Sultani Museum

Sultani Museum information

Location
Kabul , Afghanistan
Address
Asmai Wat
Prices
admission 200Afg
Opening hours
8am-4pm
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This private museum in the same grounds as the National Gallery is something of a curiosity. It was set up in 2004 by Ahmad Shah Sultani, a gold trader and sometime antiques dealer, who spent much of the civil war in exile in London. Here he collected a large collection of Afghan antiquities, aiming to preserve them for the country. Much of his collection is of looted or smuggled items, but those recognisably from the Kabul Museum have been returned. His collection has yet to be properly catalogued, but is thought to contain over 3000 pieces. Sultani’s ultimate plan is to donate his collection to the state. The museum is heavily locked, and on issuing your ticket the chowkidar (caretaker) goes through the laborious process of disabling the security alarms. The first room is full of Islamic-era manuscripts and some beautiful Qurans in just about every conceivable calligraphic script. The following rooms are a treasure-trove of Afghan history, with artefacts from all periods jostling for space on the crowded shelves. Wooden stamps for stuccowork in mosques sit next to a delicate and stunning gold coronet, possibly of Kushan origin. There’s a large display of coins – Graeco-Bactrian, Kushan, Sodgian and even Roman. Opposite are rare examples of Ghaznavid and Ghorid pottery, nearly 1000 years old, and Nuristani wood carvings. Poor labelling lets the exhibition down, often leaving you wondering exactly what you’re looking at, and thirsting for more information (the ‘cookie mud’ from which many finds seem to have been dug remains a mystery). It’s frustrating, but an oddly appropriate metaphor for the troubled state of Afghanistan’s heritage.