Kandahar prayer beads become all the rage

KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Prayer beads made of Shah Maqsood precious stone in southern Kandahar province have found their way to the international market.

Deposits of Shah Maqsood stone are found in the mountains of Khakrez district. Beads made of these riches are sold for high prices in local and international markets.

The beads are handmade and the industry has a long history in Kandahar. The industry has developed with the passage of time and has turned into a profitable business.

The beads are made at about 20 places in Kandahar City, the provincial capital, employing dozens of workers.

Ustad Mohammad Qasim, who owns one such beads manufacturing shop in the city, told Pajhwok Afghan News he had been associated with making beads from stones for the last 50 years.

About a dozen people worked in his shop, said the elderly man, who inherited the art from his father.

“My father and other family members would make beads from stones. Our family was well-known for the experience in making beautiful beads.”

Ustad Qasim said stones for making beads were brought from the mountains in Khakrez district and the stones, particularly Shah Maqsood stone, were precious and famous.

He said finding the precious stones was not an easy job. Residents near the mountains endured hardships extracting the stones before bringing them to Kandahar City for sale, he said.

He said Shah Maqsood stones were found in different colours and famous among them were yellow, red and green, but blue Shah Maqsood stones were rare and hardly found.

Ustad Qasim said in the past when electricity was not available, making beads was a tough job, which had relatively become easy after electricity arrival.

“The process of making beads goes through six phases. First breaking stones then cutting them into the size of beads before grilling them. Then the beads are sifted. The fifth phase is carving and the final phase is wire wrapping.”

Machines used to drill and sift beads were locally made, said Qasim, who called beads making a careful and hardworking job.

He said in the past when most work would have been performed with hands, a single set of prayer-beads would take a week to 10 days.

Another maker Ustad Inayatullah said he had 30 years of experience in the field. He told Pajhwok beads made of Shah Maqsood stones were eagerly bought in various provinces and abroad.

He said beads made of the stone were exported to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and other countries, where they were famous and sold for high prices.

He said the prices of beads made from Shah Maqsood stone ranged from 1000 afghanis to 100,000 and 150,000 afghanis.

In the past, he said, mostly elderly people would buy beads, but now the youth were increasingly use beads as fashion.

A resident of the Kabul Gate area, Abdul Wasi Hasyal, said he had been counting beads for the past many years and always used expensive ones.

He said Shah Maqsood stones were found in western parts of Khakrez districts near Shah Agha (Shah Maqsood) Shrine.

He said the unique nature of Shah Maqsood stone beads was that they gained more shine with time and use.

Information and Culture Department official Aziz Ahmad Aziz said beads were also made of other stones, but the Shah Maqsood stone had a special value.

He said handmade beads were an essential part of Kandahari handicrafts and had a long history spanning dozens of years.

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