DESCRIPTION: This exquisitely ornamented
mosque is the earliest Islamic monument yet identified in
Afghanistan. Built during the early years of the 9th coentury
A.D. when the first local Islamic dynasties were asserting
their independence from the harsh rule of Arabic governors,
it coupled outside influences with local ingenuity. As such
it continued a tradition mentioned throughout this history,
from the Achaemenid (Delbarjin Tepe, northwest of Balkh) Graeco-Bactrian
(Ai Khanoum), and Kushano-Sasanian (Balkh), periods. Few datable
examples of mosque architecture exist any where in the world
from this early period. Only a handful featuring an architectural
plan with nine domes (No Gumbad) are scattered throughout
the former Arab Empire, from Balkh to Cairo to Toledo in Spain,
dating from the 9th to 12th centuries A.D.
The mosque is not large, being only 10 m; 33 ft. square. It
was originally covered by nine domes but the domes have fallen
and the floor is now buried under more than a meter of rubble
which also encases the lower half of the columns stand on
bases above which there is a wide band of decorated stucco
narrower in diameter than either the shaft or the base. The
northeast facade with an arches was the original entrance
but it is now blocked by later constructions.
The elegantly carved stucco decoration is the wonder and the
beauty of this mosque. The capitals of the columns and the
arches which span them exhibit an infinite variety of geometric
and abstract floral designs: vine-scrolls twist around grape-leaves
forming circles and semicircles, squares, rectangles, and
polygons within borders of pearls, hatchings, mazes and meanders.
On the capitals pairs of palmettes frame trefoil lotus blossoms
and plump pomegranates sprout at their base..."
weather-worn, a more comprehensive protection is needed; archaeological
excavations required; one arch dangerously cracked; remedial
attention urgently needed.
From Dupree, N.H. An Historical Guide to Afghanistan, Kabul,
Dupree, N.H. Status of Afghanistan's
cultural heritage, SPACH Library series N°1. Peshawar,