narrow band of blue tiles near the top. It appears this was the first occasion in which blue tiles were used - they would, of course, become very popular in the region. The minaret is 47 metres tall, 9 metres wide at the base and 6 at the top. The top actually has a rotunda, on top of which the brick tower gets wider again. Right on top is a brick point. It was easy to understand how the tall (it might have been the tallest structure in Central Asia at one time) building had various functions. Not only has it been used as a watchtower for soldiers in wartime, but also to throw criminals off to their inevitable death - hence the nickname Tower of Death. The latter function was still used in the early 20th century.

Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): View of Kalon minaret from below

What makes the minaret unique, is that its beauty so impressed Genghiz Khan that he ordered it spared. After all the stories we heard that far, about the merciless destruction the Mongol troops unleashed anywhere between their home country and Europe, a remarkable feat! We entered the adjacent mosque, which has a pleasant, quiet courtyard with an old tree, endless arched corridors, and a beautiful portal and dome with very fine examples of tiled decorations. We also desperately looked for a way to climb Kalon minaret, but unfortunately, the entrance was nowhere to be found. We returned several times during that and the following day, but the minaret appeared closed and we had to live with the view from its base.

Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Sun setting over Kalon mosque and minaret
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Courtyard of Kalon mosque with tree
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Kalon mosque seen from the courtyard
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Close-up of the finely decorated minaret of Kalon
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Moon casting a shadow on the green dome of Kalon mosque
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Tiled decorations of Kalon mosque in close-up
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Surroundings of the Kalon minaret
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Geometrical and calligraphic designs on a wall in Kalon mosque
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): One of the arched corridors of Kalon mosque
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Arch and green dome of the Kalon mosque
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Green and blue are the dominant colours on the huge portal of the Kalon mosque
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Finely decorated top of the Kalon minaret
Picture of Kalon Minaret (Uzbekistan): Decoration on the Kalon mosque in detail

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