Ghiyath al-din Minar – The Minaret of Jam
(This article was originally published in Kyoto Journal Volume 82)
Does the fate threatening the Minaret of Jam mirror the imminent fate of Afghanistan?
“At a corner between cliffs, the minaret was there, straight and tapering as a candle or a beautifully rolled umbrella, etched from top to bottom with patterns, ribands and bands and medallions, cut in the hard-baked brick whose biscuit colour showed light against the mountain walls.” Freya Stark, “The Minaret of Djam” (1970)
It was a little past noon on the 23rd of August 2006 when our battered cargo jeep rounded the last hairpin turn on what had been one of the hairiest, most white-knuckled rides in a long career of hairy, white-knuckled journeys, and we caught our first glimpse of a sight I’d been waiting for almost my entire life. An almost electric feeling of elation and relief filled me, and my grin was so wide it hurt. We stared down the narrow river valley, and between the steep cliffs towered the fabled Minaret of Jam. As was ever the case in Afghanistan, the reality of the actual experience exponentially exceeded any fantasy that could possibly be entertained.