Centuries-old craftsmanship finds new life in Kabul’s oldest district
An aid project is reviving traditional Afghan arts and helping past masters preserve and pass on their skills to the new generation.
Ceramics, carpentry, calligraphy and gem cutting: centuries of Afghan craftsmanship honed on the ancient Silk Road are being preserved in Kabul, a rare success story for an aid project in the war-torn country that organisers are now hoping to replicate with refugees from Syria.
In the sixteen years since the fall of the Taliban, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation has found some of Afghanistan’s best artisans and helped them preserve and pass on their skills, as well helping them showcase their work in international markets.
A painstakingly restored caravanserai – a roadside inn – in Kabul’s oldest district is once again a hub for exquisite woodwork carvers, potters making traditionally-glazed ceramics, Islamic calligraphers, and goldsmiths.
TRT World‘s Sara Firth reports.
“When we started, there were very few artisans living in Kabul. Most of them were out of the country,” said Abdul Wahid Khalili, the nonprofit’s director.
“We had to start with the few old artisans we had, it was a very difficult start,” he said.
Kabul, a key stop on the silk road, was once renowned for its craftwork, but when Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul’s oldest district Mourad Khani, they had to excavate the caravanserai from tons of rubbish.
“For more than 50 years the rubbish had piled up in the yard,” he said, adding that they also immediately began training students.
“The idea was to restore the (caravanserai) and train the new generation,” he said.
Slowly more and more Afghan artisans joined the collective, preserving priceless skills that many feared would disappear altogether due to decades of war – a problem that many Syrian craftsmen, who are fleeing their country in droves, now face.