origin: Arabic manāra (منارة)= "lighthouse"
Upon the horizons of primarily Middle Eastern countries, you will see buildings resembling beautiful spokes, sticking up as if they grew like stalagmites from the very ground -- in fact, they are ancient facades around little more than winding slender staircase that one may climb for a fantastic view (or vertigo).
The minaret's true function, however, often attached to mosques, is for a Muezzin [m(y)o͞oˈezən] to stand atop the minaret and chant an azan/adhan leading the Muslim call to prayer at assigned times of the day, a multitude of sing-song voices, echoing out, summoning the faithful to join in. In ancient times, the structures were lit up at night, and could also serve as watchtowers, hence the derivation from arabic of "lighthouse". A facsimile of this idea even presented itself at "Burning Man", the California annual art festival in the desert.
An example of an azan from a minaret in Hungary