Sunday, 12 February 2012

A Few years ago I heard an interview with a French historian Nancy Dupree a scholar living in Afghanistan for years.

Nancy Dupree ;


Heading of interview
A conversation with the veteran scholar of Afghanistan's history, art and archaeology. Over almost 50 years, Nancy Hatch Dupreee has witnessed the devastation of the country's living history, culture and people, and today she is trying to preserve an archive of important documents about Afghanistan.

The attitude of the woman and her profound love of the country could be felt over the air waves.  Since visiting Kabul, Bamian, Herat, the Kyber Pass, back in '78 I long to return.  However each time there is a war going on and I hesitate.

Here are a few pictures from my trip long ago in the historic 'Golden Era" or That amazing country when the King reigned and there was peace.  Just months after I was there the communist party took over the government and the King went into exile and then there was the period of Russian occupation and the rise of the Mujaheddin who gave rise to the seeds of the Talibs (students) trained in Pakistan who became rulers in their own right.

Of course the Taliban is a full blown movement now backed by Pakistan and others.

On my trip there many years ago I made friends with some young boys my age who were leather makers in Kabul and they became my hosts.  Daily I would sit in their shop and drink tea and chat and they educated me on everything from bushkashi (a riding sport which uses a goat carcass as a ball) customs, eating habits, Muslim relationships with girls to soccer and sport, all the things that an 18 year old is interested in.

The Bamian Buddha statue from a distance 
I also took a bus trip to Bamian where the sacred Buddha statue and the old ruins of an ancient city lay at either end of the little valley.  The people were most hospitable and I camped out in the room of the local cafe on a carpet huddled beside the fire most nights as it was rather chilly.  By day I walked the dusty tracks around the town shaded by poplars with its mud brick buildings which would not have changed in theri basic shape since the time of the Buddhas 2000 years before.  It was a poor town occupied by descendants of the Shia minority called Hazara's.  These people are marginalized due to the fact that they were descendants of Genghis Khan who gave no quarter when he invaded the country.  As we can see here revenge payback and an eye for an eye are still alive and well here.  This is tribal mentality.

From above the Buddha statue looking down on Bamian

The Buddha mountain from the down the valley

Ruins of the Red city at the other end of the valley on the way to the natural springs

Hazara Women toiling in the fields

From above the Buddha looking down

Red city archaeology site 

Bamian is a fertile valley that has not changed for centuries

Fortified compounds are the tratditional structures as in the Middle East 

Red City outside Bamian village

On the last week of the trip I stayed in Herat which is very close to Iran with its famous Blue Mosque known throughout the Arab world for its beauty for centuries.  I strolled in the mosque and spent some hours there bathing in its serenity.  Thus was the openness and acceptance of the people of Herat at this time and really most of the Muslim world in which I had visited then ie Indoneseia and Malaysia.

In Herat I stayed at a little hotel which had young people weaving carpets in the time honored tradition. These skills were passed on to family members and many families are too poor to send children to school full time.

Famous Blue Mosque 

Minarets Herat

Minarets by night with the sound of the meuzzin

Kyber Pass

The journey from Peshawar via Landi Kotal to the Kyber pass was one I will never forget as tribal Pashtun gun slinging tribals got on and off the bus with their ancient weapons slung.  They were fierce warriors with beards and headress but one could feel that also they were disciplined and true to their honor code the Pashtunwali. AT Landi Kotal we stopped for tea and were able to visit the many gun shops stacked with all types of weaponry.

Toga horse taxi at Kyber pass

Walking across the border

Kyber Pass Afghan side

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