Gonbad-e Qabus (the tower of Kavus) in the northeastern province of Golestan, Iran is recognized as one of the most beautiful historical towers and the most imposing ancient monument.
Built in 1006 AD for Ziyarid ruler and literati as brick inscriptions on the walls attest, the 53m high tower is the reminiscent of a former center of arts and science that was destroyed during the Mongols’ invasion in the 15th century. Despite the ravages of time and climate, the tower survived almost completely, showing the outstanding technical quality of the construction.
Registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the awesome tower constitutes a hollow cylindrical shaft of unglazed fired brick tapering up from an intricate geometric plan in the form of a ten pointed star to a conical roof, representing a special art related to the 4th century.
The interiors contain the earliest examples of Muqarnas (a type of corbel in Islamic architecture) decorative styles. The decagon tower with its thick wall was built on such a scientific and architectural design that at the front of the tower, at an external circle, one can hear one's echo.
Standing on a hill, the tower is visible from afar in the surrounding lowlands like a skyscraper, dominating the town laid out around its base.
Illustrating the development of mathematics and science in the Muslim world at the turn of the first millennium CE, the tower became a prototype for tomb towers and other commemorative towers in the region, representing an architectural cultural exchange between the Central Asian nomads and ancient Iranian civilization.
Robert Byron, the British travel writer and architectural critic, wrote that the reason behind visiting Persia was a photograph of the tower. Seeing the tower, he maintained his high opinion of its qualities, noted in The Road to Oxiana, that “the Gumbad-i-Kambus ranks with the great buildings of the world”.
The historical tower’s formal purity and soaring verticality make it one of the most famous and memorable monuments in all of Iranian history, attracting a large number of domestic and foreign visitors to enjoy its beauty and to ponder on the rich art and architecture of Persian land.