Located in western Afghanistan, Herat, one of the most beautiful cities of
ancient Afghanistan, is today the third largest city in Afghanistan. It is
also the site of some of the worlds most spectacular medieval Islamic
architecture. Herat was known as the Pearl of Khorasan as it was the most
important industrial pole for the grain, fruit, vegetables, and sheep of the
surrounding area. The roads from Herat to Iran, Turkmenistan, Mazari Sharif
and Kandahar were important strategically since the ancient time as well as
The city is recognized by the remains of a citadel, constructed under the
rule of Alexander the Great. After suffering for some twenty years of civil
unrest, natural disasters and neglect, much of this unique heritage has been
about to lost but from the last two years city is going through renovation.
History of Herat
Herats history is quite turbulent and eventful. Achaemenid records
says the city appeared first under the name of Haraiva. Alexander the great
was first to built a fortress in the city. Arabs captured the city in 651
C.E.. They fought over the city, lost it and regained it again and again.
Herat beacame part of the Samanid, Ghaznavid, Saljuk and Ghorid dynasties
subsequently. When Mongols attacked the city, Herat was destroyed
completely. Mongols under the command of Ghenghis Khan slaughtered the
masses and left the city in ruin.
Travel Attractions in Herat
Herat city boasts of Masjet-e-jam, also known as Friday mosque or blue
mosque. The mosque is not only impotant from the architectural point of view
but it is also an important pilgrimage center in Herat Afghanistan. The mosque is
around 800 years old. Masjet-e-jam is noted for its beautiful lineup of blue
tile flowers and mosaic decoration. The mosque is the largest building in
the city and a beautiful example of Islamic architecture.
The Citadel (Qala-i-Ikhtiyar-ud-din)
The Citadel of Herat was built by Malik Fakhruddin in 1305 A.D. Originally
the citadel was bulit by Alexander the Great. The fort was attacked
repeatedly by conquerors like Genghis Khan, he Seljuks, the Ghorids, the
Mongols, the Timurids, the Safavids. The walls of the citadel tells us the
glorious past of Afghanistan.
Collection of minarets, a mosque and a medressa, the whole complex is known
as the Mousallah Complex. The old Medressaz was bnuilt by the queen Gaur
Shad in 1411. She was the daughter of famous ruler Timur. Close to the
complex there is a large domed tomb of Gowhar Shah.There were total 12
minarets in this complex. 9 of them are destroyed with time but still three
remain in the complex. The Mousallah Complex has been described as the most
beautiful example in color and architecture ever devised by man to the glory
of his God and himself.
Minarets of Sultan Baiqara
The 4 minarets are all that remains of the Medressa that the Sultan built.
The new Iranian-built road cuts directly through them, two on each side.
Most of the once beautiful blue tiling has vanished.
Gazar Gah is the shrine complex, located to the 5 km east of Herat Afghanistan. Here is
the tomb of famous sufi shrine Khoja Abdullah Ansari. Buildings near the
tomb are decorated with brilliant tile work. Khwaja Abdullah Ansar was a
famous Sufi mystic & poet who died in 11th century. Next to him is the
tomb of Amir Dost Mohammad, one of the former kings of Afghanistan. The
other main attractions in Gazar Gah are Main iwan (main court), a
fifteen-foot marble pillar depicting the artwork of Timurid period. A
remarkable sarcophagus called Haft Qalam (seven pens) fashioned of black
marble, Khana Zarnegar (Pavilion adorned with gold) and Hauze Zamzam (Sacred
water pond) are other attractions.
Chisht-i-Sharif is some 177 km from Herat city. As you approach it across a
plateau, you can see the two famous domes of Chisht. The town with its
meandering bazaar street sits in the ravine between these plateaus. Winding
down and up, you will find an avenue of pine trees leading directly to two
ruined buildings now standing in the middle of an extensive graveyard.
Experts argue as to the purpose of these buildings. Some speak of them as
mausoleums. Others see them as parts of a grand complex of buildings. The
mutilated molded terra cotta brick decoration can only speak softly their
former magnificence. Stylistically, the decoration of these buildings falls
into the category of Ghorid arch in the Masjet-e-Jami and the minaret of
Jam, both of which bear the name of Ghiyas-ud-din Ghori (1157-
Tomb of Jami
Jami was a famous 15th century sufi poet. Jami is quite popular in
Afghanistan. To get here, walk roughly a kilometre north from the Baiqara
minarets along the main road. When you get to a junction with a large
monument in the center, look out to the left and the large building that
looks like a mosque is the one. There is a taxi stand near the junction.
The other attraction in Herat Afghanistan is the tomb of famous 15th century Persian
poet, Nur-ud-din Abdurrakhman Jami, who died in 1492. Jami was the greatest
of the 15th century's poets, a titan during a period characterized by
supreme literary brilliance. His simple tomb sheltered by a spreading
pistachio tree, lies in the garden of a mosque.