SPACH Photo Catalogue of Major Priority Sites and Monuments:

Provinces:

Badakhshan Badghis
Baghlan
Balkh
Bamyan
Farah
Faryab
Ghazni
Ghor
Herat
Helmand
Jawzjan
Kabul
Kandahar
Kapisa
Khost
Kunar
Kunduz
Laghman
Logar
Nangarhar
Nimroz
Nuristan
Paktika
Paktya
Parwan
Samangan
Sari Pul
Takhar
Uruzgan
Wardak
Zabu
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"MASJID-I-NO GUMBAD,

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..."

CONDITION: carved stucco 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, 1977. p.400


Dupree, N.H. Status of Afghanistan's cultural heritage, SPACH Library series N°1. Peshawar, 1998

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