Ghazni: The Capital of Islamic Culture

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Syed Zafar Mehdi

“The greater part of the town is in ruins and nothing but a fraction of it remains, though it was once a large city,” writes the famous Moroccan traveler, Ibn Batuta, who visited this beautiful and bustling city in the central east of Afghanistan, way back in 1333. Yaqoot Al-Hamawi, the Arab chronicler, described it as the ‘great city and a large province at the frontier between Khurasan and Hindustan on a road abundant with bounties’.

Sitting at a height of 2,219 meters above sea level, Ghazni, which was once the capital of Ghaznivid Empire and a popular commercial and cultural hub of the Islamic world, is nestled between Kandahar to the southwest and Kabul to the northeast.

Like other cities of Afghanistan, Ghazni has seen many military invasions. According to historians, the city was inhabited by Buddhists and Hinduis in pre-Islamic period, before Arabs came and introduced Islam in the 7th century. The city was destroyed by one of the Ghurid dynasty rulers but was rebuilt by other rulers later.

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Known for its diverse Islamic architecture, the city of Ghazni is home to some magnificent mausoleums and minarets dating back to 12th century. Mausoleum of Abd al-Razzaq, tomb of Mahmud Ghazanvi, minarets of Bahram Shah, palace of Mas’ud III and Ghazni citadel, are some of the prime attractions. Most of the visitors come here to see the mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud and the tombs of poets and scientists like Al Biruni. The two ‘victory towers’ constructed by Mahmud of Ghazni have survived invasions and wars for eight centuries.  Designed in an intricate fashion, some minarets have been destroyed during war

After the intervention of US led allied forces in 2001, a military base was set up in the city. The international forces have carried out many reconstruction projects and trained local police and army personnel in all these years.

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Last year, the city grabbed headlines after it was officially declared as the Asian capital of Islamic Culture for 2013 by United Nations, calling it a country full of archeological remains and full of history. A number of projects to renovate some historical sites were carried out last year. In 2007, the city was chosen as the capital of Islamic civilization by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).

(First published in Afghan Zariza)

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