Archaeology · Backpacking · Golestan, Iran · History · Iran · The Middle East · Travel · Uncategorized

The Golden Ratio and Gonbad-e Qabus: by Antonia Mosqueda

Before such artists like Leonardo DaVinci applied mathematics, particularly the Golden Ratio or Divine Ratio, to create several masterpieces, and before the construction of Taj Mahal also known for its symmetrical Phi qualities, there lived Persian Islamic scientists or Hakeem (those with broad knowledge in many academic fields) like that of Ziyarid Amir Shams ol-Ma’āli Qabus ibn Wushmgir (شمس المعالي قابوس بن وشمگير) who applied the divine ratio/phi techniques to their own works. One example of Qabus’ magnum opus is that of a tower known as Gonbad-e Qabus in the Golestan Province of Iran.

Gonbad-e Qabus Tower
A woman walks along the site of Gonbad-eQabus: Photo by Antonia Mosqueda

The tower is constructed of a baked-brick material, as are many of the long-standing historical monuments of Golestan Province (some going back 3,000 y.a.) made up of. At a glance, the Tower of Gonbad-e Qabus appears to have used the appealing Golden Ratio proportions because of the obvious symmetry of the tower’s conical peak. The tower, upon realization, is an enormous decagon structure topped with a conic roof, forming a ratio that equals 1. 618 or, in other words, Phi.

Topped with the power of Pi: Photo by Antonia Mosqueda

The power of Phi is not the only thing mathematical that rocks this awesome brick tower: it contains the earliest examples of Muqarnas (Geometric) deco styles. For example, “the decagon with its 3 meter-thick wall, divided into 10 sides, has a diameter of 17 m. The Tower 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.”—I will share more details on the echo chambers later.

Kufic inscriptions surround the tower from top to bottom: Photo by my daughter ❤

The decagon tower has several amazing features, so much that it is a registered World Heritage Site. Gonbad-e Qabus was built 1000 yrs. ago in 1006 AD. Since it has withstood the tests of time: erosion, vandalism, and natural disasters, this goes to show how advanced Iranian architecture was over 1,000 yrs. ago. It had many purposes, too, but most noteworthy for its purpose as an inland “lighthouse.” It is so far known that a fire was lit within the tower, releasing smoke from a vent above (which is still present); thus, to act as a smoke signal for travelers in order to indicate their location on land; though the Caspian sea is near, there is nothing to suggests that the signal could have been visible from so far off (40km).

In this photo with some new friends (taken by Mohsen, my husband) you can actually see the smoke vent on top of the conical roof.

When you approach the vicinity of the tower, one might take notice in that it is not only the attractiveness of the Divine Ratio that captivates visitors, there is actually some special kind of magnetism at work between two echo chambers. Although I am not familiar with why these echo chambers were built, it seems quite apparent they may have been used for means of communication. For instance, while standing several feet away from the tower on one perfectly formed outdoor echo platform (see photo)—perhaps the outdoor echo platform is equal in size to the base of the tower interior, too—one can communicate with another whom is within the tower walls. You can also tap on the platform, or dance like the children to feel the vibration of the echo, or you can simply speak to experience the echo of your own voice while standing on the marble platform echo maker. While inside the tower, voices of several people, inside and out, become trapped in the tower’s walls, reflected, and released into the atmosphere of the indoor tower. I have really seen nothing like it.

My Daughter puts the echo platform to the test and she is amazed.
The ground interior: photo taken by my daughter
The ground interior of Gonbad-e Qabus: Photo by Antonia Mosqueda

However, the tower, in my opinion, does more than exhibit the simplistic beauty of the divine ratio and ingenious architecture, it exudes an energy that brings about tranquility and content all around: it’s what makes this historical site so special and attractive to all who visit. The panoramic energy is captivating, it makes me wonder what other mysteries might have been buried with the construction of this site. Hanging out at the tower for an hour or two does something amazing for the soul. So, if you visit, stick around a while, and enjoy the nature and friendly people of Gonbad. Trust me, you approach the tower in amazement and you leave just as amazed.

Enjoy the remaining photos and slideshow I have added!

I love my daughter’s photography. A man gives rides on his horse carriage around the tower.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Torkeman clothes hang on a gate:  you can dress in the traditional clothes of the local population for a small fee and have your photo taken.

Works Cited:

3 thoughts on “The Golden Ratio and Gonbad-e Qabus: by Antonia Mosqueda

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