One of the largest surviving Islamic monuments in central Kabul, the Mausoleum of Timur Shah marks the grave of the son of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who effectively united Afghanistan in the late eighteenth century. Born in 1746, Timur Shah served as governor of Herat before facing down a military challenge to the throne from his elder brother, and then moved his capital from Qandahar northeast to Kabul. His son Zaman Shah laid him to rest in 1793 in a garden on the banks of the Kabul River, but it was not until 1817 that the actual construction of the Mausoleum began.
Timur Shah’s Mausoleum comprises an octagonal structure with two intersecting cross-axes organized on six levels. Above a crypt in which the grave stands is a square central space surrounded by an octagonal structure, with four double-height iwans on the main elevations. There are sixteen brick-vaulted spaces of varying size on the first floor, encircling the central space, with a flat roof above, surrounding the sixteen sided drum under the domes. Following the central Asian tradition, the Mausoleum has an outer dome constructed on a high drum above a ribbed inner dome.
During the course of conservation work, negotiations took place for the relocation of the two hundred or more informal traders who had encroached on what had been the garden around the Mausoleum. A range of options was explored aimed at incorporating the traders into a new development on or adjoining the garden of the Mausoleum, but these were not approved by the Municipality, and the traders were removed in 2005. Since then, a perimeter wall has been constructed to protect the site, which has been planted with an orchard of mulberry trees – matching those seen in historic photographs – and laid out with paths for pedestrian access through the garden.
Since its restoration, the central space of the Mausoleum has been the setting for lectures, seminars and exhibitions, and discussions are under way with the relevant authorities for the space and reclaimed garden to be used for cultural events on a regular basis. Despite the challenging physical and institutional context in which the project was realized, it stands as an example of how an important historic monument can help to encourage a wider process of regeneration in a fast-changing urban setting.
Jodidio Philip, editor. The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme. In Under the Eaves of Architecture: The Aga Khan Builder and Patron. Munich: Prestel, 2008.
The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, from the book Under the Eaves of Architecture: The Aga Khan Builder and Patron.
The Aga Khan has launched numerous initiatives that aim in one way or another to improve the built environment of the Muslim world. For the first time, this book reveals the reasoning behind these efforts and their very substantial scale and ambition. It can safely be said that through the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network and such prestigious institutions as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Aga Khan has become the leading private patron of architecture in the world. Interviews with more than fifty people closely associated with these efforts, and with the Aga Khan himself, allow this book to give the first overview of programmes and ideas that have benefited thousands of people across the world in the past fifty years.