Bala Hissar, Kabul

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For other uses, see Bala Hissar (disambiguation).
Upper Bala Hissar from west Kabul in 1879

Bala Hissar is an ancient fortress located in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. The estimated date of construction is around the 5th century A.D.[1] Bala Hissar sits to the south of the modern city centre at the tail end of the Kuh-e-Sherdarwaza Mountain. The Walls of Kabul, which are 20 feet (6.1 m) high and 12 feet (3.7 m) thick, start at the fortress and follow the mountain ridge in a sweeping curve down to the river. It sports a set of gates for access to the fortress. The Kōh-e Shēr Darwāzah (lion door) mountain is behind the fort.

Bala Hissar was originally divided into two parts: The lower fortress, containing the stables, barracks and three royal palaces, and the upper fortress (the actual fort with the name Bala Hissar) housing the armory and the dungeon of Kabul, known as the "Black Pit" (the Siyah Chal).


Shah Shuja, the last Durrani King, sitting at his court inside the Bala Hissar before it was destroyed by the British Army
Bala Hissar from an album of photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War

Bala Hissar was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan during the 19th century when Afghanistan came into conflict with the invading British during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838–1842) and Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880).[2]

The British envoy to Kabul, Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari was murdered inside the fort in September 1879 triggering a general uprising and the second phase of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. From 1839 onwards the British used it on and off as their barracks until the massacre of the British Mission by mutinous Afghan troops in 1879. [2]

It was damaged during the Second Anglo-Afghan War when the British Residency was burned down, then later when the armoury exploded. General Frederick Roberts had wanted to level the fortress completely, but in the end it was strengthened and fortified in the Spring of 1880, a few months before the British left Afghanistan.[2]

20th century[edit]

On August 5, 1979, the Bala Hissar uprising was organized by the Afghanistan Liberation Organization and some other Afghan groups against the pro-Russian regime, but it was suppressed and tens of people were arrested and executed by the regime.

Bala Hissar once again became the focal point of conflict between factions during the Afghan civil war era in the early 1990s between Massoud's and Hekmatyar's forces.

These days it is manned by the 55th Division of the Afghan National Army and one can see the remnants of tanks and heavy weapons positioned on the fortress remains overlooking Kabul.

Bala Hissar today[edit]

When looking at the outer wall of the fortress, it is possible to see layers of building materials from years of destruction and re-fortification. The tanks and other war wreckage from the last 30 years are strewn about the top of the hillside. Much of the hillside is built up on tunnels and underground storage. Evidence of trenches from previous trench warfare encircles the upper most level of the hilltop, which is adorned with a rickety, stalwart Afghan flag. Wild dogs roam all over the hillside and see company from the Afghan Army posted at the site.

Bala Hissar and cemetery below
Bala Hissar top view with war wreckage

Other locations by this name[edit]


  1. ^ The British Library, Upper Bala Hissar from west Kabul. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Caption for Panorama of the Bala Hissar WDL11486 Library of Congress

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°30′20″N 69°11′30″E / 34.50556°N 69.19167°E / 34.50556; 69.19167