Restoring medieval Kabul

Prince Charles and Hamid Karzai are joining forces to rebuild the war-ravaged Murad Khane neighborhood of Kabul. Afghanistan has been at war with one power or another pretty much forever — the British even burned Kabul down once — so Murad Khane is the only remaining glimpse of medieval Kabul, and it’s in seriously dire straights.

… most of the buildings are derelict, the area is piled high with rubbish and a green trickle of sewage runs along the streets of the city of 3.5m with no sewers or running water. Stewart chose Murad Khane partly because it was difficult. “I wanted to do something bold and urgent,” he said.

Amid the rubble, Stewart discovered old merchants’ houses that retained the carved wooden jalis or lattice frames and movable shutters but are nowadays inhabited mostly by pigeons.

In a sweet seller’s former home, a collapsed staircase leads unexpectedly to an enchanting room of carved wood flowers and peacocks, moulded plaster niches and coloured glass.

The Turquoise Mountain Foundation, named after the medieval capital of Afghanistan, will also focus on reviving moribund traditional local crafts like woodcarving and calligraphy, and they’ve rented an 18th century mud fortress to serve as training grounds.

For a more impassioned rhetorical perspective and some more details on the project, see this opinion piece in an United Arab Emirates newspaper. Or you could just get it all from the horse’s mouth here.

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