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Kabul [Kābul]locked

Capital of Afghanistan. With its excellent location on the Kabul River in a fertile plain surrounded by mountains and hills, Kabul is a natural strategic site and has a history of settlement dating back 3000 years. In pre-Islamic times Buddhism flourished in the region. Despite earlier Muslim raids, Islam began to be established only in the 9th century ad under the Saffarids of Sistan (reg 867–c. 1495). Under the Ghaznavids (reg 977–1186) Kabul served as a military depot for the army and had a strong citadel and prosperous commercial quarter. The city gradually developed as Ghazna declined, and from 1504 with the arrival of the Timurid prince Babur it flourished. Babur created numerous gardens, such as the quartered Bagh-i Vafa (‘Garden of Fidelity’) to the south of the city overlooking the river. He also used Kabul as a staging point for his campaigns into India, where he became the first Mughal emperor. On his death in 1530, Babur was interred at Agra, but in 1597 his remains were conveyed to the Bagh-i Naw (‘New Garden’) south-west of Kabul, and the site became known as the Bagh-i Babur (‘Garden of Babur’). The site houses a marble mosque (rest. 1964–6) built in 1646 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reg 1628–58) to celebrate his capture of Balkh. Kabul remained an important centre under the Mughals (reg 1526–1858); gold and silver coinage, for example, was minted there until the reign of ‛Aziz al-Din ‛Alamgir (1754–60). In 1738 Kabul was captured by the Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah (reg 1736–47) on his way to India, but after his death it passed to Ahmad Shah Durrani of Qandahar (reg 1747–73). His son Timur Shah (reg 1773–93) made Kabul the capital of the Durrani empire, and his unfinished tomb is a massive octagonal structure modelled on Mughal tombs in India.

The city suffered in various wars, including the second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The old citadel, Bala Hissar (‘High Fort’), was destroyed and was replaced by a new palace, the Arg, built by ‛Abd al-Rahman (reg 1880–1901). His tomb in Zarnigar (‘Adorned with Gold’) Park in the centre of the city is a small private palace, the dome and minarets of which were added by his son Habib Allah (reg 1901–19) after the building was transformed into his tomb. Habib Allah also finished the ‛Id Gah (‘Praying Place’), the large mosque outside the city used for public holidays (see Musalla). Some six miles to the south-west of the city centre, Aman Allah (reg 1919–29) had a new capital, Dar al-Aman, laid out; the parliament building was designed by André Godard. Near by is the Kabul Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artefacts from such sites as Begram and Ai-Khanum, Kafir statues from Nuristan and a superb numismatic collection. Extensive bombing and looting during the civil war in the early 1990s, however, left the collection in an uncertain state. Since the restoration of the Afghan government in late 2001, the city has slowly been rebuilt and the museum reconstituted. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI) began restoring the Bagh-i Babur in 2002.


  • Bābur: Bābur-nāma, trans. A. S. Beveridge (London, 1922/R New Delhi, 1970); Eng. trans., ed. and annotations by W. M. Thackston as The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor (Washington, DC, 1996)
  • N. H. Dupree: An Historical Guide to Afganistan (Kabul, 1971), pp. 67–90
  • M. T. S. Parpagliolo: Kābul: The Bāgh-i Bābur (Rome, 1972)
  • N. H. Dupree: The National Museum of Afghanistan: An Illustrated Guide (Kabul, 1974)
  • N. H. Dupree: ‘Early Twentieth Century Afghan Adaptations of European Architecture’, Art and Archaeology Research Papers [AARP], 11 (1977), pp. 15–21
  • S. Zajadacz-Hastenrath: ‘A Note on Babur’s Lost Funerary Enclosure at Kabul’, Muqarnas, 14 (1997), pp. 135–42
  • N. H. Dupree: ‘Museum under Siege’, Archaeology (1998)
  • A. N. Lambah: ‘Kabuli Bagh Mosque: Babur’s Unknown Masjid’, Marg, 55/1 (2003), pp. 63–6
  • F. Tissot: Catalogue of the National Museum of Afghanistan, 1931–1985 (Paris, 2006)
  • Afghanistan, les trésors retrouvés: Collections du Musée national de Kaboul (exh. cat. by P. Cambon and J.-F. Jarrige, Paris, Mus. Guimet, 2006)
  • Turquoise Mountain Foundation: (accessed June 11, 2008)
Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1954–)