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Kabul’s Ruined Palace to Get a New Life

After decades of fighting left this European-style palace abandoned in Afghanistan, there are new talks of restoration.

With collapsed roofs and bullet-strewn crumbling walls, the derelict Darul Aman Palace has become a symbol of failed attempts to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan.

 

Above: Afghan children play soccer in front of the war-damaged Darul Aman Palace in the suburbs of Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 8, 2011.

Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

Sunlight shine through the ruins of the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul on June 2, 2016.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

Decades of fighting have eroded the grandeur of the European-style palace, built by King Amanullah Khan atop a small hill on the outskirts of Kabul in the early 1920s, following full Afghan independence from Britain in 1919.

Above: An Afghan police officer walks inside the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul on June 2.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

Darul Aman, which means "safe haven" in Arabic, had been burned several times, including during the 1979 Soviet occupation, before being wrecked by fighting. It was abandoned during the civil war in the 1990s. What was once a home to royalty is now daubed with graffiti and home to stray dogs, snakes and scorpions.

Above: Graffiti is drawn on a wall of the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul on June 5.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

While most of Kabul has been repaired since the city was ravaged by wars and Taliban occupation, the palace remains in ruins.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

While the dust settles on the rubble, just next door sits the pristine National Assembly which was inaugurated in December following a near $100 million build.

Above, barbed wires are left at the Darul Aman Palace.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

Last month, President Ashraf Ghani launched a bold reconstruction plan to turn the palace, about 10 miles from the city center, into a museum and venue for national ceremonies.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

Fundraising for the project, which will also cover restoration of the nearby Tajbeg Palace, began in 2012 with a government campaign.

Above: An Afghan police officer walks inside the Darul Aman Palace on June 2.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

The renovation project will take at least three years and could cost up to $20 million, Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, a media adviser for the ministry of Urban Development and Housing, said last month.

Above: A wall is damaged by bullets at the Darul Aman Palace. Photo was taken on June 5.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

Some Afghans have suggested the palace be left as is, as a reminder of the awful destruction that war unleashes. But the plan is to rebuild, even though the latest phase of Afghanistan's decades of conflict seems far from over and could still derail the good intentions.

Above, the Darul Aman Palace is seen from afar.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters

Afghanistan's new parliament building is visible from the ruins of Darul Aman Palace.

OMAR SOBHANI / Reuters