Kabul, Afghanistan, 19 October 2012 – His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and His Highness the Aga Khan officially opened the restored mausoleum of Timur Shah today.
The historic monument, which had fallen into disrepair during decades of civil war, has been restored as part of an on-going programme undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to preserve the cultural heritage of Afghanistan. The work, which began in 2003, encompassed the mausoleum and the rehabilitation of the one hectare park surrounding the building. Timur Shah was the Durrani King who made Kabul the capital of the modern Afghan State.
The Aga Khan recalled that when the Aga Khan Development Network staff became involved in the restoration work in Afghanistan, they were struck by the abundance and quality of the country's cultural assets. He also reaffirmed the Network's commitment to Afghanistan. "Restoration of Afghanistan's cultural assets will remain an important part of AKDN's work," he said.
The park has been replanted with mulberry trees in keeping with the original plans. The central space of the mausoleum has already been the setting for lectures, seminars and exhibitions.
Timur Shah’s mausoleum is part of a series of projects undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture since 2002, when it signed an agreement with the government of Afghanistan to restore and rehabilitate a number of historic buildings and public spaces in the city of Kabul.
In concert with a wide range of initiatives undertaken by the other agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network, the Trust’s work has focused on improving the overall quality of life in Kabul through the restoration of the sixteenth century Baghe Babur (Babur’s Gardens) and a number of other urban generation projects in the Ashequan wa Arefan neighbourhood. A similar initiative in Herat commenced in 2005.
The sixteenth-century Baghe Babur, where the first Mughal emperor, Babur, is buried, was once severely damaged by war. It now provides the population of Kabul with a space for recreation and cultural events. Various facilities – including a swimming-pool, garden Pavilion, caravanserai and Queen’s Palace complex – have been in public use since their completion in 2007. In addition to the conservation work in Baghe Babur, basic drainage, water and sanitation infrastructure has been undertaken in the surrounding neighbourhood.
The Asheqan wa Arefan neighbourhood, which suffered massive damage in the early 1990s, has also been a focus of activity. Since early 2003, 11 homes and 15 historic public buildings have been conserved as models of restoration. Nearly 7.5 kilometres of underground and surface drains have been repaired or rebuilt over the past eight years, while an area of more than 16,000 square metres of pedestrian alleyways and streets have been paved within the historic fabric. Zarnegar Park, to the north of the old city, and the Baghe Qazi, have also been rehabilitated.
Over 30,000 residents benefited directly from these programmes, which required over 365,000 workdays of skilled and unskilled labour. More than 150 young men have undertaken apprenticeships as carpenters, masons and plasterers, working alongside highly skilled Afghan craftsmen. More than 2200 women from the neighbourhood have attended courses in tailoring, embroidery and kilim-weaving, along with literacy classes.
The Aga Khan Development Network began working in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, providing food aid and a range of livelihood and support services to Afghan refugees who had fled their homes as a result of the on-going conflict. At the January 2002 Tokyo Conference, which initiated the formal Afghan reconstruction process, His Highness the Aga Khan made a pledge of US$ 75 million to support international reconstruction efforts. This pledge marked the transition of AKDN's intervention in Afghanistan from humanitarian relief to comprehensive development, and the beginning of a formal partnership between AKDN and the Afghan government.
Ten years later, AKDN's assistance to Afghanistan has exceeded His Highness' original pledge by more than 80 percent. Through formal partnerships with the Afghan government, significant joint investments into Afghan companies, and national and regional development programmes in partnership with other international actors and donors, AKDN has channelled more than $700 million toward Afghanistan's economic, social, and cultural reconstruction. In June 2008, His Highness the Aga Khan pledged an additional $100 million for the period 2008-2012.
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The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which undertakes a wide range of activities aimed at the preservation and promotion of the material and spiritual heritage of Muslim societies, has been working in Afghanistan since 2002. Its programmes include the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (HCP), which works to revitalise historic cities in the Muslim world, both culturally and socioeconomically. Over the last decade, it has been engaged in the rehabilitation of historic areas in Cairo, Kabul, Herat, Aleppo, Delhi, Zanzibar, Mostar, northern Pakistan, Timbuktu and Mopti. The Trust also supports the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as well as www.ArchNet.org, a major online resource on Islamic architecture. Its activities encompass the preservation and promotion of traditional music, through the Aga Khan Music Initiative, and the creation of museums and exhibition devoted to Islamic art.
The agencies of the AKDN are private, international, non-denominational development organisations. They work to improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa. While each agency pursues its own mandate, all of them work together within the overarching framework of the Network so that their different pursuits interact and reinforce one another. The AKDN works in 30 countries around the world and employs approximately 80,000 people. The AKDN’s annual budget for non-profit development activities is approximately US$ 625 million. The project companies of AKFED generate revenues of approximately US$ 2.3 billion annually. All AKFED surpluses are reinvested in further development activities.