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Bagh-e-Bala Palace regains its colors

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Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi

Historians and nature lovers know how graceful Bagh-e-Bala Palace is because its dazzling dooms could be seen from far away. Vineyard and tall pine trees are adding colors to the beauty of the place. The palace has been built on top of a hill to the north of Kabul city. Bagh-e-Bala was built by Amir Abdul Rahman (1880–1901). The Amir wanted to spend his summer in the palace. He died in the palace. The palace has been beautifully restored and furnished with some of the original furniture still intact and at good condition. The stucco and mirror-studded decoration—inside the palace—represents the original. It is now Kabul’s most attractive restaurant. The terrace provides a spectacular view of the Kabul Valley.

Bagh-e-Bala Palace has been constructed in old style on the top of a hill nearby Kart-e-Parwan locality of Kabul city during rule of Abdul Rahman Khan, the late king of Afghanistan.

According to historians it was used as a palace when the current day Presidential Palace was not built. Later on it was used as the state guesthouse. It was used as museum and then it changed into a desolate place for years as the trees around the hills dried due to poor irrigation system. Later, more trees around the palace were planted after construction of the Qargha Dam and the palace was named as “Bagh-e-Bala Restaurant” after renovation.

According to a history book Rahnumaie-e-Kabul or ‘Kabul Guide’ written by Muhammad Nasir Gharghansht in 1966, King Abdul Rahman Khan destroyed the two buildings that were built in the era of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb from the clay before building the Bagh-e-Bala Palace. The palace was built at the same place when rubbles and debris of the two buildings were removed. King Abdul Rahman also built a military headquarter and used it as the kingdom palace. The palace was used as a castle in the era of his son King Habeebullah Khan as well. Abdul Rahman Khan died in the same palace.

Later on Amanullah Khan the late king of Afghanistan used it as state guesthouse at the beginning of his rule and later on he changed it into military-house. Amir Habeebullah Khan famous as “Bach-e-Saqaw” when came into power after collapse of the kingdom of Amanullah Khan, announced his kingdom at the same palace. The people of Cahrdehe of Kabul congratulated him at the same palace. Bagh-e-Bala Palace once again remained as desolate in the era of King Nadir Khan and King Zahir Khan until 1958 and 1959.

Later, it was once again renovated in the Kandahari and foreign style by the chief of Construction Department of Kabul Municipality, Esmatullah Enayat in the era of King Muhammad Zahir Shah and made it a restaurant. The palace was once again renovated by the communist regime after April coup in 1978 and a kitchen was also built attached to the same restaurant.

Bagh-e-Bala restaurant which is one of historical prominence sites was used for wedding ceremonies earlier and was not reconstructed till late since 1991. It was repaired by Madani Construction Company (MCC) and Afghan construction firm following a directive of the cabinet in 2011. It is ready for use once again, said officials in the Ministry of Finance.

An official at the finance ministry on the condition not to be named told Afghanistan Times, that the palace which will serve as a restaurant has enough space for more than 300 guests in its hall. Space for more hundred food junkies is available around the restaurant including the balcony and at the rooftop of the kitchen of the restaurant, he said.

Bagh-e-Bala Palace, technically and professionally, has been restored to its original condition keeping its historical importance in view. The palace was renovated in coordination with the Ministry of Information and Culture as well as the Ministry of Urban Development.

The best experienced repairers from Herat repaired the palace. White-marble of Chosht-i-Sharef area of Herat province was used in the hall, rooms and the lounges. Special bricks, 5.22 centimeters in length, were used in the roof. The fountains in front of the palace were repaired and decorated with special white-marble of Herat, giving an attractive look.

Moreover, the canalization, irrigation, power supply system, heating, air-conditioning   system and exhausts were reconstructed and the palace was equipped with modern facilities. The mosque in the castle and bathrooms were also repaired. The boundary-wall around Bagh-e-Bala garden was reconstructed with four meters height. Razor wire for the security reason was installed at top of the wall. The road leading to the Bagh-e-Bala restaurant, which was already destroyed, is under reconstruction, and 60 percent completed.

The project manager of MCC, Seddiqullah, said the palace was restored to its original shape, keeping its historical importance in view.

All windows and doors were broken, were repaired from the high quality pine wood brought from Kunar province. The kitchen of the palace was reconstructed and equipped with modern facilities, he said.

The outside and inside walls of the palace were painted with special natural white color used for historical places. The calycles (used for decoration) of the palace were also repaired according to its original style.

Director of the engineering department of properties in the Ministry of Finance, Muhammad Sarwar, said the palace was reconstructed with at the total cost of 22 million Afs. The funds were provided from the government budget. However, it is still not clear that for which purpose the restaurant will be used as many think that it would be for elite class, but definitely it might earn good revenue if used as a restaurant.

Another official at the ministry of finance told Afghanistan Times that totally 75 million Afs were spent on the whole project of the Bagh-e-Bala including the restaurant, road and boundary walls.