Turquoise Mountain was founded in March 2006 as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation with the support and patronage of HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales and HE Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan. The name comes from the greatest indigenous Afghan capital of the Middle Ages, destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1216 and lost to history. Its only surviving monument is the magnificent Minaret of Jam. The name of the project evokes Afghanistan’s unique tradition of art and architecture.
In its first year, Turquoise Mountain has established Afghanistan’s only Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, gathering some of the greatest masters in Afghanistan and training students to produce masterpieces in wood, calligraphy and ceramics. Afghan traditional arts are still one of the largest industries in the country. They provide employment to the most vulnerable, including women and the rural poor. They are a source of pride and positive identity. The Institute is dedicated to reviving traditional arts and craft skills and developing new business opportunities for craftsmen and women in Afghanistan.
The Institute and it’s schools dedicated to traditional ceramics, woodwork and calligraphy bring together the country’s leading craft masters and international advisors to preserve traditional skills, improve technologies, and develop new designs. Students study full time five days a week, and receive education in all aspects of their chosen craft in design, technical drawing safety and materials management, Dari literacy, English, computer and business skills.
Turquoise Mountain’s Business Development program works with the Institute and with existing craft businesses to find markets for Afghan crafts, creating economic incentives to ensure their survival. It provides business training to students and artisans, helping them to expand and professionalise their production. And it works to bring Afghan crafts to world markets. Turquoise Mountain has launched a website (turquoisemountainarts.af) and catalogue selling the products of ten high quality Afghan artisans and workshops to buyers around the world.
Old City Regeneration
"We old citizens of Kabul have suffered so much that protection of this area would be like dropping water in the mouth of a thirsty man."
Pahlwan Aziz, head of the Murad Khane shura.
Murad Khane is located on the Kabul River, near the new city hotels and the old bird market. The blue minaret of the Abu Fazl shrine is one of the city’s well known landmarks. The area has been damaged by neglect, war and unscrupulous developers. But Murad Khane retains much of its original fabric with a network of small streets connecting the bazaar, religious structures, caravanserai and houses in a layout that represents the area’s unique ties to Islamic design and nearly four hundred years of Afghan history. Its residents are a remarkable mixed ethnic and religious community, with Qizilbash, Tajik, Hazara and Pashtun living side by side despite the civil war.
Once a thriving commercial and residential neighbourhood, Murad Khane’s traditional buildings were crumbling its streets filled with rubbish, and its public services unreliable or non-existent. In 2006, the elders of Murad Khane asked Turquoise Mountain to partner with them to improve services and protect the valuable cultural heritage of their area.
To date, Turquoise Mountain and the Murad Khane community have:
Cleared 5000 cubic metres of rubbish, dropping the street level by two metres, and providing employment opportunities for all unemployed men in the area.
Installed 200 metres of drainage and dug two new wells to provide drinking water.
Paved streets in stone for the first time.
Repaired over 50 buildings, including ones of central importance to Afghan architectural traditions.
Succeeded in getting Murad Khane listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites of cultural heritage worldwide.
Opened a literacy centre to provide a supplementary education for 156 children in Murad Khane.
Engaged a part-time doctor to provide basic on-site medical care and referrals to hospitals.
Started an embroidery training program for 30 women of Murad Khane.
Turquoise Mountain is investing in Afghanistan’s traditional crafts and historic buildings to preserve this heritage, regenerate urban areas, attract visitors, develop Afghan businesses, build government institutions and raise living standards for Afghans.