Beauty & Reslience: Turquoise Foundation and Murad Khane

Kabul, Afghanistan. Part One: November, 2011. Turquoise Mountain is a place of deep resilience and unstoppable grace. This is a place of courage and compassion that continues to mystify me, given all the Afghans have been through. It must be borne and it must live in layers of generations. Far from giving up hope, Afghans bake hope like bread every day, and share it with a bottomless cup of tea.

That warm and sunny November day, I was moved beyond composure – to quote Henry James in Portrait of a Lady, “The picture swam.”I was inspired passing through one door, along one hallway, through one courtyard after the other, as a small group of us took a tour through the restored buildings that now house the Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture at Murad Khane, in Kabul’s old city.

A restoration project, an international art institute and a miracle of adobe like rooms with European whispers that got older and older as we wound our way deeper into the complex. Before Turquoise Mountain came to work in Murad Khane the streets were buried under 6 feet of rubbish, the community had few basic services, and the historic buildings were collapsing. Since 2006 Turquoise Mountain has worked to create a cultural, educational and economic hub in Murad Khane, the traditional crafts centre of Kabul, now serves as a highly visible symbol of cooperation between Afghanistan, the international community and the residents and students of Murad Khane and the Institute.

Photo by Jason P. Howe and Turquoise Mountain

Now Murad Khane is fully restored, services installed, community programs running, building work completed and the Institute in place, the Institute and connected community programs will continue to drive the regeneration of the historic old city and the craft industry, and cement the legacy of heritage, education and culture and its symbolic place in Afghanistan’s future for decades to come.

Carrying on the tradition of fine calligraphy.
Saliha, our translator, in the restored bathhouse.

I plan to return to Kabul and to Murad Khane, perhaps when the winter, which has been and is predicted to continue to be, colder than usual with sub-zero temperatures, starts to melt into Spring. While negotiations continue between governments and militias, while the prospect of a Taliban Embassy in Qatar is being created in order to advance peace talks, while politicians debate the advisability of further investment in supporting the development of civil society in Afghanistan”¦

Shaping the future. Photo by Jason P. Howe and Turquoise Mountain

Men and women come to Turquoise Mountain and to other educational and vocational non-profit organizations to learn a trade”¦a craft”¦and to become artisans and maybe even entrepreneurs. Traditional news organizations seldom cover the impact of investments in these economic development and peace process initiatives.
Patiently learning and practicing the fine arts of Afghanistan. Photo by Jason P. Howe and Turquoise Mountain

Patiently, young men and women behind the iron workers at Murad Khane show up to carve the wood, to cut the gems, to practice their calligraphy. Quietly, the visionary and courageous staff show up to unlock the doors, turn on the lights and carry on what is so beautiful about the true culture of Afghanistan.
Ustad Hadi master Jali at Turquoise Mountain. Photo by Jason P. Howe and Turquoise Mountain

I invite you to visit – to learn, to visit, to donate and to purchase their products.


Cynthia Artin is an entrepreneur and humanitarian currently living and working in Kabul, Afghanistan.   On assignment for the  Noori Foundation Afghanistan, and helping to establish a center for war widows and their children, Cynthia will be publishing weekly profiles of interesting people doing good things in what she calls “one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”   Cynthia is a Global Advisor to The James Jay Dudley Luce  Foundation and a new contributor to  The Stewardship Report.

About Cynthia Artin: An American in Afghanistan

View all posts by Cynthia Artin: An American in Afghanistan
Cynthia Artin: An American in Afghanistan
Cynthia Artin has been writing for The Stewardship Report since 2011, starting with her column AN AMERICAN IN AFGHANISTAN. Back from Kabul, but still very active in supporting Afghan social entrepreneurs, she is now inking a weekly column on leaders in humanitarianism who are creating innovative and efficient models for positive change and sustainable impact. Cynthia is Founder and President of Artin Arts, and a James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation Global Advisor.

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