The History of Murad Khani

A bustling centre in downtown Kabul

By Turquoise Mountain

Kabul, Afghanistan

A radio transmitter in the past in Murad Khani by Government of AfghanistanTurquoise Mountain

Murad Khani is a district of the historic city of Kabul, located north of the Kabul river. It is also the centre of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation’s Old City project. Named after two Murad Khans: one the brother of a 17th century Mughal governor and the second an 18th century General, it was laid out on a traditional Islamic pattern around a mosque, bath-house, garden and bazaar.

Murad Khani bazaar (2008) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

Along the river front, and lining its winding inner streets, are dozens of tea-houses, shops and courtyards. Over 130 shops contain twenty trades, from jewellery making to the training of racing pigeons (kaftar bozi).

Murad Khani Rooftops (2007) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

Historically the residents were mainly from the minority Qizilbash community, many of whose leaders were senior court officials in the early 19th century. These men built grand courtyard villas, some of which still survive and are still owned by their descendants.

Murad Khani bazaar in the past by Government of AfghanistanTurquoise Mountain

The mud walls are covered with cedar wood panelling and porticoes, in elaborate combinations of European, Islamic and pre-Islamic architectural styles. Mughal arches are found alongside carved wood clusters of flowers and fruits in a European Baroque style.

The Murad Khani Bazaar (2017) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

The Qizilbash are members of the minority Shia religion and Murad Khani has four Sufi shrines and two private Shia spaces of worship, or 'takia khana'. The shrine of Abu Fazl is perhaps Kabul’s most popular Shia shrine and its minaret is one of the best known landmarks in Kabul. Around it cluster astrologers, fortune tellers and a traditional medicine shop. It serves as a community centre, worship space and source of food and water for much of the surrounding area.

A photograph of the Caravan Serai in the pastTurquoise Mountain

This unique area of traditional urban design, architecture and religious diversity is under threat. More than 80 per cent of the original area, including the Jewish quarter and most of the original bazaar, disappeared during the reign of Zahir Shah. The rest was heavily damaged during the civil war. Today only 150 to 200 families live in an area that once housed over 3,000. Since 2006, Turquoise Mountain has restored over 150 historic buildings in the neighborhood.

The Caravan Serai with traders, their carriages and horses parked during their stop in Murad Khani.

Murad Khani along the Kabul River (2006) by Turquoise MountainTurquoise Mountain

The Murad Khani bazaar from the river, before its restoration.

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