Our Story

Our story begins with the remarkable journey of Mr. Radhe Shyam Saraf – a pioneer in the fields of trade, tourism, and social welfare.

The inception of the Saraf Foundation is rooted in the history of his family, beginning in 1947, when Mr. Radhe Shyam Saraf moved to Kalimpong for work, as trade routes to Tibet opened up.

In 1950, he embarked on his own business there, slowly expanding to India and Tibet – wherein he grasped the local language fluently, and took great initiative to learn about their culture and ways of life, thus building strong relations with Tibetan Rinpoches and Lamas. Mr. Radhe Shyam Saraf remained committed to these local communities – in Nepal and Tibet – and their histories throughout his life. Over time, his engagement took the form of long-lasting outreach and social welfare projects.

In 1963, after the Tibetan border was closed, the Saraf family migrated to Kathmandu; Mr. Radhe Shyam Saraf then expanded his business profile into the hospitality sector. Thus, the family began their foray into becoming stalwarts in the tourism industry – as soon as the Yak and Yeti Hotel opened in 1977. Subsequently, the Saraf family built different structures around the area, imbibing a deep sense of responsibility in their approach – one focused on a shared growth, with the ultimate goal to uplift the country where Mr Radhe Shyam Saraf lived for the rest of his life. Under his aegis, in 2016, Namita and Arun Saraf established the Saraf Foundation.



Our story begins with the acquisition of two iconic wonders of the Kathmandu Valley – Lal Durbar and Taragaon Hotel – originally built in 1890 and 1972. Both these historic structures required repair, and the Saraf family began their research on how to preserve and actively revive these unique spaces.


Here a spirited conversation between Arun Saraf, Namita Saraf, Niels Gutschow, and Eric Theofiled, at the Yak and Yeti Bar, quickly morphs into a detailed restoration project. Their dialogue sparked a vision to restore and rediscover the old Taragaon Hostel, and transform it into a knowledge centre for intellectuals across the globe.


With Gutschow’s expertise, plans took shape to transform the Taragaon Hostel into a documentation centre on Nepal, one that would display the works of architects, anthropologists, artists, cartographers, engineers, photographers, planners, researchers, andadvisors to the government. In this context, books and archival materials from different scholars – including Gutschow – were acquired for the collection. Both Gutschow and Thomas Schrom agreed to be advisors for this project.


Natasha Mittal Saraf spearheaded this renovation project till its completion. Carl Pruscha, the architect who designed Taragaon back in 1972, was invited to survey the old buildings. Pruscha subsequently joined this project as an advisor whilst also designing the new café building for the forthcoming space.


After a meticulous and lengthy phase of research, concrete site work begins. The idea to formalize these projects under ‘The Saraf Foundation’ was further developed and a legal structure was crystallized.


Significant progress on the reconstruction is achieved – as the gallery, new café, event hall, and parking space is completed. The newly formed Taragaon Museum is inaugurated with a soft opening on 13 December, followed by Saraf Foundation’s first official publication: Mapping the Kathmandu Valley by Niels Gutschow.


Taragaon Museum opens doors to the public on 2 April with an exhibition curated by Neils Gutschow and Thomas Schrom, comprised 90 works by 23 scholars and contributors. The first Taragaon Lecture Series is also launched by Neils Gutschow.


The second Taragaon Lecture series – Bungamati 1968 – is hosted by Danish Architects Jørgen Rahbek Thomsen & Jens Wærum.

In collaboration with the German Embassy, we began planning an exhibition with Nepali and German artists.

In April, we witnessed a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude, obliterating lives, infrastructure, and our landscape. Addressing this natural disaster, we collaborated with Shigeru Ban, a Japanese architect and launched Nepal House Project – to combat post- earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction concerns. With this project, a successful prototype of resilient housing design was completed.


The Saraf Foundation is officially registered as a non-profit organization in Nepal.

The Nepal Architecture Archive (NAA) launches this year, along with the Foundation Charter and an archival space designed by Neils Gutschow. NAA continues to acquire documents, photographs, and research on Nepal and the Himalayan landscape from scholars across the world.


We began the process to digitize all the NAA archives to render them accessible for wider audiences. With the expertise of Eka Archiving Services, we catalogued over 2000 documents. All our books were then managed by the Koha library system, with the support of Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya and National Library.

Sagarmatha Next is established – a research space, conceptualised by our Director, Varun Saraf. This is the first project of the Himalayan Museum and Sustainable Park, situated in Syangboche, and aims to promote sustainable tourism.


In partnership with Heidelberg University and the Nepal Heritage Documentation Project (NHDP), we were awarded the Gerda Henkel Stiftung grant to survey the Magar village in western Nepal.

In Taragaon, over 500 books and reference materials were catalogued and added to the Koha library system.


Our digitized library is now added into the websites of Taragaon Museum and the Saraf Foundation.


With a visual rebranding exercise, we launched our new online presence in October. Taragaon Museum was rediscovered and launched as Taragaon Next – a dynamic cultural center with galleries, art spaces, a library, a museum, and archival collections open to all scholars. And in parallel, this year also witnessed the launch of the Sagarmatha Next center.

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