Turquoise Mountain - The Origin and History of Our Name

A symbol of what can be lost to history, our name reminds us of the importance of preserving cultural heritage for future generations.

Banner Afghan Landscape

In 2002, four years before establishing Turquoise Mountain Trust at the behest of HRH The Prince of Wales, Rory Stewart embarked on foot across Afghanistan. Starting in the western city of Herat, he walked over 800km east to the capital Kabul. As he walked into Ghor Province in central Afghanistan, he came upon the Minaret of Jam, believed to have been part of the city of Turquoise Mountain, or Firozkoh in Persian, the centre of the Ghorid dynasty. As a capital along the Silk Road, the city was a hub for trade and culture, but was destroyed by the Mongols in the thirteenth century and in many ways lost to history.

2018 matin kiln

Matin, a potter supported by Turquoise Mountain in Afghanistan

When Stewart visited in 2002, all that remained of this capital city of the Turquoise Mountain was the Minaret of Jam. Looters had damaged the lost city as they tried to uncover lost gold, and many of its artefacts had already been traded locally at markets in Kabul, Herat, and Tehran – sold as Persian or Seljuk pieces to conceal their Afghan origin. Internationally, items had been sold to specialist dealers and collectors as far afield as Japan, the UK, and the USA.

Turquoise Mountain Institute 2016 Credit Turquoise Mountain

Restored courtyard in Murad Khani, Kabul

As Stewart recalls in the 2004 book in which he documented his journey, The Places In Between: “Turquoise Mountain could have told us so much, not only about Afghanistan but also about the lost glory of the whole of pre-Mongol Asia."

Inspired by this story of a once great capital lost to time, Stewart decided to name his new charity, tasked with the preservation of Afghan culture, Turquoise Mountain. Ensuring that cultural traditions are never lost remains at the heart of what we do to this day.