Sunday, April 3, 2011

Murad Khane

Well - it was the big day - the opening of the entire project.

Shoshana got up early in order to head down early.

The rest of us at the fort began to gather up - each dressed in elements of Turquoise Mountain that we had purchased at the sale the day before - some in ties or jackets from Zarif - a local designer who employs 50 local tailors - and some in necklaces or cufflinks from the Turquoise Mountain jewelry makers.

All dressed up we loaded in to vans and made our way through the busy streets of Kabul.

We got to Murad Khane and were dropped off on the bazaar street which is full of people selling everything from vegetables to naan to old tires and popcorn. We hear the mullah and smell the acrid air as we make our way into the walls of the Murad Khane project.

Even more than the day before they have put finishing touches on the many buildings. They have festively hung bolts of fabric in the double column surai and posted pictures of the project in process on banners and photo montages on the walls in the hallway.

They had broken us up in to groups and Judy, Stocky and I were on with the deputy engineer and Shegufah from business development whom I had met on my last trip here - she is one hell of a negotiator for carpets on Chicken Street.

We then waited for Sir John and Lady Anne to join us. They did and were exactly what you would think - Lady Anne was a bubbly woman in her 60's who got involved with TM because "she had known Rory since he was "a little bit of a thing". Sir John was a slightly quieter man with a sever look but a warm demeanor under his straw fedora.

We walked through and marveled at the improvements that had been made since even the 2 days before. All of the schools with their work shops open and kids inside working on calligraphy or pottery, wood working and carving and the making of jewelry. All of this being done in a beautifully the restored buildings.

Windows of carved wood panels that could be opened in 3 sections - walls intricately carved from a plaster made from clay and mud that were painted in multiple hues - colors that came from clay that made distinctive greens and tans.

We walked through to the school and met a few of the children who were between their classes (there is school here 6 days a week).

We then made our way to the medical building. The building itself had been an empty lot the last time I was here. the medical facilities had been limited to a small room with 2 doctors. There were now multiple treatment rooms to deal with the most common medical problems that plague the area - malnutrition, stomach issues, and family planning - along with treatment for infections and other common issues.

The facility is beautiful and clean - and will service up to 2,500 families. The whole building was built in 10 months. The person who oversaw the architecture and implementation of this project - Heddy - this is also the woman who took on the logistics of all of the event planning for the weekend. Simply amazing.

When walking through with the managing physician - you really get a sense of pride from him about how he feels about the project and the facility.

After seeing this we all gathered in the great serai for speeches by Shoshana, Rory, the Engineer, and Mr. Hallily - the person who will now take over the day to day operations of the institute.

Some speeches are given in English - others in Dari and then translated to English. This gives the whole opening and the entire project a real sense of global effort and united community effort.

The engineer poignantly - puts his hands together and talks about the joining together of people is what made this work - from the 400 workers to "the support that came from above".

We all then gather for lunch in the double column serai - all 70 of us sit on the floor eating afghan food and drinking coke. Over lunch I ask about what locals think of the project - some are happy - especially those who have gotten work from it - others are suspicious and don't trust it - many believing that the british are there to reclaim treasure that they buried there under the peacock house.

Apparently this belief is fairly wide spread. There is obviously still much work to be done with the local community which I think will be helped by the tangible use of the medical facility and the day to day management of all TMF being put into local hands.

After lunch we ask to return to the student sale - the students have set up in one of their newer buildings - what will serve as their gathering place for lunches and graduations - they have set up tables of student work from each of the schools.

All of the students are excited to show us their wares - working to explain what stones are in their jewelry - or what the meaning is of the calligraphy they have done. The interpretation and explanation is half the fun.

As I pour over one of the tables - looking at each piece - one student says smiling- haven't you bought anything yet? We banter back and fourth - me learning that he is a 3rd year who is excited to graduate and start his own business soon.

It seems like the institute is working.

Since TM has started - a jewelry maker has opened up a workshop around the corner and is taking on much of the work that TM has been asked to do - including an order for 1,200 pairs of earrings for Kate Spade (available in June).

The shop owner is very proud - and his father is there to act as chaperone - which is what allows both men and women to work in the same shop - albeit in separate rooms.

The next business development piece we go to check out is located in another part of town. It is the woodworking production facility - a 3 building factory that produces all of their comissioned pieces - they are currently working on office furniture for 150 offices at the US Embassy as well as items for the gift shop at the British Museum.

We all ride with Zia back to the fort - Rory - riding in the "way back" of the 4 Runner talks about the uptick in businesses in Kabul and we laugh as we pint to the large scale video screen in one of the traffic circles in town. It is advertising a local version of red bull called big bull.
It is terribly out of place - but I suppose is a sign of progress of some sort - or at least of westernization.

Shoshana has been hordeing bottles of champagne for weeks to raise a glass back at the fort.

There is much to celebrate an much to be proud of. I am extremely happy I made the trip and have been able to be a part of this.


  1. Congratulations and best of luck! Enjoy your trip and be safe! We're all so very proud/excited/impressed with/for/by you! Best wishes from the entire Kenefick family.

  2. What a wonderful writer you are, you bring us right to the place, the moment and most of all the people. You convey a sense of community, connection and pride that bombs can neither promote nor destroy in the human spirit. Something to do, something to believe in and someone to love the best formula for creating a future with meaning and purpose. The shared joy and celebration of each ones part, all the stepping stones and efforts, are quite remarkable. How wonderful to witness and participate in such glory. Be safe.

  3. Yes, you are a wonderful writer! So much depth and detail, and all coming from a warm and caring soul. Want to send 20 questions, but will resist. Hearing about the hospital is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking, when thinking about here vs there. We are so spoiled. Thank goodness for "the fort" etc. Blessings.

  4. So inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to write and share.