Kabul Great Serai Restoration Wins UNESCO Award

Turquoise Mountain Great Serai in 2013
Turquoise Mountain Great Serai in 2013
USAID/Afghanistan

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN- Turquoise Mountain, a Kabul-based international non-profit focused on the historical preservation of Afghan architecture and traditional crafts, has won a 2013 UNESCO Asian Cultural Heritage Restoration Program Award of Distinction for the restoration of Kabul’s Great Serai Palace. 
The Great Serai restoration started in 2008 and was completed in 2010 as part of the USAID-supported Building Livelihoods and Trade Project.  In cooperation with the Turquoise Mountain Trust, the project supports the social, economic and cultural restoration of Kabul’s historic Murad Khane district, as well as the Afghan craft industry.
 
“I would like to congratulate Turquoise Mountain on this great achievement.  The UNESCO award represents recognition of their dedication and hard work, and we are very pleased to see how our assistance is helping to preserve traditional Afghan architecture, arts, and crafts.  Turquoise Mountain is very successful in making these Afghan cultural elements relevant today, while creating livelihoods and generating income for the Afghan people,” said Tina Kaidanow, Deputy Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.
 
Much of the Murad Khane area has been damaged by years of war, poverty and neglect.  Beginning in 2006, the restoration project repaired and rebuilt 112 traditional earth homes and buildings including the Great Serai Palace. It also provided water, sanitation and electricity to every house, and has cleared more than 30,000 cubic meters of garbage from the area.  Additionally, it built a community health clinic that serves 14,000 patients every year, as well as a primary school for 200 boys and girls. The project also built the national Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture and trained 200 men and women a year in woodwork, ceramics, calligraphy, miniature painting, and jewelry and gem-cutting. The Institute offers a three-year study program to train the next generation of craftsmen and women in its four schools. It has also helped to revitalize craft businesses which are now connected to the Institute, and as such, are now accessible to visitors of the Murad Khane area.  To date, trainees have collectively sold over $2.5 million worth of Afghan crafts.
 
“We are so honored to receive this UNESCO award.  It highlights Afghanistan’s spectacular and unique traditional architecture and a living Old City.  I hope the award will help to protect the Great Serai, Murad Khane and the rest of the Old City. It is also a tribute to those who supported the rebuilding, which was a wonderful example of what the Government of Afghanistan and the international community can do together,” said Shoshana Clark Stewart, Turquoise Mountain CEO.
 
The Turquoise Mountain Foundation was founded in 2006 at the behest of Britain’s Prince Charles, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Scottish writer and diplomat Rory Stewart, to create jobs and teach skills to promote a renewed sense of national identity. It is named after Turquoise Mountain, the great lost capital of early Afghanistan.

Last updated: December 15, 2014

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