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Culture, Art and Architecture

Buddhist stupas, Mazar-e Sharif, Ghazni, reliquaries, Kandahar

Afghanistan contains striking architectural remnants of all ages, including Greek and Buddhist stupas (shrines or reliquaries) and monasteries, arches, monuments, intricate Islamic minarets (the tall, slender towers on mosques), temples and forts. Among the most famous sites are the great mosques of Herat and Mazar-e Sharif; the minaret of a mosque at Jam in the west central highlands; the 1,000-year-old Great Arch of Qal‘eh-ye Bost; the Chel Zina (Forty Steps) and rock inscriptions made by Mughal emperor Babur in Kandahar; the Great Buddha of Bamian, destroyed by Taliban militants in March 2001; the “Towers of Victory” in Ghazni; and Emperor Babur’s tomb and the great Bala Hissar fort in Kabul.

In the smaller arts, magnificent light blue-green fired tile work is famous in Herat, along with other fine work in book illumination (colored or gilded calligraphy), illustration, bronze, stone, and wood. Afghan cultural life is characterized by traditional arts and pastimes; gold and silver jewelry, marvelous decorative embroidery, and various leather goods are still made in homes. By far the greatest art forms known widely from Afghanistan are the Persian-style woven carpets.

Article key phrases:

Buddhist stupas, Mazar-e Sharif, Ghazni, reliquaries, Kandahar, Kabul, monasteries, Herat, pastimes, silver jewelry, shrines, arches, Jam, monuments, Afghanistan, temples, bronze, illustration, gold, ages, Steps


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