The Galleria is a beautifully designed shopping center where all all gift ideas and home needs are under one roof. It has a beautiful garden, polite and helpful staff and many things a usual tourist needs such as arts, crafts, jewelry, ceramics, etc. they claim that the Galleria is the largest private gallery in Afghanistan which maybe true. their quality of art is the best I have seen in Kabul.
they also offer a lot of other services like Dari & Pashtu classes, free delivery to your home and office, help you with your shipping needs and many other things. I found them very useful for a lot of things and friends agree.
Moreover they also have a Japanese Restaurant and offer traditional Afghan ice cream and fresh juices. They also offer free internet and are open 24/7 which I found to be very unusual. the place has security guards but one does not feel like it is a war zone.
When working in Kabul, I usually held many of my meetings in there. The handsome and polite waiter Hashmat (sp?) always knew what we wanted. My work takes me to Kabul many times a year and every time I make it a point to go there.
It is a bit difficult to find the galleria as it is inside a small street. there are no signs except a small painted number 253 and the name Galleria. their big sign is their orange doors. but once you are inside, it is an unexpected delight. btw, they also have shisha/hooka.
What to buy: Afghanistan offers a few things that are worth getting as they would be expensive elsewhere:
1. precious stones. the largest deposits of emeralds are in Afghanistan. you have to know a good jeweler or go some place reputable. I got some semi precious stones from the Galleria and they were appraised 4 time more in the US.
2. carpets. it is the largest single industry in Afghanistan traditionally - outside construction sector. A $500 carpet bought from Afghanistan is worth $1200 in the US. Much like jewelry you need to know the person or go some place reputable. There are three carpet sellers who you could trust: a. The Galleria store, b. Nomad rugs - but be careful they charge a lot. make sure you bargain 40% less then their price from experience. c. local afghan markets but take someone with you.
3. artwork. what you want to take with you, aside from what you think is nice, get calligraphy, arabesque/vegetals and miniatures. they are well priced and only Galleria has the best ones. artwork at Turquoise Mountain is usually student work and over priced.
What to pay: It really depends where you go. usually prices are not fixed so you need to bargain. I only found a couple of places that have price tags and even there you can bargain. If you do all your shopping in once place you can get bigger discount. but make sure you say it up front that you will do a lot of shopping in this place and expect a good discount. the Galleria is the best place for this. although their prices are fixed, they are an art collective so whole money goes in one place and then distributed. this way, you can have more bargaining chip. I once bought $2000 worth of items and got $500 artwork for free.
Turquoise Mountain intends to move to another location. As of this writing (31 March 2010), they are still in Kart-e-Parwan.
The gate is beautiful if you pay attention to the woodcraft. You have to register before getting inside. The shop is at the entrance - you'll find jewelries designed by a well-trained Afghan lady (so I heard). The precious and semi-precious stones are not polished or cut (they are natural). You will be impressed as you see silk scarves and woodcrafts and calligraphy works. You can ask for made-to-order furniture and before you shrug your shoulders, I urge you to check out their Website.
I have seen two of their studios where their trainees do their craft and quite impressive. If you have low budget, you can go for their bags and small stuffs.
What to buy: Amazing talents of Afghans can be seen on their artworks (woods, calligraphy, jewelries).
What to pay: Bring at least 3-digit figure with you.
Istalif Gallery has two shops in Chicken Street. They are frequented by diplomats and foreigners who keep coming back to Afghanistan. If you are a serious buyer (not just fond of looking for cheap ones but for real good products), you will be led upstairs where you will be shown a lot of things you'd wonder how they all fit in a small area. Yes, my jaws almost dropped.
What to buy: Like in any shop in Kabul, Istalif Gallery has a wide selection of Afghan carpets. It will lure you to buy old or new wooden furniture. Engravings and carvings will impress you of Afghans' attention to details. I did not ask for jewelries but we bought wooden jewelry boxes and a very beautiful mirror holder.
What to pay: Affordable. If you have money between US$ 40 and US$ 300, you can find something you really like here. If you have more, then for sure, it will be a good investment. Just think how much the furniture will cost outside Afghanistan before you start bargaining.
