Turquoise Mountain, Afghanistan

Afghanistan was once a great centre of civilisation: at the heart of the ‘silk road’. It inherited the traditions of India, Persia and Central Asia and blended them into a unique artistic culture. Afghan materials and arts were traded and celebrated throughout the world: from the Afghan lapis lazuli in Tutankhamen’s funeral mask to the Bactrian gold jewellery of the days of Alexander the Great, miniature paintings of the Timurids, to the pigments used by Titian and Vermeer in renaissance Europe.

Decades of Conflict almost destroyed this Great Artistic Tradition.

Turquoise Mountain was established in 2006 by HRH The Prince of Wales to regenerate the Old City of Kabul and to save the Afghan traditional craft industry.

Today, a unique project in the Old City of Kabul is reviving Afghanistan’s artistic and architectural traditions, creating a vibrant craft centre. Every day, hundreds of artisans come through the narrow silver bazaar to the cedar panelled courtyards of Murad Khane, which house the Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture.

This new generation of craftswomen and men are highly-skilled, confident and engaged with the wider world. They work with contemporary designers from around the world to produce unique handmade pieces. The artisans create jewellery in silver and gold, studded with Afghan rubies from Jagdalak, emeralds from the Panjshir valley, and chrysocolla from Bamiyan. They carve fragrant Himalayan cedar and walnut wood, make their own natural pigments for miniature painting out of crushed lapis lazuli from Badakshan, and shape local clay mined from the mountains of the Hindu Kush.

Artists Transforming Afghanistan

Investing in these crafts is investing in a people, a tradition, a historic area, and a country.

Since 2006, Turquoise Mountain has been working with these craftsmen and women and the communities of the Old City of Kabul to return Murad Khane to its former glory. Turquoise Mountain began by excavating the streets, rebuilding homes, and training young women and men in traditional crafts and literacy. Nearly 9,000 Afghans – teachers, craft masters, engineers, doctors, community members – have worked on the project. Together they have cleared over 30,000 truckloads of garbage, rebuilt more than 100 traditional buildings and homes, and installed full water supply, sanitation and electricity throughout the community. They have set up the Turquoise Mountain Family Health Centre which now serves nearly 20,000 patients each year; more than two-thirds of whom are women and children. And they founded a primary school which provides quality education for 200 girls and boys from the community.



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