Tajbeg Palace – The Former Home Of The Afghan Royal Family
The Tajbeg Palace, or Tapa-e-Tajbeg , is located outside Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. The palace was the home of the royal family during the time of Amānullāh Khān. The name translates to Palace of the Large Crown and it has also been called the Queen’s Palace by some. It has been the victim on Afghanistan’s turbulent history at times, leading to periods of abandonment.
The hill upon which the Tajbeg Palace stands was once home to the Queen of the Timurids. They were a dynasty which ruled from 1370 to 1507 with connections to the Mongols leading back to Ghengis Khan. The Timurids designed an opulent residence with lush terraced gardens in the snow-covered foothills of the Karokh mountain range. Its splendour was lauded throughout the Timurid Empire. The palace was abandoned following the fall of the dynasty.
The remains of the original palace were renovated by Zaman Shah in 1795. He had replaced his father, Timur Shah, as ruler of the Durrani Empire two years earlier. Timur Shah had moved the capital from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776, improving infrastructure in the city and undertaking significant building projects. It was described as the best and cleanest city in Asia by George Forster of the East India Company, the first European to visit the new capital. The palace was located about 10 miles (16 km) south-west of the city.
The splendour of Kabul was famed throughout the world in the 18th century.
By the 19th century, British India had been established and they attempted to assert their authority on Afghanistan for a period. This resulted in three Anglo-Afghan Wars. It was during these conflicts that the palace was destroyed. Today, the ruins of the original Timurid Palace and the Durrani renovation can be seen near the Tajbeg Palace.
In 1919, King Amanullah Khan announced the construction of a new capital city to the south-west of Kabul called Darulaman. Construction started in the early 1920s and included the Darul Aman Palace, which was to become the new home of the King. The Tajbeg Palace was also constructed. This was to act as a secondary residence for the Afghan Royal Family and a home for Queen Soraya Tarzi which is how it earned the name the Queen’s Palace. Other fine buildings such as the National Museum of Afghanistan were also built. The new city was linked to Kabul by the Darulaman Road and the Kabul-Darulaman Tramway, at the time Afghanistan’s only railway. The construction of Darulaman was undertaken by French and German companies, however it was his relationship with the European royal families and his ambitions to modernise the country which were to become Amanullah Khan’s downfall.
Amanullah Khan’s modernisation caused tensions with the religious conservatives.
Opposition to his rule led to his abdication at the hands of religious conservatives in 1929. Darulaman was left incomplete and the palaces were used for a variety of purposes including seats of ministries, military accommodation and even warehouses. Over the years, Kabul grew to encompass the the new city planned to replace it and today, Darulaman is a suburb forming part of District 6.
In 1979, relations between Afghanistan and the USSR became strained when Soviet-backed President Nur Muhammad Taraki died in suspicious circumstances. His intra-party rival, Hafizullah Amin, took over and the Soviet’s accused him of assassinating his predecessor. On 27 December 1979, the USSR launched Operation Storm-333, a covert operation in which they stormed the Tajbeg Palace and assassinated President Amin who was resident there at the time. 350 Afghans, including Amin and his son, and 14 of the Soviet forces were killed in the incident. The palace received extensive interior damage in the fighting including a section which was partially destroyed by fire.
The Tajbeg Palace was the HQ of the Soviet 40th Army in Afghanistan until January 1989.
The Soviet kept control of the Tajbeg Palace after Operation Storm-333 and used it as the headquarters of the Soviet 40th Army during the Soviet–Afghan War. The war ended in 1989 with Soviet-backed President Mohammad Najibullah in charge of the country. After the Soviet Union collapsed, he clung onto power for a number of months before finally going into exile. The country descended into civil war as rival mujahideen factions fought for control. It was during the Afghan Civil War that the Tajbeg Palace was extensively damaged and became abandoned.
A view of the Tajbeg Palace in Kabul
Aerial view of the Tajbeg Palace
In October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power after they refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden. They suspected him of orchestrating the September 11 attacks with his terrorist organisation, al-Qaeda operating out of the country. The Taliban were overthrown in December 2001 and Hamid Karzai became the president of Afghanistan.
NATO peacekeeping forces took control of the Tajbeg Palace, taking advantage of its strategic location within Kabul to operate a machine gun post. Otherwise, it was largely left abandoned as the country’s new administration sought to rebuild Afghanistan.
The abandoned Tajbeg Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan
Side view of the Tajbeg Palace in Afghanistan
Germany, whose engineers were involved in the original construction of the palaces in the 1920s, spearheaded a project in association with the Afghan government to restore the Darul Aman Palace and the Tajbeg Palace. The Darul Aman Palace renovations were completed in July 2019 with the Tajbeg Palace still undergoing restoration.