City of Screams

Gholghola City was existing for ages ago and then the city has been destroyed by Genghis Khan. The siege of the city has taken months and defended by one of old Turkish Khaganates but the city falls.

A 20-minute walk from Bamiyan stands the remains of Ghorid Bamiyan’s last stand against the Mongol hordes. On a commanding rise, Shahr-e Gholghola was reputedly the best defended of Bamiyan’s royal citadels and was captured by intrigue rather than force of arms.

The history of Mongols invade

In the spring of 1221 the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan descended on Bamyan via Shikari Valley after crossing the Amu Darya successfully destroying Balkh. Genghis sent his grandson Mutukhan, estimated at 15 years old at the time ahead to sack Bamyan. Unfortunately for Genghis, Mutukhan would meet his early demise as he entered Bamyan Valley at Shahr e Zohak. An arrow shot from within the besieged walls of the citadel would claim Mutukhan’s life. Word reached Genghis, enraged he descended down on Bamyan Valley in a fury, ordering his men to kill any and everything in Bamyan, men, women and even children and livestock.

Photo from internet

First Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde would destroy Shahr e Zohak to avenge Mutukhan’s death staining the rocks red with Ghorid blood. He’d move on to sack all of Bamyan, except the impenetrable Shahr e Gholghola. The Mongols surrounded City of Screams for several months launching attack after attack to no avail.

Daughter’s betrayal story

The man ruling over the Ghorids in 1221 under the Khwarezmids was Jalaladin Mingburnu who governed from his capital of Ghor. Jalaludin held strong under Genghis Khan’s siege, but he didn’t reckon on the treachery of his daughter. He had recently remarried a bride from Ghazni, angering his daughter who lived a short distance down the valley at Qala e Dokhtar.

© Lil Nicki

She had quit her widowed father’s castle in a fit of pique over his remarrying a princess from Ghazni. She in anger betrayed the castle’s secret entrance and shot an arrow to Genghis with a message written on a scroll attached and expecting to be rewarded through her own betrothal to the Mongol ruler.

The letter had two demands, first I will show you the secret entrance to Shahr e Gholghola if you promise not to destroy my fortress, and You must marry me.

Naturally Genghis agreed! He was quickly pointed towards the canal leading to the citadel and instructed to dam up the water leading into it and that would reveal the entrance to the citadel. Genghis and his Horde were able to successfully stop the water and gain entrance to Shahr e Gholghola.

The City of Screams!

The Mongols laid siege to the citadel, destroying it and killing everyone inside. The screams of the dying victims could be heard all throughout Bamyan Valley. The noise of the furious violence gave the citadel’s modern name of ‘City of Screams’.

At the end as you can guess, Genghis did not trust Jalaladin’s daughter. After Gholghola was destroyed he went to her and told her “You betrayed your own father, how can I trust you to not meet another man and kill me? I cannot.” and killed her. But he didn’t destroy Qala e Dokhtar at least the wicked overlord kept his word.

© Lil Nicki

How to get to Shahr e Gholghola

From the Bamyan Bazaar head west until the end of Bazaar Road and turn left at the roundabout onto Sayadabad Street. Shahr e Gholghola will be on the left side of the road. It’s only a 1.5 kilometer walking from the bazaar, curving past wheat and potato fields, is a pleasant one, particularly in late summer when you can watch the grain being threshed by yoked oxen. But you can grab a taxi from the bazaar for a few AFS.

There is a police checkpoint at Shahr e Gholghola where you’ll be asked for your Bamyan Entrance Ticket, so make sure you have with you. Entrance Tickets can be purchased at the Director of Information & Culture located right in front of the Buddha Niches. Entrance tickets are 300 AFS and include the Buddha Niches, Shahr e Zohak and Shahr e Gholghola.

Please keep in mind that the ruins were mined during the war, and although there are no red or white rocks visible, it is still strongly advised that you keep only to the worn path to the summit.

© Lil Nicki

The citadel that remains

Sunset is the best time to visit Shahr e Gholghola with the golden afternoon light glimmering over Bamyan Valley with the sun flashing a rouge onto the cliffs that Salsal and Shahmama, the destroyed Buddhas of Bamyan are carved into. Looking south, the view extends to the Kakrak Valley, which once held a 6.5m standing Buddha (the niche in the cliff is just visible with the naked eye) and some important frescoes, all now lost :(

The views over the valley to the cliff walls are gorgeous, It’s a good couple of hours walk, again through pretty farmland. Between the citadel and this valley are the remains of Qala-e Dokhtar (the Daughter’s Castle), once home to Jalaludin’s duplicitous offspring.

Photorealistic 3D reconstruction of Shahr e Ghogholah, Islamic Citadel, one of the components of the Bamiyan World Heritage site. Shahr-e- Ghulghulah dating from the 6th to 10th centuries CE marks the original settlement of Bamiyan as stopping place on the branch of the Silk Route, which linked China and India via ancient Bactria. UNESCO/ICONEM

Shahr e Gholghola, The City of Screams
Lonely Planet: Shahr-e Gholghola - Castle in Bamiyan


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