Note: This article is from the Guardian.
Few buildings in Kabul are as iconic, or tragic, as Darulaman Palace in the south-west of the Afghan capital.
For decades the symbol of Afghanistan’s early 20th-century efforts to join the modern world has lain in ruin after being blasted to pieces during years of civil conflict. The hulking wreck, sitting at the end of what should be the city’s grandest boulevard, is roofless, gutted and riddled with bullet holes.
Now Kabul council’s bosses say the city is so ashamed of the state of such a landmark that they are asking for public contributions to restore Darulaman and two other nearby palaces.
Billboards asking for donations have gone up around the city, while collection boxes and leaflets have been placed at all government ministries. Some businesses have given tens of thousands of dollars.
“Even if they only give 10 afghanis, that will be a enough,” said Khogman Ulomi, the deputy mayor, referring to a sum of money equivalent to about 10p. “People are ashamed of what has happened to their city and the fact the world only thinks of war when they see Afghanistan. We want to rebuild these palaces exactly as they were before.”
Despite being nowhere near the target of m (£19m), the city has already started replanting the ornamental gardens that surround the raised palace.
It is all part of an incredibly ambitious campaign to modernise and beautify a city which in 30 years has transformed from being a small and pleasant mountaintop town to a booming, overpopulated sprawl that suffers some of the worst air pollution in the world. The city’s mayor has won plaudits from international donors for his efforts to refurbish roads and plant thousands of trees around the capital.
He hopes he can now persuade foreign backers to stump up for some prestige projects, including road transport tunnels to run under one of the hills that cut the city in half. There are also plans for a cable car to carry sightseers up and over to an area near the zoo, which the mayor hopes to enlarge and improve.
Attention to the palaces is long overdue, not least because they sit next to a new complex that will soon house the country’s parliament.
The buildings are also loaded with Afghanistan’s tragic 20th-century history, as they are a symbol of King Amanullah who built Darulaman – the “Abode of Peace” – in the 1920s as part of his ill-fated campaign to modernise the country, which ran into fierce opposition from rural and religious leaders.
The Tajbeg Palace, next to Darulaman, was where the opening shots were fired during the Soviet invasion on 27 December 1979, the day when Soviet troops stormed the palace and killed Hafizullah Amin, the communist president who had displeased Moscow.
The buildings were badly damaged by rockets in 1990 when the communist regime defended itself against a coup attempt by the defence minister.
It was further wrecked by rival factions fighting over the control of the city after the communists were finally toppled in 1992.
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