Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Asia, rich in architectural heritage and natural beauty. The architecture in Afghanistan is greatly influenced by the diverse events in Afghan history. It shows influences ranging over time from Greek, Persian to Indian and European in recent centuries.A wide range of religious influences is reflected over the past decades, with evidence exhibiting early Buddhist and Islamic inspiration.
Today, the skyline of Afghanistan displays both historical and contemporary buildings. The infrastructure development here was hindered due to unrest in the nation, during which some part of architectural heritage was destroyed and is being restored in recent times.
Some notable structures of historical significance here are:
1. Herat Citadel
Herat Citadel also called Qala Ikhtyaruddin was built back in 330 B.C. during the reign of Alexander the Great. Many empires have used it as a headquarters and was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. The citadel complex extends approximately 250 meters in length and is 70 meters wide. The structure is divided into two main walled enclosures. The older compound of the citadel has a roughly rectangular plan and is protected with thirteen semi-circular towers. This citadel is built of fired bricks. The citadel of Herat was completely renovated between the years 2006 and 2011.
2. Minaret of Jam/Manar-i Ghiyas al-Din
The minar was built around 1190 in the Ghor province of Afghanistan. The minar is built entirely of baked bricks and is famous for its intricate brick, stucco, and glazed tile decoration. The height of the minar is 65m-216ft. It is believed that the minaret was built to commemorate the victory of the Ghurid dynasty over Prithviraj Chauhan. The circular minaret rests on an octagonal base. The tile decoration consists of Kufic and nakshi calligraphy, geometric patterns, and verses from the Quran.
3. Khwaja Abdulla Shrine
Shrine of Khwaja Abdulla is the funerary compound of the Sufi saint Khwaja Abdulla Ansari. Constructed in 1428 A.D, it is located in the village of Gazur Gah, at Herat, Afghanistan. The structure shows features of the Timurid architectural style. The facade consists of three entrances from the large polygonal bay, covered in intricate mosaic work. The iwan walls were kept rough, despite the grandeur of the ornamentation. The brickwork here is glazed turquoise and black in a ‘banai style’ and laid in a chevron pattern. The facade is lit by a window in each of four recesses on each side.
4. Friday Mosque/Great Mosque of Herat
The Great Mosque of Herat also known as the Jummah Mosque is located in the city of Herat. It was built in the 15th century by the Ghurids. The mosque is laid out in a conventional iwan pattern, with three walls and a central courtyard. The exterior and courtyard walls are decorated with pink bricks covered with plaster and blue tilework with vegetal and floral patterns.
5. Blue Mosque (Shrine of Hazrat Ali) /Rawza-i-Sharif
Blue Mosque also known as the Shrine of Hazrat Ali built in the 15th century is located in the northern Balkh province of Afghanistan. It is situated amidst the hustle-bustle of urban areas around. The mosque welcomes the visitors offering a feeling of serenity and cooing of doves. When we look at the mosque, the structure appears to be floating, a trick of Islamic architecture. Persian style tile work can be seen here. The exterior is made of blue hues of highly detailed and intricately placed polychrome mosaic tiles.
6. Bagh-e-Babur/Garden of Babur
The Bagh-e-Babur(Garden of Babur) is a historic park in the city of Kabul. The garden is 11.5 hectares large and arranged in 15 terraces along a central axis in the east-west direction. The garden was developed around 1528 and is the final resting place of the first Mughal emperor Babur. The complex comprises Shahjahani Mosque,a Garden pavilion and a Queen’s palace. In the year 1933, space was converted into public recreation space.
7. Ahmad Shah Durrani Mausoleum
Ahmedshah Durrani was the founder of the Durrani dynasty. His tomb constructed in the 19th century is located in Kandhar, adjacent to the shrine of the cloak. The tomb is surrounded by many other tombs. The octagonal-shaped tomb is a symbol of ancient Islamic Afghan architecture. The dome is covered by sky-blue greenish color tiles having minars around.
8. Taimur Shah Durrani Mausoleum
The mausoleum of Taimur Shah Durrani is one of the largest surviving monuments in central Kabul. The construction of the mosque began in the 19th century. The tomb is an octagonal structure. Above the crypt in which the grave stands is a square central space surrounded by octagonal structure, with four double-height iwans on the main elevations.
9. Shah do shamshira (Mosque of the king of two swords)
This mosque is located in Kabul and was constructed in the 1920s during the reign of Amanullah Khan. The mosque is named after an Arab commander who fought a battle in the 7th century. Next to Shah do shamhira there lies his burial place. The mosque is a two-storied yellow building that has a unique design- Italian decorative stucco which creates an interesting effect often described as ‘Afghan baroque.’
10. Darul Aman Palace
Darul Aman Palace was constructed in the year 1927 in the city of Kabul. With the vision to modernize Afghanistan king Amanullah khan started construction of the palace in the 1920s.The palace is a U shaped building having 3 floors with 150 rooms. French architects A.Godard and M.Godard along with German architects were responsible for the design of the 33m(108 feet) height palace.
The German engineer Walter Harten and his team of engineers contributed to the construction. The palace exhibits a European neoclassical style of architecture.
1.Blue Mosque (Shrine of Hazrat Ali)
- Khwaja Abdulla Shrine
3.Friday Mosque/Great Mosque of Herat:
4.Shah do Shamshira
- Herat Citadel
7.Darul Aman Palace
- Minaret of Jam
9.Taimur Shah Mausoleum
- Ahmedshah Durrani Mausoleum