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Menar Jonban: The Swinging Minarets of Isfahan

12/1/04 By Ali Moayedian; photos by Farrin Rahimi

I had heard a lot about Menar Jonban and was so curious to visit the place. So when we finally visited Iran in the summer of 2002, that was a must see on our itinerary. Unlike most other historic sites in Isfahan that are located close together in the center of the city, Menar Jonban is located on the boundaries of the city. Here is a short description for this historical monument:

Menar Jonban, a historical building with a mausoleum and two minarets, is located 7 km west of Isfahan. It is mausoleum of a hermit named Amo-Abdollah-e-Karladani and was built in 716 A.H. (1316 A.D.), in the Ilkhanian period. The minarets are made so that if one of them is moved the second one and the whole building will shake.
Source: University of Isfahan

When we arrived at Menar Jonban, an old man, who seemed to be in his eighties, greeted us. He guided us into a parking spot, and then started telling us how he would take good care of our car, and didn't forget to mention that he has a family to feed. Somehow all these people can recognize who is visiting from abroad! It seemed we had a big stamp on our foreheads that could be spotted from miles away! Well the old man certainly seemed very nice. Add to that a very enjoyable Isfahani accent, and we had a deal. We trusted the car to him and happily headed inside the place.

What we saw next was just fascinating! I guess we were more eager to see the moving minarets before we got there. But once there, I for one was captivated with the mausoleum itself. The minarets are actually located on the top front part of the mausoleum. A narrow stairway in the back of the mausoleum leads to the roof where the minarets are located. Previously visitors were allowed to climb the minarets and do the shaking themselves. To protect the minarets, the shaking is now limited to the professional staff of Minar Jonban. As they only shake the minarets every half hour, we had some time to look around and see the place.

I thought the ambiance of the mausoleum was just right as a burial place. The shapes and the colors were both fascinating and relaxing at the same time. But I'm not sure if Amo-Abdollah-e-Karladani who is buried there knew that this ambiance will also be of interest to the living people who would pour there from around the world to enjoy it! I just hope he doesn't mind that his peace and quiet is disturbed by the thousands of visitors each month! At least he can enjoy the quiet of the nights!


When the time came for the shaking of the minarets, the visitors all gathered on the roof. Then surprisingly the same old man, who had greeted us at the parking lot, entered one of the minarets and went to the top and started shaking it. And sure enough the other minaret started moving (jonbidan) too! They say "seeing is believing," and we had now seen this for ourselves and documented our presence there by taking a few pictures! So we happily headed out, even though I wish we could have stayed longer.

When we got to the parking lot, our car was still in its prime spot. But there was another car parked right in front of it blocking our exit! But that couldn't disturb our peaceful and happy experience there. We just waited for 15 minutes before they finally found the lucky owner of the car by announcing his name over the loudspeakers. We just considered an amusing part of the experience! And we left the place with lots of good memories.



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