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Gonbad Qabus Tower

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Gonbad Qabus Tower

Gonbad-e Qābus Ibn Voshmgir is located in Golestan Province (northeast of Iran), Gonbad-e Kāvus town. And to the north of the town and the northwest corner of the National Park, on top of a mound of 10 meters height. Also known as Mil-e Qābus, Borj-e Qābus (Tower of Qābus), and Maghbar-e Qābus (the Mausoleum of Qābus).

It is located 3km from the southwest of the ruins of the ancient town of Jorjan or Gorgan. One of the most magnificent structures of the early Islamic centuries, this structure is still standing out amongst the chaos of urban life and constructions, catching the eyes of beholders even from kilometer distances.

Gonbad e Qabus Tower

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Description of the property

One of the most noteworthy, most magnificent tomb towers in the north of Iran is Gonbad-e Qābus, with its outstanding proportions and significance. Built-in Gorgan in the 4th century AH (1006 AD), it is considered to be a milestone both as a landmark of the city and also the grave of its founder, Qābus.

The structure well plays the role of a prototype in the whole area. The inscriptions along the top and bottom of the tower show that the structure was constructed under the rule of Qābus himself. The interesting point is that inscriptions record the years of its construction both in Hijri and Yazdgerdi calendars.

The structure is 52.8m high on an artificial hillock of 15m height. 10 buttresses surround the cylindrical body of the tower. Owing to its uniquely ordered design, the structure is the first of its type is of great rigidity, in a way that none of the tomb towers built afterward, could match its proportions and scales.

Geographical Context

Gonbad-e Qābus is located in the northeast of Iran, Golestan province, Gonbad-e Kāvus town. Based on the environmental division of Iran this province is within the temperate area of the north of the country.

Golestan province shares borders with Turkmenistan to the north, Semnan province to the South, Khorassan to the east, and the Caspian Sea and Mazandaran to the west.

The south and east borders of the province are lined by mountains, which are the extensions of Alborz stretching east-west. They begin at the border between Mazandaran and Golestan (Galugah) and stretch in a crescent to reach Ala Dagh, Binalud, and Hezar Masjed mountains in Khorassan in the southeast of the province.

Gonbad e Qabus Tower

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Gonbad‐e Kāvus information

Covering an area of 5071 km2, Gonbad-e Kāvus is located in the east of Golestan. Bordered by the Republic of Turkmenistan to the north, towns of Ali Abad, Aq Qala, and Gorgan to the west, towns of Kolale and Minudasht to the east, and towns of Azad Shahrand Ramian to the south.

Topographic morphology of Gonbad-e Kāvus mainly includes mountains and plains. Steppes cover the lands between Gorgan Rud [river] and the borderline of Turkmenistan located inDashli-Boroon district.

These lands are the most important winter ranges in the area. The climate is temperate and mountainous across the heights of Azad Shahr and Ramian. But as one draws closer to the borders of Turkmenistan along the north of Gorgan River, the climate change for plain temperate to semi-arid. The rainfall also decreases northwards and westwards.

Geographical history

The present town of Gonbad-e Kāvus is a rather young one since the well known historic city of Jorjan, demolished during the Mongols’ invasion. Once existed 3 km from the center of the new town, nearImamzadeh Zeid [the shrine of Zeid] during the 5th and 6th century AH.

In fact, until the early years of this century, there existed no towns within the site of the destroyed one. Thus, there was an interval of about 5 centuries between the demolition of the old Jorjan and the birth of the present-day Gonbad-e Kāvus, which began to emerge somewhere around the 1300s AHS8.

The only remaining evidence of the glory of the ancient city of Jorjan in today’s Gonbad-e Kāvus is the tomb of Qābus Ibn Voshmgir. Which in fact was the main reason for the new town to be founded. In older days, the town had seen times of being known as Hyrcania (Hyrcana), Varkâna, Jorjan, and Gorgan among other names.

The present-day town was established in the year 1305 AHS/ 1926 AD, under the rule of the Pahlavis. Following the orders of Reza Shah the city was planned and built and was named Gonbad-e Kāvus. Kāvus being the name of a mythical Persian King and Qābus from Gonbad-e Qābus, to render homage to Qābus Ibn Voshmgir.

The original plan of the town was developed by German experts based on the principles of urban design. The town thus enjoys well-designed intersections, and there is no trace of the old narrow streets. The historical town of Jorjan or Gorgan has located 3 km of the southwest of the present-day Gonbad-e Kāvus.

