Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Musalla complex

The first period of neglect and decline for the Friday Mosque came with the construction of the Musalla complex early in the 15th century. Queen Gawhar Shad's architectural legacy once included not only a mosque but also a madrassa, and the complex was adorned with 20 minarets.

Unfortunately, time and fortune have been far less kind to the buildings at Musalla - in 1885, in anticipation of a Russian invasion that never came, the British dynamited most of the complex to clear the line of their artillery defenses of Herat. Minarets were toppled by earthquakes, and later wars brought further destruction.

The mausoleum of Gawhar Shad herself still stands, as do five minarets. Stopping by on a quiet Saturday afternoon, Afreen and I were able to wait for the guardian to unlock the building. Inside, UNESCO restoration plans sit among the handful of tombstones. At the very back of the complex, part of a sixth minaret marks the former mosque, with the remains of a Soviet tank standing watch. A paired reminder, these two remnants of war each commemorate the former grandeur of the area and its sadly strategic location.

(Musalla complex - album link)

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