There is a great local legend about the Kalon Minaret. In 1220, about a hundred years after its construction, Genghis Khan and his men were razing the city of Bukhara. When he arrived at the Kalon Minaret, he looked up to the top and a gust of wind blew his hat off his head. By reflex he bent down to pick it up. He is said to have taken this as a sign that he should not destroy something so beautiful and ordered the minaret spared.
The Kalon minaret is the minaret of the Poi-i-Kalon mosque complex. It is one of the most prominent landmarks in Bukhara. When it was built, it was probably the tallest building in all of Central Asia.
Inside the minaret, which is about 47 meters high, is a brick spiral staircase that twists up the pillar to the rotunda. In 2009, my driver arranged with a friend for me to spend some time in the rotunda at sunset. After we reached the rotunda, he and his friend went off to talk while I took pictures of the beautiful tiled dome of the Madrassah below and the Bukhara cityscape beyond. I think we all must have lost track of the time, because we were surprised by the evening call to prayer. After the muezzin finished, my driver and his friend hustled me down the stairs and out of the minaret, telling me that I was probably the first non-Muslim in over 700 years to be in the minaret that late in the day.