One hundred and fifty years ago, Murad Khani, a small area of homes and residences near the Kabul River, was the most populated business center in Kabul.
The history of Murad Khani is directly connected to the history of the Qezelbash tribe in Afghanistan. In the 16th century, the Qezelbash tribesmen were followers of the religious sect of Safiduddin Ardabili and Shah Esmail Safawi. During this period, the Qezalbash tribe enjoyed many privileges and grew in prominence among Shias.
Nader Afshar, a member of the Qezelbash tribe, defeated Safawis in 1735 and reigned over Persia, Kandahar and Bukhara for twelve years. After the assassination of Nader Afshar some members of the Qezelbash tribe joined Ahmad Shah Durani.
When Ahmad Shah Durani’s son, King Timor Shah transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul, he rewarded the Qezelbash tribe by giving a piece of land, near the Kabul River, to the tribesman Murad Khan. Soon after, a majority of Khans and Qezelbash tribal leaders moved to the area. Under the influence of these elites, skilled craftsmen adorned the walls of the houses with beautifully designed chalk drawings and the windows and doors with wood carvings and intricate decorations.
Over the years, the lack of attention by the Afghan government to its cultural and artistic heritage allowed Murad Khani to disintegrate. The artistic work was destroyed and during the war years, residents of Murad Khani were forced to flee, leaving the area deserted.
After the Taliban regime was toppled, Murad Khani enjoyed renewed interest from both the government and international community. In 2006, Turquoise Mountain, a non- government agency active in handicrafts and the revitalization of historical monuments in Afghanistan, was established by Prince Charles. The agency’s main activities are the renovation of the buildings of Murad Khani and the training of architects and artists.
The main focus of the renovation in Murad Khani is the repair of houses using construction materials from 150 years ago. The project’s other goals include sewage treatment, rubbish removal, establishment of a school and health facility.