When Amir (King) Abdul Rahman Khan assumed the throne in 1880, he decided to build a majestic, fortified castle to be called Arg-e-Shahi (Citadel of the King) to serve as the headquarters and the home of the monarchy in Afghanistan. He allocated approximately 83 acres of lush land in the north-eastern part of Kabul for this purpose, and began to lay the foundation of the existing Arg.
The castle was surrounded by ramparts equipped with large timbers and other defensive equipment. A trench was also dug around the castle, which was always filled with water. At each of the four corners of the wide wall enclosing the compound, beautiful pyramid towers with cannon battlements were built. Amir Abdul also constructed a magnificent building, today known as Salaam Khana, just beyond the eastern gate of the Arg to meet with visitors.
A number of buildings were constructed within the compound, including offices for the King, residences for the King and his family, the national treasury, a large arms depot, a jail, and barracks for the army. From that time, the Arg has served as the base for the monarchy in Afghanistan, and as the Royal and Presidential Palace for all of the Kings and Presidents of Afghanistan, with the single exception of President Hafizullah Amin. Over time, naturally, the Arg has undergone modifications and revitalization under different rulers.
One of the most impressive buildings in the Arg is the Dilkoshah Palace, located on the northwestern side of the Arg and in the middle of the Arg’s rich gardens. All of the Kings of Afghanistan, from Amir Habibullah Khan onward, used this Palace as their workplace – if not their residence. The Dilokshah Palace was where foreign heads of state and other guests were received, and where many of the formal royal ceremonies were conducted. The interior of the Palace was richly decorated with carpets, artwork and materials from across Afghanistan.
Offices inside the Arg
The Arg presently consists of:
Gul Khana which serves as the offices for President Hamid Karzai and the President's Protocol Office;
The Offices of the President's Chief of Staff;
The National Security Advisor's building; and
The Offices of the Spokesperson to the President
In addition, there are various buildings used for receiving delegations or hosting large meetings. The Afghan National Army and various Afghan security institutions also have offices within the Arg.