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Kabul City: Isn’t just capital of Afghanistan but of palaces as well

By Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi-Kabul City, the capital of Afghanistan, has seen many kings and generals roaring, crying, smiling and dying. Some were invaders and several were settlers. However, it is not only the rich history that makes Kabul City prominent but historical palaces give an edge to the city as compared to other capitals of the Asian states. It would not be exaggeration to claim that Afghanistan’s capital city has more palaces than any other capital city in Asia.

Following are the prominent palaces:

Draul Aman Palace: It was built during King Amanullah Khan’s reign in early 1920s in Western style and standards by German engineers. It is located to the southwest of capital city and is not far from Tajbeg Palace. Ghazi Amanullah Khan built the palace to modernize Afghanistan and keep pace with modern world as he knew that one could not stick to his rigid doctrine.

Decades of wars destroyed the palace. After the fall of the Taliban’s de facto regime, the democratic government showed interests in restoration of the national heritages to show soft image of the country. Thus, the palace also got attention of the government but yet to be fully renovated.

Tajbeg Palace: It was built in 1795 in the era of Shah Zaman. Now it has been quietly changed into a ruin due to civil wars.

According to some historians Tajbeg is a Turkish word which means “the great”, while for others it is a Persian word. King Babur used to use this word. The palace may be reconstructed in the era of Darrius and Kabul kings which was destroyed due to invasion of Moguls. The Timurids renovated it once again, but it was again destroyed in wars waged by different kings.

The Tajbeg palace was reconstructed along with other buildings including Artel Bridge and Darul Aman Palace in Kabul by 22 German architectures in1922.

Shah Mahmoud Mahmoud, an Afghan writer, has said that Tajbeg Palace is one of the palaces used as residency by Queen Suraya, Shah Amanullah’s spouse. Famous as “Queen Suraya Palace” it was reconstructed by King Amanullah within two years from 1957 to 1958.

Bagh-e-Bala Palace: The palace was built on top of a hill to the north of Kabul City. Bagh-e-Bala Palace was built by Amir Abdul Rahman Khan (1880-1901). The Amir wanted to spend summer time in the palace. He died in the palace. The palace has been beautifully restored and furnished with some of the original furniture still intact and at good condition. It is now Kabul’s most attractive restaurant.

According to historians it was used as a palace when the current day Presidential Palace was not built. Later on it was used as the state guesthouse. It was used as museum and then changed into a desolate palace for years as the trees around the hills dried due to poor irrigation system. Later on more trees around the palace were planted after construction of the Qargha Dam and the palace was named as “Bagh-e-Bala Restaurant” after renovation.

According to a history book Rahnumaie-e-Kabul or Kabul Guide, written by Muhammad Nasir Gharghasht in 1996, King Abdul Rahman Khan destroyed the two buildings that were built in the era of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb to build the Bagh-e-Bala Palce. The palace was built at the same place when rubbles and debris of the two buildings were removed.

Estory Palace: The building is located to west of the Presidential Palace in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was built during the reign of Amir Abdul Rahman (1880-1901) and was expanded later on by different rulers of the country. Meanwhile, some other buildings were also built nearby the palace.

Chehel Sotun Palace: The palace also known as Jahan Numa. It is located to the southeast of Chardehi area of Kabul City. The palace was built in 1297 (lunar year) during the reign of Ameer Abdul Rahman Khan, the late king of Afghanistan.

It has been built on Daman Mountain, and could be seen from the remote area of Paghman district. A river along with maple trees are adding to beauty of the palace. The palace stands inside a vast royal park and was used for recreation and reception.

Jahan Numa is counted as one of the glorious palaces of Kabul, renovated in Kandahari style by the architectures came from Kandahar province. Later, it was called Chehel Sotun (forty columns) Palace. Residents of Kabul City called it “Palace of Hindaki Garden” as well.

Bostan Sara Palace: It was built by Amir Abdul Rahman Khan in European style in 1880 and used it as a guesthouse for important guests, mostly foreigners. It was built in Zarnegar Park, the center of Kabul City. Now it is used by the Kabul Municipality.

National Archives: It is located in Deh-e-Afghanan area of Kabul City. Cultural and historical documents of Afghanistan are kept for public access.

Building of National Archives which is counted as historical palace was built in Charmgare Garden in the era of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, the late king of Afghanistan. Although, there is no exact information about the timeframe of construction but it is said that it was built in 1892. The king built it as an office for his son Prince Habibullah Khan. However the prince never went there after falling down from his horse on the way to his new office. Later on it was used as state guesthouse.

Shah Bobo Jan Palace: This glorious palace is located in Shahr-e-Now area near the Ministry of Interior. It was built at the end of 19th century in the era of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan.

Shah Bobo Jan (real name Halima) was Amir Abdul Rahman Khan’s spouse and she was symbol of knowledge and famous among the people. Shah Bobo Jan herself built the palace adjacent to a mosque.

She was a powerful queen. She built the palace for herself. This palace was also turned into ruins during the civil wars. Kabul Municipality reconstructed the palace recently. Now it is in the possession of the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan.

Koti Baghcha -e-Arg Palace: It was built in the era of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan in 1887 inside the presidential palace. Koti Baghcha -e-Arg Palace, which was the biggest historical building, was built with stucco decoration and miniature and wooden cornice.

The two-storey palace was built in round shape in Turkic style with miniature walls. Its ceiling was decorated with jewels. Once, King Amanullah Khan in an official ceremony turned the palace into a national museum in 1924.

Presidential Palace: Arg or Presidential Palace was built in the era of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan to north and east-north of the capital city after withdrawal of the British forces from Afghanistan. The palace was built on 200 acres land by Kandahari architectures.

Some other palaces were also built inside the same palace such as Haram Sara. Haram Sara was used as an office by the king and as residency by the queens.

Salam Khana Palace: It was built nearby the eastern gate of the presidential palace for official ceremonies. First plenary of the national assembly was held here.

Delgushah Palace: Delgushah Palace which is the most beautiful palace was also built in the era of King Habibullah Khan, son of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan. King Habibullah Khan used to use the Delgushah Palace for special guests, particularly foreign dignitaries.

Sangi Palace (Stone-Palace): It was built nearby the Gulkhana Palace and was used for stay of the secretaries to the kings, but it was also used as office, telecommunication center and depot.

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