The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Herat Mosque; the biggest mosque with nearly 800-year history

The Great Mosque of Herat has a nearly 800-year history. It is considered as one of the biggest mosques in the Islamic world. It is also named as Friday mosque or Great Mosque of Herat is a significant historical and architectural landmark located in the Old City of Herat, Afghanistan. It is one of the oldest and largest mosques in the region and is considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The mosque was built in the 12th century and has undergone several renovations and restorations over the centuries. It is well-known for its bright blue minarets, which are adorned with intricate tile work, and its large central dome which sits above the prayer hall. The mosque is also known for its historical significance as it served as a center for religious and cultural activities during the Timurid dynasty. It has also been used as a center for education, including the study of Islamic law and theology. The mosque is still in use today and is open to visitors. The Friday mosque is one of the most iconic landmarks of Herat, its blue Minarets are one of the most recognizable architectural features in the city, and it is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Herat. It is an important example of Islamic architecture and showcases the rich history and cultural heritage of the city. The first known building was a Zoroastrian temple converted into a mosque in the 7th century. Afterward, it was enlarged by the Turkic Ghaznavids. In the second half of the 11th century, a Herat mosque was founded under the rule of the Khwarazmian dynasty. It had a wooden roof and was of smaller dimensions than the following buildings. During an earthquake in 1102, it was almost completely destroyed but was rebuilt. Later it was ruined by a fire. Subsequently, the Ghurids constructed a mosque on the existing and adjacent plots After repair works in 1913, the mosque was extensively renovated in 1942/1943. The buildings directly adjacent to the mosque were destroyed in order to make the mosque a free-standing building. Among other things, a new east entrance with a high archway and two minarets was built. Minarets are towers from which people are called to prayer. The exterior walls were decorated with glazed tiles in the Timurid style. For these works, a ceramic tile studio was established by UNESCO. This studio in the mosque also preserved all tile decorations and mosaics until 1979. The lettering was substituted by current calligraphers. The follow-up was a more complete reconstruction from 1951 to 1973 involving structural changes. The square dome of the mausoleum of the Ghurid time was widely destroyed. It was replaced by an octagonal construction and integrated in the northern front. The wall to the east was also changed into an iwan with minarets on both sides. Also, the maqsura iwan, an enclosure reserved for the ruler, was made higher. The minarets next to it were heightened to 35 meters tall. Its porch was renewed. In addition, ten new minarets were added. The facades in the courtyard were tiled with traditional mosaics in seven different colors. The floor was paved with light brown baked bricks. Due to all these works, not much of the original Ghuridic plasterwork or Timurid decoration was visible. The mosque’s madrassa was moved to the northeast and given its own entrance. The last significant change was the creation of a park in front of the mosque. During the Russian-SovietAfghan War (1979-1989), only limited demolition struck the mosque. This was the case despite the abuse of the minarets by Soviet soldiers and huge tanks moving around the area. In 1986 one minaret hit by a rocket crashed into the courtyard. It killed many people and caused damage to the eastern wing. The Soviets sent experts for reparation, but work has not been finished until 1995. Some more traces like bullet holes could be found. The Ghurid portal was not severely damaged. In 1992 the replacing of the stone plaster in the courtyard started, financed by private sponsoring. A pattern of wide strips of white marble alternating with narrow stripes of black marble was laid. Due to failing donations, it could not be finished until 1998. During the Islamic Emirate rule in Herat between 1996 and 2001, entry to the mosque was banned for all non-Muslims. In 2002, all roofs of the mosque were renovated due to a problem with excessive humidity in the interior. During the renovation of the facades in 2004/05, parts of the old Ghurid decoration were found. These parts are exhibited in frames in the wall covering. In 2012, some fifty Afghan traders promised funds for the renovation of the mosque. In early December 2022, the provincial department of the information and culture of the Islamic Emirate informed that it started renovation work on the great mosque. Reportedly, natural disasters in recent years have damaged the majority of the tiles of Herat’s Great Mosque. Mohammad Daud

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.