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Visit Afghanistan in Washington DC

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Kabul Culture on Display

Not many tourists journey to Afghanistan these days and one thing they are missing is the opportunity to visit a resurrected section of historic Kabul. After extensive bombing and damage during the war, the
neighborhood of the ancient capital had been buried under six feet of rubble and garbage. Rescued by efforts of the
which was established in 2006 by Prince Charles and former president
, the district is re-emerging as a vibrant cultural and economic center. For the time being, travelers don't have to fly overseas to observe the revitalization, since an exhibit dedicated to its rescue and progress is on view at the Smithsonian's
in Washington DC.
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A poster outside the Freer/Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian announces the exhibit.


Constructed in the Sackler's International Gallery, an 8000 square foot "court yard" showcases crafts, videos, and artifacts in "Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan." Centered by a pavilion with cushions where visitors are invited to relax, the exhibit illuminates the legacy and revival of the country's rich traditions which had been on the verge of extinction.

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Visitors can relax in an elaborately carved pavilion at the centerpiece of the Sackler exhibit

Master woodworkers have carved Himalayan cedar into intricate arcades, window frames, jali screens. Fashioned of intricate lattice designs, the structures are joined without a nail in sight.

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A carved wooden grid is constructed entirely without nails

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Intricate woodwork lattices display creative variation in design

Jewelry designs vary among many Afghan ethnic groups with styles unique to each region. Vibrant blue lapis, rubies, emeralds are fashioned by hand into bangles, earrings, necklaces of 22-krat yellow gold. A video illustrates the intricate, patient work required to create one of the necklaces on display.

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A necklace fashioned of Lapis Lazuli

Afghanistan is one of the last countries in the world where carpets are still made completely by hand with wool from local sheep dyed naturally and woven into timeless botanical and geometric designs from Silk Road regions.

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Natural dyed wools are spun to be knotted into carpets

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Exquisite carpets show ancient biological and geometric patterns

A series of slides and a cascade of pots-in-progress illustrate the steps involved in making pottery. Good seams of clay, natural materials for glazing, wood for firing the kilns enable local artisans to create ceramics of great beauty. Second-generation potter Abdul Matin Malekzadah is among the teams of Afghan craftspeople who will come to America in pairs to demonstrate their work and lecture on the heritage and techniques of their handicrafts.

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The process of creating ceramics is explained through slides and examples
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Craftspeople such as Abdul Matin Malekzadah will journey to Washington to demonstrate their skills

One recent visitor to the Sackler was Former First Lady Laura Bush who toured the exhibit and introduced a new book describing the travails and achievements of notable Afghan women.
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Former First Lady Laura Bush visited the Turquoise Mountain exhibit at the Sackler

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The Bush Institute has published a book describing outstanding Afghan women

Until travel to the region is more practical, the exhibit at the Freer/Sackler is a fruitful introduction to the rich traditions and culture of the ancient civilization which stretches back far beyond the era of the Silk Road .