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MURAD KHANE Rebuilding an Afghan community

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Kabul Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven From the fort with sprawling walls, a Dragon of protection Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls...

Saib-e-Tabrizi, 17th century poet

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Five years ago, Murad Khane, the historic bazaar of Kabul, was an impoverished slum. Government officials wanted to demolish the area that had at one point been on the frontline of the war. Garbage lay 7ft deep in the streets, people were forced to climb over rubbish to enter their houses.  The old masters of the crafts for which the area was famous had been selling fruit in the market for 15 years, and had no students to pass on their skills to. All that was once beautiful and worthy of admiration in this ancient Silk Road capital was now shabby and dismal.   Turquoise Mountain was established by the Prince of Wales and MP Rory Stewart, to restore Murad Khane and revive the Afghan craft industry.  In close consultation with the community, over 25,000 small trucks of garbage were cleared from the area, a water supply was installed, trenches for electricity and sanitation laid, streets were paved, bazaar shops were reconstructed and 65 historically significant buildings were restored.  Inside these restored buildings, a primary school and a health clinic were set up and made available, free of charge, to all members of the Murad Khane community. Dramatic improvements were made in the overall health of the community, and former residents began to return to the area. The bazaar that had struggled to attract shoppers became a vibrant part of the old city, and offered job opportunities to Murad Khane’s residents.

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At the centre of the community, a national Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture was established. The Institute, which is open to men and women, offers intense 3-year courses in traditional Afghan crafts and design such as woodwork, ceramics, calligraphy and jewellery.   Without the Institute, these traditional skills of operating hand-turned gemstone cutting machines, painting Persian-style miniatures, constructing pots out of wet clay and carving wooden panels, might have been lost or forgotten as a result of the tumult of Afghanistan’s wars and mass migration. Students not only learn a craft, but they are also taught about art history, design, computing and business management. Graduates from the Institute have successfully managed to set up their own craft businesses.  Work from former students can be bought in Kate Spade in New York and from the British Museum here in London.     Murad Khane, and the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture show how with determination and funding a community can get back onto its feet, and start to have pride in itself once again.  In all the negative news coming out of Afghanistan, Murad Khane and the Institute demonstrates that given the right opportunities Afghan communities can be supported in their regeneration, ensuring that they have a brighter future than the previous 30 years.

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Builder working on the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

Shopping street, Murad Khane. To encourage shoppers to return to the area shop fronts were restored and drainage facilities were installed.

Map of Murad Khane, in the Chief Engineer’s office.

Builder working on the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture. The work has provided jobs and training to many members of the Murad Khane community.

Builder working on the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

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Newly installed electricity circuit system in the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

Murad Khane river bazaar. The bazaar is the commercial heart of the community.

A member of the Murad Khane community uses a communal well. During the redevelopment program 3 wells were installed to provide clean drinking water.

Adeba and Katsayd sit around a small fire in the early morning.

Adeba and Katsayd sit around a small fire in the early morning.


Murad Khane children enjoy ice lollies.

Mohammad Nazir and his family inside their home, Murad Khane. The family’s home was restored as part of the community redevelopment program.

Restored plasterwork and woodwork in Peacock House, Murad Khane. The house was built in the 19th century. It was restored because of its architectural and cultural significance.

Mohammad Nazir and his family outside their home.

Afternoon sun makes a pattern on the carpet in Peacock House.

Interior of Peacock House.

A doll lies in a bed made from a cardboard box, inside the home of Mohammad Nazir and his family.

A member of the Murad Khane community walks through the community’s covered walkways.

Halia stands on the doorstep of her home, Murad Khane.

Painter works to finish the interior of the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

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Workers complete the new drainage system in Murad Khane.

Boys play football in one of the alleyways, Murad Khane. Over 25,000 cubit meters of rubbish was removed from the community, freeing the alleyways and improving local health. Murad Khane school teacher.

Pupils at the Murad Khane school listen to their teacher Zarghouna. The school was set up to provide primary education to all children living in Murad Khane.

Entrance to the Murad Khane health clinic. Free primary care is made available to all members of the Murad Khane community through the clinic. 110

Dr Khajsta Jalai advises a member of the Murad Khane community. The clinic receives between 20 to 30 patients a day, providing healthcare to both men and women.

Dr Khajsta Jalai on a home visit to see one of her patients.

Saida, Rohin and Kamela, students at the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture practice their gem cutting skills using lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone found in Afghanistan.

Woodwork student and his teacher, in the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, examine a piece of wood to ensure that it is straight.

Woodwork student and his teacher, in the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, examine a piece of wood to ensure that it is straight.


Woodwork student, Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture. The Institute’s courses, which last for 3 years, are heavily subscribed to.

Cooks prepare lunch for the Institute’s staff and students.

Said and Asharaf finish the staircase in the jewellery department of the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture. The building work has provided over 500 jobs to members of the Murad Khane community.

Female students sit down for lunch at the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture. The Institute has separate recreational areas for men and women.

Carpenters work to finish the jewellery department of the Institute for Afghan Arts an Architecture, Murad Khane.

Male students stand while having their lunch at the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

Carpenters working on the restoration of buildings in Murad Khane.

Food vendor, Murad Khane. The work in Murad Khane has provided lots of customers to local businesses.

A new student on the Calligraphy course kisses his teacher’s hand as part of the formal beginning of the pupil’s apprenticeship. The ceremony dates back hundreds of years to Afghanistan’s history of arts and crafts apprenticeships. Abdul Hamid, a new student on the ceramics course at the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture makes his first pot. Ceramics is a traditional Afghan art that was in danger of being lost before the Institute was established.

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Jewellery students listen to their teacher during a lesson, in the Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

Example of work done by one of the Institute’s calligraphy students.

Example of work done by one of the Institute’s woodwork students.

Examples of work done by the Institute’s ceramics students.

An Institute pupil cuts a piece of lapis lazuli.

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A woodwork student completes a drawing of wooden joins.

Woodwork student. The Institute offers courses to both men and women.

The Institute’s pupils are not only taught their craft but their also learn about business management and IT.

A student from the Institute receives his graduation certificate at the end of completing his course in ceramics.

Families of the graduating students attend the graduation ceremony.


Electricity poles waiting to be installed in Murad Khane. The redevelopment work has included the return of basic services such as a drainage system and electricity.

Window in a repaired house, Murad Khane. Over 6o domestic buildings were repaired as part of the program to redevelop the community.

Members of the redevelopment work team.

Children’s handprints on a restored wall, Murad Khane. The community is now listed on the World Monuments Fund.

Murad Khane resident.

Murad Khane resident in her home.

Murad Khane residents. The girls live in the same house with over 30 other family members.

Murad Khane resident and her son in their home.

Murad Khane residents. The girls’ family returned to live in the area after they had heard of the redevelopment work.

A boy in his home snuggles under a sandali, Murad Khane. Sandali’s are stoves with blankets put over them. They are an economic way of keeping warm during the cold Afghan winters. 113


Khala Mahgul, one of Murad Khane’s oldest residents outside her home.

A boy looks after his family’s shop, Murad Khane.

Tree in a Murad Khane courtyard.

A member of the Murad Khane community looks out onto the Murad Khane bazaar. In the distance the Yak Paysagi bridge can be seen which links the community with the south side of Kabul’s old city.

Washing dries in a communal area in Murad Khane. A number of communal areas have been constructed as part of the redevelopment work.

Pigeons circle over Murad Khane in the late afternoon sun.

Gate keeper for the Department of Ceramics, Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture. Pigeons stand on top of their cages over the rooftops of Murad Khane.

A tailor in his workshop in Murad Khane. The redeveloped community has attracted a number of small businesses.

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Murad Khane resident with his homing pigeons.


Abu Fazl mosque. Murad Khane was built up around the mosque.

Pinhole portraits of members of the Murad Khane community.

The negatives for the portraits of members of the Murad Khane community.

Washing dries in a communal area in Murad Khane. A number of communal areas have been constructed as part of the redevelopment work.

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Copyright Laura Lean 2011 The right of Laura Lean to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.

www.lauralean.co.uk 117


Murad Khane  

Rebuilding an Afghan community

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