The place is called Galleria. The shops are small but have a nice collection of Afghan arts, carpets, clothings and jewelries. What more, one can have Japanese meals for lunch or takeaways. Inside you will find:
Bentoya - Japanese restaurant
Chelcherogh - Art gallery and jewelry
Boumi - home decorations
Nomad - fine rugs
Silk Road - Bamyan handicrafts
Zarif Design - Fine Clothes
Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. everyday
What to buy: Calligraphy, carpets, fine Afghan ladies blouses and jackets, silk scarves, ladies jewelries and bags, men's scarves and ties, handicrafts (though I suspect they're made in Pakistan) and some bloused bought from India.
What to pay: Well, when you pay, you've gotta think of the proceeds of the sales. They help Afghan artisans. Others will say goods are expensive but the quality is quite alright.
What to buy:
Afghanistan has an abundance of Gemstone and Jewelry merchants. You can find many good deals here. The only extreme bargains come in the form of Saphires and Rubys, they are native to this land.
What to pay: Expect to pay about $40 per caret for high quality Saphires, and $70 per caret for decent Rubys.
Chicken street is the place to head for if souvenirs is what you are looking for.
What to buy: Curio shops stocking postcards, boxes made of the famous Afghan blue stone, old musical instruments, beautiful Afghan carpets, and daggers!
I was looking for carpets, and was taken to a different market by Mahajir, our guide. much more variety, much cheaper, and more beautiful. The designs, colours, and the material- wool, silk and sometimes a mix- were amazing- i bought two.
The grocery stores stock every snack that you can concieve of- its quite a srange sight at first... i was told that much of it comes from the numerous aid agencies, troops, etc.
Fruit juice from Uzbekistan, jam from Pakistan, bottled water from Italy, cheese from Austria... its all there.
What to pay: Bieng the main `tourist' market, Chicken street can be relatively expensive.
bargaining is part of the deal usually.
Expect to be quoted inflated prices for a start, especially if you are not with a local.
carpets- a good, large sized carpet costs from $300 upwards. the smaller ones can come for about $70 a piece.
This shop is located in the main tourist shopping area of Kabul, Chicken Street. It has an enormous of variety of carpets, klims and other woven items for sale.
I was very impressed with the selections.
What to buy: I bought a delighfully colorful rug, made a few years ago, coming out of Ghor Province.
As you know, if you have seen my home page, that I work in the Hazarajat region (Central Highlands) of Afghanistan in Bamiyan and I fully appreciate items from that area.
Quality was high and craftmanship very intricate.
Haji M. Ishaq Khan and Slaeh M. Khan are the owners. The also have a shop in Quetta, Pakistan: Shop No. 57, Gul Market, Angle Road, Quetta. Ph: +92 835846 or Mobile: +92 0 300 381-5203
What to pay: $100 for an excellent piece - but carpet made of silk can cost up to $2000. Its up to you... so many choices and styles, its hard to chose.
If you're staying anywhere nice (besides teh Intercontinental), like the Mustafa Hotel or one of the many guesthouses, you're likely right next to 'Chicken Street', where you'll find lots of tourist shops with carpets, clothes, antiques. Also are a couple nice bookshops aslo with big selection of postcards (though I got my best Afghanistan postcards in Peshawar, Pakistan). That Chicken Street runs 4-5 blocks and was a surprise to me.
Unfortunately, a few kids have figured out this is the tourist hangout too, and you might be annoyed with them trying to sell you things after the 10th 'no thanks'.
What to buy: Tourist junk
Everything is possible to find in this main bazaar. The prices are the best in town. Foreign women should not go alone.
What to buy: Clothes, shoes, carpets, vests (vaskat), turbans (lungi), wool blankets, gold and so on.
What to pay: Everything is cheap so bargain hard and don't give up. They will try to charge all foreigners double prices.
Nearly every sales booth at the bazaar I attended had some weapons to sell. I really don't know whether they were functional or not.
No Background check or waiting period required.