First pictures from Kabul

Here are the first few pictures from Kabul. We visited the Citadel, Babul’s Gardens and Shrine and the infamous Kabul Museum. Quite a bit of effort has gone into restoring and maintaining the Gardens and Shrine where we found several very personable young students taking advantage of the shade for some pre-examination revision. Not an easy task when you are fasting. The girls, Fatima and Massouma were taking a four year economics degree course and were pleased to chat to us about life in Kabul.

Neither of the girls had travelled outside of the country but seemed to have a high degree of personal freedom, owning mobile phones on which they chatted and texted much a young people do anywhere else. They said that they would be allowed to chose their own husbands when the time came to marry and, interestingly, studied alongside the boys even though there were only three girls students in their year. As for contacting boys socially – well, that’s what mobile phones are for.

We had an opportunity to talk to a couple of boy students as well although their English was not nearly as polished. They were studying Archaeology (Respect!) and in their second year during which they learned about the parts of Central Asia outside of Afghanistan. They, like so many of their counterparts across the world, dreamed of Egypt and Mesopotamia and the Museums of Europe. It was more difficult to discuss the Buddhas of Bamiyan as they had not yet visited the site and the theoretical questions of whether or not a restoration project would be a good idea were beyond our level of communication.

These encounters were extremely “normalising” after some of the atrocious accounts of life in Afghanistan that have hit the bookstalls in recent years. I can hear a whole chorus of commentators saying “yes, but…”, however, I can only describe what I experienced which did at least have the virtue of being completely unrehearsed. A visit later in the day to the world famous Bookseller of Kabul, Shah Books near Chicken Street, showed that “tragic true life” accounts of life in this country have become quite a flourishing industry and, dare I say, even a fashion.

Brave attempts have been made to restore the Kabul Museum to something approaching the centre of excellence that it once was. The Gandharan (Greco-Buddhist) artifacts were exquisite (thanks Elisabeth for teaching me so much about this period) and our enthusiasm was stimulated by an exhibition of finds from a recently excavated site near Kabul. One that we may even have a chance to visit when we come back this way later in the trip.

All in all, a re-vitalising half day which put me back in the mood for adventure and discovery.

Categories: Central Asia

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