Gonbad Qabus Tower

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Gonbad-e Kāvus is located in the east of the basin of the Caspian Sea and is among the most distant areas influenced by the Caspian climate with the characteristics of maritime air masses. The general altitude of the area where Gonbad-e Kāvus is located is 50 meters. While in some parts it is over 2000 meters where the dominant climate is more of maritime and mountainous systems.

Thanks to the dominance of the west winds, the moisture from the sea are distributed across the area, and as Alborz mountain chains along the south of the basin capture it, the moisture cannot move southwards toward the inner plateau of Iran. However, as one moves eastwards along the Caspian shore, the weather turns less moist and arider. The air masses that influence the area under consideration are as follows:

1. In winter: continental polar air mass; Source region: Siberia. Maritime polar air mass, from the west and northwest; the Mediterranean from the west; scarce instances of continental tropical from the south, source region: Arabia to Sahara

2. In summer: continental tropical from the central Iran or southwest; maritime tropical from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; maritime polar from the Black Sea and the Caspian; continental polar from the North

Features of the mausoleums and tomb towers

Burial structures are undoubtedly among the most prominent creations of Islamic architecture. Thousands of tourists visit the Taj Mahal or the Mamluk rulers’ tombs in Cairo. Whoever traveling in the north of Africa or Near East can easily spot hundreds of small worship places. Which are in fact the burial site of a saint or a hero along the roads, on hilltops, in the cemeteries of towns and villages, or even on farms.

Such structures are given a variety of names based on the builders. That is, whether they constructed by the untrained hands of the villagers or are the exquisite outcome of some masters’ sweating. The same tradition has been followed across the territory of Iran for centuries. From the great Tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae to the present day mausoleums and tombs built for the prominent and influential individuals.

Tomb towers, of which Gonbad-e Qābus can be considered the origin and the most outstanding, are also regarded as a type of mausoleums.

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Gonbad Aali Tower and Its Similar Architectures

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Gonbad Aali Tower

Gonbad-i- Ali Tower at Abarquh is in central Iran. This octagonal tomb consists of a tower of rubble masonry, rather than the traditional brick. And features a bold three-tiered muqarnas cornices, also of rubble, that once probably supported a pyramid roof.

gonbad aali tower

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Further use of advanced mathematics in medieval Islamic architecture of Iran, especially the period between the Seljuk and the Timur dynasties. It is evident in the height of the towers and entrances, and the two shelled domes, used in the mosques of various cities.

gonbad aali tower

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The Architecture

The lofty minarets, with their ambitious construction and rich geometric and epigraphic decorations, were designed and constructed with immense skill. Construction techniques have not been studied thoroughly. But the continued ability of these slender towers to resist earthquakes suggests that their builders employed some sophisticated method. Perhaps wooden tie beams, to give tensile strength to the structure.

gonbad aali tower

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Other Architectures Similar to Gonbad Aali

Other examples are the Masjid-i-Jameh at Tabriz and Masjid-i-Jameh at Varamine. The first one “consisted of a single immense Iwan of brick 99 feet wide, about 213 feet deep, to the springing of now collapsed vault. About 82 feet tall, shows an immense sahn5 with center pool and single-aisled porticoes.

While the latter had a small dome behind the main portal completes the portal iwan, the dome chamber is articulated, as is all else. By squinch filled with muqarnas in brick, which signals the transition from the square to the octagon.

tabriz jameh mosque

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Jameh Mosque of Yazd

Among a large number of examples of the close relationship between Iranian medieval architecture and geometry, there is the entrance of the Friday mosque, Masjid-I-Jame, at Yazd, situated near the center of this large city.

This Friday Mosque is notable for its exceptionally narrow pishtaq surmounted by twin minarets. The interior of the dome has an almost complete tile revetment. And the elimination of the rear wall of the iwan in the qibla side ensured, for the first time, that congregation in the court yard could see it.


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The upper galleries produce a considerable lightening of the dome chamber, both visually and structurally. And a more complex succession of solids and voids. The same considerations are found in the transverse vaulting of the prayer hall.

The principal entrance to the mosque, which is composed of an iwan and the minarets from the 14th century, is exceptional in that it is the tallest entrance in Islamic architecture of Iran. The height achieved in this part of the structure would not have been possible without structural mathematical analyses. The height is stresses further by the ascending line molding of the minarets.

yazd jameh mosque

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The purpose of the tall towers or minarets was to create the sense of reaching to God. This sense could be embodied in the structure by narrowing the entrance as much as possible, and by making it as tall as possible, with the help of mathematical calculations.


By reviewing examples of medieval Iranian architecture, one becomes aware of its close relationship to scientific fields such as mathematics, geometry, cosmology, and astrology. This relationship made it possible to achieve perfection, monumentality and poetic beauty. It is wisdom within the art.

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