Considered as the highest minaret in Central Asia, the 60 m tall Kutlug Timur minaret is located in the territory of the historical and cultural reserves of Konye-Urgench in northern Turkmenistan. The conical tower, decorated with bands of brick and a few remaining turquoise tiles, is definitely one of the most impressive attractions of the country.
The Kutlug Timur minaret is one of the structures belonging to a group of around 60 minarets and towers built between the 11th and the 13th centuries in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, including the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. However, there are contradictions regarding the age of the minaret. Some believe, the foundation and construction of the minaret were completed between 1321-1336, during the rule of Kutlug -Timur, the vice-regent of the Golden Horde. Others opined that, its construction began in the 11th century, during the rule of Khorezm Shah Аbu-Abbas Mamun, also known as Mamun sheikh. However, due to some unknown reasons, the construction was interrupted for a very long time and was subsequently completed by Kutlug Timur. According to another school of thought, the entire complex, including the minaret, was constructed during the reign of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, dating back to the eleventh century.
According to the scientists, for ascertaining the date of construction of a minaret, the dome could play a significant role. However, the dome of the Kutlug Timur minaret was badly damaged, when the city was destroyed by the Mongols in 1221 and was restored subsequently. In fact, it had been subject to repeated restructuring, which makes it impossible to determine the exact time of construction of the minaret.
Unlike the other minarets in Central Asia of the 11th-12th centuries, this particular minaret is devoid of any rich décor, but it surpassed them due to its boldness of design, the height and the harmony of proportions. It is tapering upwards toward the peak, its diameter at base is 12 m and 2 m at the top. The slim tapered circular body of the minaret is divided by eighteen stripes of vertically stacked bricks, which created specific architectural rhythms and are inlaid with three wide bands of Arabic inscriptions, known as ‘Kufi’. In the past, the Minaret was crowned with a wooden Iranian lantern, which was destroyed in a subsequent fire. Inside the minaret, there is a spiral staircase of 145 steps, leading to the top. However, access to the stairs was only possible from the roof of the neighbouring mosque, which unfortunately no longer exists.
The plinth of the Minaret was restored several years ago, along with its surroundings. In 2005, the ruins of Old Urgench, along with the minaret were enlisted in World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.