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187. Shahr-i Zuhak ("The Red City")

Variant Name: Shahr-i Zohak

Bamiyan Province. Guarding the eastern entrance to the Bamiyan Valley, overlooking the junction of the Bämiyan, Hajigak and Shikari Rivers, 17 kilometers east of Bamiyan.

Dates:  Hephthalite-Turk period, 5th-9th century AD;
           Early Islamic, 10th-13th century;
           Timurid, 15th-16th c. (Ceramic)


A large fortified complex on a high bluff. It exists in three parts: a residential area and an upper and lower citadel. There is a particularly complex entrance. Construction is mostly of mud, with only some baked brick, and decoration consists of simple impressed triangles on the outside walls. In the north part is a 20-meter-long rock-cut tunnel, descending to a well-head.

Click here to view photos of the Red City from a distance.

Click here to view the Red City Towers in slightly greater detail.

Eight hundred feet above the entrance to the Bamiyan Valley are the ruins of the Red City. This fortress of sun-dried red clay was once home to 3,000 people and was the primary defense for the valley during 12th and 13th centuries. In 1221 it was attack by the grandson of Genghis Kahn. The fort held and the grandson was killed. In revenge Genghis Khan himself attacked the valley and destroyed everything including the irrigation systems. The Red City was never rebuild after this attack. The ancient mud walls stand only because there is little rainfall in this desert country to destroy them.

The first level were the defensive building. The second the living quarters for the ordinary people and the top level at 1000 feet, the royal quarters. What a magnificent view the king enjoyed from his apartment. On one side the end of the Hindu Kush mountain range which continues into Chinas the Himalayan Mountains. On the other side stretches the Koh-I-Baba range on which the Red City is built. Between the two ranges the entrance to the Bamiyan Valley.

Destruction of the Red City occurred at the hands of Ghengis Khan in 1221 AD, who sent a small army to seize the valley, commanded by his grandson. When the boy was killed, the Khan vowed revenge. While rebuilding at nearby Bamiyan took place during the Timurid period, neither the Red City fortress nor its outliers were ever rebuilt; their ruins still stand today.

Source: Warwick Ball, Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, 1982, n. 1052

  34° 50' N
  67° 59' E



Shahar-i Zuhak is found at the
above coordinates on JOG map