Category Archives: Asia

Saidullah: The Famous Glassblower of Herat, Afghanistan

Saidullah passed away in December 2016. RIP.

Saifullah, the glass blower of HeratHerat is located in western Afghanistan, close to the border of Iran, on the strategic trade routes of Central Asia and the Middle east. Many invaders since the 18th century, the Soviet occupation in the 1980’s and several more recent civil war conflicts left a trail of extensive destruction in the once proud city. I visited the city from my posting in Islamabad, Pakistan where I was ambassador. By sheer coincidence I came across a dark basement workshop on the edge of the city, where two glassblowers were busy blowing blue glassware. Later I learned how precious  this glass was and how its and unique production technique went back to medieval times…

“From a long line of Glassmakers, stretching at least a thousand years, Master Glassmaker Nasrullah, 55, along with his brother, Saidullah, 60, his nephew Ghulam Sakhi, 35, his two sons, Zabiullah, 25, and Khairullah, 23 are the only five people in the whole of Afghanistan who know how to make the Herat glass, learning this ancient craft from their fathers, who learned it from their fathers for centuries. Haji Sultan Ahmad is the face of Herat Glass due to his shop’s location across from the Friday [Masjid-i-Jami] Mosque. Ghulam Sakhi works for Haji Sultan producing the items in his shop. These gentlemen supply glass to everyone else in Afghanistan.” (from a website selling Afghan art)

saidullah-smileFoto: Aref Karimi, 2011saidullah-sideFoto: Aref Karimi, 2011scan3bA heap of rejects were lying in the upstairs window. (own foto)

_dsc5510Some pieces from my small, modest collection.

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See also my post:

Afghanistan: visits from out of my post in Pakistan (1994-1997)

These photos were taken over the period 1994-97 during various trips through Afghanistan. Locations were Herat, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh and the countryside near Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan. I was ambassador to Pakistan at the time, and often reported on the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban were gradually taking over the war-ravaged country. Initially they were welcomed as liberators from the rule of greedy warlords. Gradually their medieval interpretation of the Koran began to stifle the country, and especially the capital Kabul- once considered the “Paris of the Near East”. Education for girls, music, photography, wedding parties etc… were but the first victims of their extremist, fundamentalist rule.