| Kabul

Shuhada Saleheen

Shuhada Saleheen

05/26/2016


Shuhada Saleheen, or the 'Pious Martyrs', is a large cemetery that lies in a fold of the hills to the south east of the citadel of Bala Hissar in Kabul. The proliferation of argharwan (Judas) trees on the slopes above the cemetery serves as a reminder how the hills in and around the city must have been before they were built on. To the north of Shuhada Saleheen lies the wetland of Qul-e Hashmat Khan, which Babur mentions as a favourite duck-shoot in his memoirs and which forms an important part of the ecosystem of this part of Kabul - see  https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/kabul-duck-alert-afghan-capital-still-important-stopover-for-migrating-waterbirds/ . The recently-excavated Buddhist monastery complex of Tapa Narenj indicates that the area has been a site of significance from at least the 4th century AD. Graves from the Islamic era in the cemetery date back to the Timurid period and perhaps the most well-known to Kabulis is Ziarat-e Hazrat Tamim wa Jabr-e Ansar, a mausoleum erected in around 1822. Afghan historians suggest that Jabr was probably the son of the poet and mystic Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, while Hazrat Tamim was a companion of the Prophet, said to have been killed in Kabul in around 664 AD, during one of the first campaigns of the Muslim armies against Kabul. A less well-known mausoleum in the cemetery is that of Alim Khan, the last Amir of Bukhara (see gallery for Baghe Padshah Bukhara), who died in exile in Kabul.


Qasr e Babojan

Qasr e Babojan

05/24/2016


The residence of Hayatullah, the second son of Amir Habibullah, who served as a Governor and held ministerial posts during the reign of Amanullah Khan before being executed in 1929 by the rebel leader Bacha Saqao. Probably built in around 1911, the residence is now known as 'Qasr-e Bobojan' after Hayatullah's wife. It follows the neo-Classical style of other royal buildings of the time, such as Zain ul-Emorat built by Hayatullah's brother Nasrullah, now known as the Sedarat Palace. In a poor state of repair, Qasr-e Bobojan is now used by the Academy of Sciences and as an ethnographic museum, and its once-extensive gardens have been encroached upon.


Photos by Jolyon Leslie (c) 2016

Baghe Padsha Bukhara

Baghe Padsha Bukhara

05/20/2016


Qala-e Fotuh, or Baghe Padshah-e Bukhara, is where the ex-Amir of Bukhara Mohammad Alim Khan spent most of the last 25 years of his life in exile after fleeing his home in 1920. He was invited by Amanullah Khan to travel to Kabul, where he lived from 1921 until his death in 1944. It was from Kabul that Alim Khan tried to regain his throne from the Bolsheviks, under the watchful gaze of his Afghan hosts. For someone who had ruled a city-state renowned for its grandeur, the adjustment to life on the outskirts of Kabul must have been difficult. The pavilions that Alim Khan and his court inhabited were tiny, with most spaces able to seat only three or four people on cushions. A photograph taken by Wilhelm Rieck in 1922 shows Alim Khan seated at a wooden table in one of the pavilions that now stands in ruins the garden, http://www.darulaman.de/fotoalbum/seiten/A1_12_1_jpg.htm. The walls of the space in the photo are decorated with stenciled painted patterns that survive to this day, defaced by graffiti, as does a painted mural over one of the fireplaces, showing a lake bordered by castle-like buildings set between rugged mountains. The scene was perhaps intended to remind Alim Khan and his entourage of distant lands, while an aeroplane that flies over the landscape may have served to remind him of the possibility of a return to Bukhara. Alim Khan’s grave is at Shuhada e Saleheen (see image in separate gallery).

Baghe Bala

Baghe Bala

05/20/2016


The ridge now known as Baghe Bala was part of a garden laid out by the wife of the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Shah Shuja camped in the garden on his return to Kabul in 1839 under British escort. The return of Abdur Rahman in 1890 saw a temporary pavilion erected on the site on the occasion of his accession to the throne, soon after which he commissioned the construction of a palace of his own design. Drawing on central Asian forms and decorative elements, with a series of reflecting pools beside it, this became Abdur Rahman's favourite residence in Kabul and it was where he died in 1901. Having been briefly inhabited by his grandson Sardar Hayatullah while his residence (no known as Qasr-e Bobojan, see separate gallery) was being built, the palace housed a collection of royal property, including manuscripts, ceremonial clothes and arms. It was also used for diplomatic functions during the 1920s, before being converted into a military hospital. In 1928 however the palace was looted and burned by rebel forces under Habibullah Kalakani as they approached the city from the north, eventually overthrowing Amir Amanullah Khan. Restored by Nader Shah, the palace was extensively remodelled in the 1970s (and a swimming-pool added) to enable its use for official receptions. Spared major damage during the conflict of the 1990s, the palace fell into disrepair before work was carried out in 2008. Today it stands unused in the midst of a neglected and overgrown garden.


Istalef

Istalef

03/29/2016


The village of Istalef, situated some 30 km north of Kabul, has long been renowned for its natural beauty and craft traditions. The Mughal emperor Babur describes in his memoirs improvements he made to the irrigation of the gardens on the takht, where ancient plane trees stand to this day. The bazaar and surrounding villages were laid waste by British forces in 1842 during the first Anglo-Afghan war, attacked by Afghan government forces in the 1980s and by Taliban in 1998. Since 2002 there has been extensive reconstruction of damaged homes and resumption of the horticulture for which local orchards are known.


Photos (c) Jolyon Leslie


War damage in Kabul

War damage in Kabul

05/23/2016

Photos by Jolyon Leslie (c) 2016

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