What would Afghanistan look like without war? It could look like the oasis of peace that is the Blue Mosque standing in its flower-filled park in the center of Mazar-e Sharif.
Afghanistan once attracted thousands of tourists before its decades of war began.
Blue Mosque is described as an oasis for peace, and it really does seem like it, considering the thousands of white doves surrounding the mosque. Legend has it the mosque is so sacred that any dove with a speck of color on its feathers will instantly become pure white after entering the mosque’s vicinity.
The white doves act like they live here and they do. They have been raised by the Blue Mosque's attendants since it was built in the 12th century and they have become one of its famous symbols.
To one side of the mosque complex is the pigeon-house. It is a large, low concrete box with small windows and most of its space below ground. This is where the doves nest and breed year-round. It is also where they are fed.
The Blue Mosque is truly blue, with its sides dressed in thousands of colorful and intricately patterned tiles that shimmer in the sunlight like a mirage. All the paths lead to it, and almost everyone who comes to the park visits it.
The structure appears to be floating, a trick of Islamic architecture, which uses intricately painted clay tiles. The tiles constantly need to be replaced — two square feet every day — from exposure to the natural elements and because the corners of certain tiles are often stolen by pilgrims as religious mementos.
The Blue Mosque offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of Mazar-i-Sharif’s streets and bazaars. It is consistently quiet, except for when the muezzin makes one of the daily calls for prayer.
The twin blue domes of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali are one of Afghanistan’s most iconic sights, and pilgrims come from across the country to pay their respects at the tomb contained inside.
It is believed by some Muslims (the Sunni) that the site of the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib - the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad - is in Mazari Sharif. However, other Muslims (the Shi’a) believe that the real grave of Ali is found within the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.
The shrine itself has had a tumultuous history. It was destroyed by Genghis Khan and his Mongol army in the 13th century. But it was rebuilt and has always been the most significant place of pilgrimage in Afghanistan, both for Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
Mazari Sharīf is the fourth largest city in Afghanistan. The name means "Noble Shrine" or "Tomb of the Exalted", a reference to the Blue Mosque.
© 2000 - 2022 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)