Menar Jonban: they really shake!

November 3, 2020 - 17:57

Visitors flock five times a day to this tiny Islamic monument for the sole purpose of watching as the caretaker ascends to one of the bizarre minarets and gives it a good shake. For some reason, the movement resonates through the whole building causing the other minaret to tremble soon after, to the surprising delight of the crowds who gather to watch.

The centuries-old Menar Jonban, or the “shaking minarets”, is situated in Isfahan, which is one of the oldest and most visited cities in Iran by both locals and international tourists. Here, we are going to introduce this monument and talk about its location, history, architecture, and reflect some views by foreign visitors:

Menar Jonban is actually a burial monument surmounted by two brick minarets that can be swung with little pressure. The notable feature of this monument is that when one minaret is shaken by the human force, the other starts to vibrate automatically.

History

Menar Jonban was originally built some 700 years ago as a mausoleum for “Amu Abdullah” who was a mystic figure in the Ilkhanid era. To be more precise, the monument was built in 1316 CE, during the reign of Oljeitu, also known as Muhammad Khodabandeh, was the eighth Ilkhanid dynasty ruler from 1304 to 1316.

Archeological studies suggest that the dual brick minarets were constructed and added to the mausoleum later during the Safavid era (1501–1736).

Architecture

The iwan (portico) is 10 meters (33 foot) high and 10 meters (33 foot) wide. The minarets are 7 meters (23 foot) high and are 4 meters (13 feet) in circumference. The roof above the shrine contains some skilled brickwork.

Such dynamic behavior has become a puzzle to architects and structural engineers for many years as there is no crack running on it due to centuries of shaking. Some believe that its considerable flexibility comes from a special type of mortar that has been utilized in its masonry.

The building is built in Mongolian style and only has one iwan.

The two minarets have not been added to the building until the end of the Safavid era. The most interesting fact about these minarets is not their simultaneously shake, but the mystery behind these shakes. So far, no one exactly has exactly known why these minarets shake in the way they do, but the closest guess is that these movements are due to the Doppler Effect, which is the change in frequency of a wave in relation to an observer who is moving relative to the wave source.

Since the minarets are identical in every way, the movement of one will cause the same effect on the other. Also, In terms of decorations, Menar Jonban has beautiful blue and turquoise tiles with four-star and multilateral shapes. The minarets are elegantly ornamented with lovely but unpretentious brickwork. Narrow spiral staircases lead to the summits of the minarets, which are pierced by open arches.

Opinions

Here is a select of comments that visitors to the minaret have posted to TripAdvisor, one of the most popular travel websites in the world:

“Shaking minaret”

If you want to see they're really shaking, choose the time to get there, otherwise you have to wait for nearly an hour. They shake the minarets every hour sharp (I mean 12, 1, 2...) Before the shaking, a guy will explain to you the structure but only in Persian. Luckily the guy spoke English so he explained to us about the DVD they were selling as a souvenir.

Interesting... As a Japanese, who has an earthquake often think it's a bit scary for such a building to shake a lot, but in a way, it may absorb the shake so it may be... good? Iran is also an earthquake country.... well? (MizuhoK form Hino, Japan)

“They really shake”

This is a rather small attraction, somewhat outside the center. You better get a taxi to get there. The shaking of the towers however occurs now only four times a day. Better to inform first - or you run the risk of having to wait for the next shaking. (Pyrooz K. from Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

“Unbelievable”

This site is one of the unsolved mysteries of architecture. You can actually go inside the minaret and start shaking it. No kidding! It starts shaking and what is more amazing is the fact that the second one starts shaking after a few seconds. You must see it to believe it. (Mohammad110 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

“Don't have it high on your list”

A man climbs in one of the small towers, shakes the living daylight out of it, and the other tower moves enough to rattle some bells. This takes two, yes two, minutes. Take my word for it and spend your time elsewhere. (Dirk W. from Alexandra Headland, Australia)

“Nothing much”

This is really a stop and start kind of attraction. Nothing much to see. Two towers. One person goes up into one of them and starts shaking one of them vigorously and the other one also starts shaking. (NilanjanHajra from Kolkata, India)

AFM/MG

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