Hopes for revival pinned on Afghan palace restoration

Fri Oct 7, 2016 6:27am EDT
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By James Mackenzie and Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) - After years of abandonment, the ruined Darul Aman palace in Kabul, one of the most recognizable symbols of Afghanistan's decades of war, is to be restored in a project authorities hope will come to symbolize revival instead of destruction.

The aim is an ambitious one, with Afghan forces fighting the Taliban insurgency across the country, Kabul regularly hit by suicide attacks and the broken economy seemingly in no better shape than the bombed-out palace itself.

The project was launched by President Ashraf Ghani in May and Urban Development Minister Sadat Mansoor Naderi said the government hoped the site, next to a new, Indian-financed parliament, can become the center of a new government quarter as well as a tourist attraction.

For the moment, such goals remain a long way off and the most visible sign of renewal is a crew working on preparing the site for the full reconstruction to come later.

"In the team we've built here, we've got over 100 young graduates," Naderi told Reuters during a visit to the site this week.

"Twenty percent of the technical engineers you see here are female," he said.

In a country where opportunities for women to develop careers are severely limited, the restoration effort, which will depend heavily on support from foreign donors, is a showcase for young graduates.

"This is a historical site and of course it's a new experience," said Sofia Roshan, 24, a structural design engineer who graduated recently from a private university in Kabul and has been working at the site for four months.   Continued...

Afghan engineers discuss inside the ruined Darul Aman palace in Kabul, Afghanistan October 2, 2016. Picture taken October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail