Darulaman Palace emerges from ruins as 'message of peace'


Reduced to ruins by decades of war, Darulaman Palace in Kabul is being restored to its former glory and is due to reopen on August 19, 2019, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Afghan independence from Britain. [Justine Gerardy / AFPTV / AFP PHOTO / AFP]

KABUL -- Inside an imposing building in Kabul, a team of welders hastily fuse a sweeping metal banister to a grand staircase. Outside, gardeners spray torrents of water over the parched earth, willing the grass to grow.

They have just days to finish a total renovation of the once-ruined Darulaman Palace, a hulking showpiece of Afghan architecture that came to symbolise the country's turmoils during decades of war.

With questions looming over Afghanistan's future and peace talks ongoing, the country this month is hoping to briefly celebrate its past -- and Darulaman will be the centrepiece.

Work at the famed palace has a firm deadline of August 19, the date marking 100 years of Afghan independence from Britain and when President Ashraf Ghani will inaugurate the newly renovated structure.


This photo taken August 8 shows the exterior of Darulaman Palace, which is undergoing a complete renovation, in Kabul. Work to renovate the once-ruined palace faces a firm deadline of August 19, the 100th anniversary of Afghan independence from Britain, when President Ashraf Ghani will inaugurate the newly finished structure that has come to reflect the country's turmoils during decades of war. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]


In this file photo taken on July 18, 2011, an Afghan policeman stands guard near the damaged Darulaman Palace in Kabul. [Ted Aljibe/AFP]


A recent picture of the Darulaman Palace at dusk. [Jawed Hamed]

On August 19, 1919, London and Kabul signed the Anglo-Afghan Treaty in which Britain recognised Afghan independence and vowed that British India would not extend west beyond the Khyber Pass.

The final use for Darulaman -- which means "Abode of Peace" -- has not been decided, but at least part will become a museum.

Designed by German engineers for King Amanullah Khan in the early 1920s, Darulaman Palace was originally intended to be the location for Afghanistan's new parliament.

But over the years, because of shifting political currents, it has also seen a string of other uses including as a home for various government ministries, a medical school and a museum.

Surviving near-destruction

It was gutted by fire in 1968 and since then has been repeatedly caught up in Afghanistan's conflicts. It was again set ablaze during a coup attempt in 1978 and was subsequently shelled during fighting in the 1990s.

Perched on a hill with an imposing view of Kabul, Darulaman was a wreck until recently. Its roof was destroyed, its walls crumbling and pock-marked by bullet holes, and the once-magnificent neo-classical exterior covered in graffiti and appearing close to collapse.

But in 2016, Ghani ordered the palace's renovation, and after finalisation of design plans, construction work began in earnest in March 2018.

Reconstructing Darulaman is vital to Afghanistan, as the work promises a new beginning after so much conflict, said project manager Javid Hammad.

"The message of the Darulaman Palace is a message of peace, security, brotherhood and coexistence," Hammad told AFP during a recent tour of the site, where about 500 workers are toiling around the clock to finish the job.

The $10.5-million (822 million AFN) renovation has been a boon to Kabul's workforce. Cedar trimmings in high-ceilinged rooms that come from Kunar Province and marble fittings from Herat city mean that businesses around the country have benefitted.

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Visited this place in 2006 when it was just a shell of a building, so pleased to see it has been rebuilt. Afghani's need something to feel proud of. The cost has been met by outside sources not the Afghan government.


Impressing and very important for the Afghans to restore one of the old symbols of Afghanistan's greatness and to show the rest of the world the resilience of the Afghan people. Respect !


It is fool to do such expenditures in a country where 80% of the people are living under the poverty line.


To be honest, our life is not going on well in Afghanistan.