IntroductionThis ancient town served as headquarters for Alexander the Great for two years after his invasion in 328 BC—inevitably, he renamed it Alexandria after himself. During a campaign to subdue the northern tribes threatening Balkh, Alexander married a local chief's daughter, Roxelana, whom he brought with great state into the city. In the early Islamic period the city became an international center of learning and poetry. Destroyed in 1221 by Genghis Khan, the city was rebuilt by the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane almost 200 years later. The ruins of the Madjide Haji Pivada (Piyada) Mosque (one of the world's oldest mosques), the Arch of Nawbahar and the remains of a Buddhist stupa are some of the town's attractions. It was in Balkh that Zoroaster was born and raised. Also called Zarathustra, he was the founder of the ancient Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. Balkh was also the birthplace of Celaluddin Rumi, the founder of Sufism (also known as whirling dervishism). 200 mi/320 km northwest of Kabul.
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