Murad Khane

World Monuments Watch
Kabul, Afghanistan

2008 World Monuments Watch

The Murad Khane district in the heart of the Afghan capital consists of several historic buildings on the north bank of the Kabul River. In the early eighteenth century, King Ahmad Shah Durrani granted the land on which the district was developed to members of his court belonging to the Qizilbash ethnic group, which still make up a major portion of the area's population. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Murad Khane flourished, and its residents built numerous buildings featuring intricately carved wood and plaster decoration. Many of these have been destroyed in recent decades, first as a result of a Soviet-inspired masterplan for Kabul in 1975, then in the civil war of the mid-1990s. These buildings remain at risk as a consequence of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Surviving structures include a famous shrine, a bathhouse, a market, and several courtyard houses. Extant remains in this historic district suffer from harsh weather conditions and lack of basic maintenance. Recent efforts to preserve the district have occurred because of President Hamid Karzai's personal interest in saving one of the buildings. As a result, state and local government agencies have recognized Murad Khane as worthy of protection. However, other priorities in this war-torn and poverty-stricken nation have prevented further governmental action. In the meantime, the neighborhood's inhabitants have petitioned private organizations for help. It is hoped that through listing, this unique community rallying point will attract international assistance.

Since the Watch

In 2006 the Turquoise Mountain Foundation began work to restore the Murad Khane district and strengthen Afghanistan’s craft industry. With the help of 9,000 members of the local community, 25,000 cubic meters of rubbish were removed, revealing preserved structures hidden underneath, including carved cedar columns, traditional sliding windows, and what once were shaded courtyards. In 2013 the foundation won the UNESCO Award of Distinction for the restoration of Murad Khane’s Great Serai. Hundreds of Afghani artisans have been employed through a project that links local products to global clients. November 2014 

Last updated: June 2018.

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