What was I doing in Kabul?

I am Duncan DJ, a British Architect who came to Kabul in May 2009 to work for an NGO called Turquoise Mountain, restoring and rebuilding Murad Khane, a key part of the city’s built heritage. At the centre of TM’s work is the Afghan Institute of Arts and Architecture, previously a Serai (inn and trading house) on the edge of Kabul’s Grand Bazaar. I worked in the old town using traditional building techniques and materials alongside local professionals and tradesmen, bringing international expertise where useful. Every day I learned something new about building or living in Kabul. I also learnt valuable lessons on doing business and implementing projects in a completely different environment. I’m sure all those lucky enough to have worked with Afghans in these interesting times will have meaningful experiences to build on.

Since my role as Project Architect and Infrastructure Coordinator has finished I’m now based back in Europe (Winter 2010/2011) although always looking for new opportunities in the developing world.

I hope you enjoy this site, please feel free to send me comments.

13 responses

6 06 2009
Clive

Keep up the good work! Cheers from Africa. Clive.

29 10 2009
Christopher Tavener

Dear Duncan,
We are all relieved to find that you are unscathed, but saddened by an increase in violence, for those who have died, and anxious as we think about you laboring away with such heart and great goals. However, I understand your confidence about being in the middle of people with whom you are doing good work. That’s a large crew in your photos.You have taken on quite some responsibility!
Am interested to see your lime preparations. The winter months make a good interval for the lime to mature. Over here there is much debate as to whether there is any chemical difference between lime putty made directly from hydrated lime and putty made from quicklime, and further whether leaving the latter to mature for anything from three months to twenty years (Italian masons used to leave the lime to their children).
I was amazed to see quicklime being made quickly and safely in a demonstration of harling by just spraying water into the burned lime, using a hand-held bottle sprayer of the type that squirts window cleaner or bug-spray.
Have to stop as am getting ready for a business trip which will keep me away for about three weeks, and not so far from you.
Keep your head down and your wits about you.
Lots of love from us three, Martha, Alice (in California but just on the phone; she has been reading your blog) and me.

16 11 2009
Mike Millar

Hello old chum,

have the thumbs up to do an article on your good self if you want to for the BBC website. I am mindful that it will be very widely read and want to make sure you are happy with any safety issues this might present for you.

Drop me a line on the email or on the phone 07748 103 392 if you get a mo.

Suse is due as of today so the sooner we do this the better! Ideally we could put it up online on the day of Karzai’s inauguration.

Cheers.

Mike

17 11 2009
Mike Millar

HI DJ,

Tried your number as requested but had a rather fruitless chat with an Afghan chap on the other end.

Mike

18 11 2009
Mike Millar

Drop me a line when you have a moment…am getting a little tight to get this done for the re-inauguration…

19 06 2010
Eduino Fricker

Dear Duncan,We are all relieved to find that you are unscathed, but saddened by an increase in violence, for those who have died, and anxious as we think about you laboring away with such heart and great goals. However, I understand your confidence about being in the middle of people with whom you are doing good work. That’s a large crew in your photos.You have taken on quite some responsibility!Am interested to see your lime preparations. The winter months make a good interval for the lime to mature. Over here there is much debate as to whether there is any chemical difference between lime putty made directly from hydrated lime and putty made from quicklime, and further whether leaving the latter to mature for anything from three months to twenty years (Italian masons used to leave the lime to their children).I was amazed to see quicklime being made quickly and safely in a demonstration of harling by just spraying water into the burned lime, using a hand-held bottle sprayer of the type that squirts window cleaner or bug-spray.Have to stop as am getting ready for a business trip which will keep me away for about three weeks, and not so far from you. Keep your head down and your wits about you.Lots of love from us three, Martha, Alice (in California but just on the phone; she has been reading your blog) and me.
+1

18 07 2010
Narendra Gajjar

Since you are talking about lime, Zanzibar’s Stone Town was built mostly with lime and UN has restored number of buildings using the same lime and they have a documentary on that. Quite interesting over there, women work on the restoration projects. Zanzibar has 99% muslim population. In your picture I mostly see male forks.
A German architect by name of Prof Erik Meffert started Zanzibar’s Stone Town Authority with major financial support coming from German Government almost 20 years ago. Today STA is the major player in the conservation of Stone Town building in Zanzibar.
Wish you all the best.
Narendra
Canada.

2 11 2010
Kabir Sala

Hi Duncan,

Really enjoyed looking at your diary. Its nice to see how Murad Khani looks now, compare to a building site when i visited. I really like the work you guys are doing out there.
I am working For Niels Torp Architects in Oslo at the moment, its not your conventional TMF style of building, but none the less a good experience. I would still love to play some part in the your efforts, if the opportunity arises.

You already have my CV and portfolio, drop me a mail if you no longer have it.

Kabir Sala

26 11 2010
Mark Schlegel

Hi Duncan- you’re obviously familiar with the Murad Khane area, so I’m hoping I could ask a quick question for a research project I’m doing on Ashura in Kabul. Do you happen to know where these mosques are in Kabul? Any information would be very much appreciated! Thank you.

1. Takia Khan Umumi (is it near the mausoleum of Timur Shah, south of the river?)
2. Jafariya Mosque (is it in Chendawol, near Charahi Sari Chawk?)
3. Hussainia Mosque

29 11 2010
duncandj

Hello Mark
I’m not familiar with the names of these three mosques but have emailed a colleague who may know more.
Perhaps they are smaller, locally relevant mosques that Afghans are familiar with.
Are they all Shia mosques?
I will let you know what I find out.
regards
Duncan

18 08 2011
hij

hi dear
this is Said Hijran Frogh Iam freelacne photo journalist i have seen ur site i really get interisting if u need for photograhper i really want to work with urs
http://www.saidhijraanfrogh.webnode.com
email heachraanfrogh@yahoo.com
phone +93 786 400 018

10 01 2013
John Bigelow

Hi Duncan,
Some wonderful photos.! I was in the country (1968-1972) during more peaceful times — on loan from Pan Am as an advisor, then,Chief Pilot, to the national airline, Ariana Afghan Airlines. I am finishing a book about some of those experiences, and I would be very grateful if I could use one of your photos (the stunning one of the Bandi-e-Amir lakes) for the book. (I flew up there in an Ariana DC-3.) I am very happy to pay a fee for this privilege, and of course you would get credit. Just let me know how to proceed.
You’ve put together a remarkable site.
Best regards,
John Bigelow
maracu2000@aol.com

14 12 2013
Jimmy Petterson

Hi Duncan,

I am curious about skiing in Afghanistan. I have skied in over 60 countries and am working on volume 2 of Skiing Around the World, a very big book project. Could you please send me an e-mail address and phone number where I could contact you and discuss. My information is below. Looking forward to hear back from you. Merry Christmas and Best Regards, Jimmy Petterson

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