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92 KABUL •• Sights

the next room, plus views of some of the key moments of Afghan history, including the crowning of Ahmad Shah Durrani, and the slaying of Genghis Khan’s grandson at Shahr-e Zohak. At the end of the upstairs gallery is a room dedicated to Afghan leaders. Medi- eval amirs sit next to mujaheddin leaders like Abdul Haq. The modernisers Amanul- lah (here looking like an unfortunate cross between Hitler and Hirohito) and Nadir Shah look across from the opposite wall. One particularly striking portrait hangs in the corridor just outside, a sister of King Zahir Shah’s wife (date and artist unknown) in a red traditional dress, looking out at the view with such an arresting gaze it would have driven the Taliban to apoplexy. Outside the gallery is a long display room showing modern pictures for sale. Many of them were painted by the gallery’s staff, who also give good guided tours.

Sultani Museum

This private museum (Map p93 ; Asmai Wat; admission

200Afg; h8am-4pm) in the same grounds as the National Gallery is something of a curios- ity. It was set up in 2004 by Ahmad Shah Sultani, a gold trader and sometime antiques dealer, who spent much of the civil war in exile in London. Here he collected a large collection of Afghan antiquities, aiming to preserve them for the country. Much of his collection is of looted or smuggled items, but those recognisably from the Kabul Museum have been returned. His collection has yet to be properly catalogued, but is thought to contain over 3000 pieces. Sultani’s ultimate plan is to donate his collection to the state. The museum is heavily locked, and on issuing your ticket the chowkidar (care- taker) goes through the laborious process of disabling the security alarms. The first room is full of Islamic-era manuscripts and some beautiful Qurans in just about every conceivable calligraphic script. The following rooms are a treasure-trove

of Afghan history, with artefacts from all periods jostling for space on the crowded shelves. Wooden stamps for stuccowork in mosques sit next to a delicate and stunning gold coronet, possibly of Kushan origin. There’s a large display of coins – Graeco- Bactrian, Kushan, Sodgian and even Roman. Opposite are rare examples of Ghaznavid

and Ghorid pottery, nearly 1000 years old, and Nuristani wood carvings. Poor labelling lets the exhibition down,

often leaving you wondering exactly what you’re looking at, and thirsting for more information (the ‘cookie mud’ from which many finds seem to have been dug remains a mystery). It’s frustrating, but an oddly appropriate metaphor for the troubled state of Afghanistan’s heritage.

National Archive

Holding over 15,000 documents, the National

Archive (Map p85 ; Salang Wat; admission free; h8am-

5pm Sat-Thu) is housed in a palace built at the end of the 19th century by Abdur Rahman Khan for his son. Important documents are on display (al-

though some are copies, with the originals too valuable to show) including the treaty with the British Empire in 1919 that finally gave Afghanistan full independence. Ac- companying this is a host of newspapers, period photos and old banknotes, although most labelling is in Dari. Older documents are present too, including a 14th-century letter written by Timur, and several Qurans dating from the Durrani period. Although scholars will get the most out

of a visit, the archive is still worth visiting for the building, with it’s attractive painted ceiling and carved woodwork. It’s a slightly incongruous sight among the metal work- shops that line this section of Salang Wat.

Mausoleum of Nadir Shah

King Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1933, the time-honoured way that most Afghan leaders meet their fate. His monumental tomb (Map p80 ) sits overlooking east Kabul at Teppe Maranjan. It has suffered consider- ably in war.

The mausoleum is of imposing black marble, with monumental columns topped by a huge metal dome. Even if the facings weren’t cracked and the dome punctured, the building gives the distinct impression that this was a man who’d rather have been feared than loved. The plinth in the centre of the mausoleum is symbolic; the royal graves are in a locked chamber beneath the build- ing (look through the gate). The most recent addition is that of the wife of Zahir Shah, who died shortly before she could return from exile after the Taliban’s fall.


Smashed steps lead downhill past more

graves to the tomb of Sultan Mohammed Telai, Nadir Shah’s great-great grandfather. Its arches are decorated in Italianate stucco, but the tomb itself is badly damaged and graffitied. The strategic location of the hill is readily apparent from here, and was much fought over in the 1990s. Teppe Maranjan is thought to be the old-

est continually inhabited part of Kabul, with excavations revealing coins and statu- ary from the Kushan period in the 4th cen- tury AD. One statue from this period, of Bodhisattva in meditation, is on display in the Kabul Museum (p88), clearly showing the fusion of Greek and Indian artistic tra- ditions. Smashed by the Taliban, its restora- tion is a small triumph. Kite-flying is a popular pursuit at Teppe

Maranjan, which is the location for a large kite festival at Nauroz (see p95 ).

Mausoleum of Abdur Rahman Khan

The tomb (Map p93 ) of the ‘Iron Amir’ sits in Zarnegar Park. Originally a palace, the building has a bulbous red dome atop

Malik Asghar Charahi


Sights 93

a whitewashed drum, and fussy decora- tive minarets. The park is surrounded by market traders but can be a good place to escape from the nearby bustle and traffic. The mausoleum itself is closed to visitors. On the opposite side of the park a huge new mosque was under construction when we visited, named for its private benefactor – confusingly called Haji Abdul Rahman (no relation to the amir).

This is a museum (Ma p80 ; x079 9349; www; bottom of Teppe Maranjan; admis- sion by donation, camera fee US$5, video US$50; hSun-

Thu) that only a country like Afghanistan could host. Run by the Organisation for Mine clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR), it acts as a training and education centre for land mine and UXO clearance. The exhibit holds more than 60 types of mine that still litter the countryside, from small anti-personnel mines to those the size of dinner plates aimed at vehicles. There are mines made by almost any country you care to think of, except Afghanistan itself.

OMAR Land Mine Museum






See Central Kabul Map (p85)


Zarnegar Park

6 2 10 1 12 15 9

Asheqan wa Arefan

Pul-e Khishti

Pul-e Khishti Mosque


Pul-e Shah- Doh-Shamshira


Mandayi Market

Charahi Sari Chawk


Pul-e Bagh-e Omomi


Office Post Charahi Pashtunistan


Moneychangers....................... C2 Da Afghanistan Bank................ C1 Centre Culturel Francais............ B1 Central Post Office................... B1 Australia Embassy................(see 13) Afghan Tourist Organisation..... A2


5 4 3 2


Ka Faroshi Bird Market............. C3 Haji Abdul Rahmna Mosque.... B1

7 6

Murad District

Sultani Museum...................(see 10) Mosque............................. A2 Shah-e Doh Shamshira National Gallery..................... A2 Mausoleum of Timur Shah...... B2 Rahman Khan....................... B1 Mausoleum of Abdur

10 9 8


Zarnigar Hotel.....................(see 12) Spinzar Hotel.......................... B2 Pashtoonistan Hotel............... B2 Park Hotel.............................. B1 Kabul Serena Hotel................. B1 Jamil Hotel............................. B2

16 15 14 13 12


Silk Route............................(see 13) Serena Pastry Shop..............(see 13) Café Zarnegar......................(see 13)


Civil Society........................ A1 Foundation for Culture &

Bazaar Shor


Kabul River & Zarnegar Park

0 0

500 m 0.3 miles


Jad-e Froshgah

Jad-e Maiwand

Salang Wat

a m s A

Wia t



Jan Kha

n Wat

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