The Pleasures of Afghanistan

by Phyllis Weston

Afghanistan is a land that frequently delights the visitor, with its scenery, with the sound of a name, and with a glimpse of a past that is still alive.

It is a land that teeters on the edge of the primitive so that our hotel in the capital, the Kabul Intercontinental, an ultramodern one, was a welcome surprise. We were pleased with and even touched by the pieces of paper called smiling cheques given to us to be presented to deserving hotel employees who in return would receive "handsome" prizes for having served us cheerfully.

We had much to see in the country so that next morning we were off early by car with our excellent guide, Mr. Noory, to visit Bamyan, a nice word on the tongue.

In Bamyan one encounters remnants of Buddhism as Buddha visited the region in the Fourth Century BC In the tall cliffs which line the valley stand two enormous statues, 165 feet high and 105 feet respectively, carved by the Buddha's followers. We climbed part way up the smaller one for a rewarding view of mountains, ruins called the Silent City, forested areas and our hotel. The buildings of this hotel, the Yurt, looked like the round-roofed huts in which some Afghan workers still lived: hence its name. To our delight we stayed in a double yurt, the one part boasting amenities including a very satisfactory shower.

The mountains of the country are the Hindu Kush, towering sometimes to 25,000 feet. The passes rise steeply through narrow defiles so that, to and from Bamyan, we looked up to snow covered peaks and back down a long vista of lower slopes and tortuous roads. The Shibar and Salang Passes rise to some 10,000 feet.

Next stop was Pul-I-Khumri, another magical-sounding name. (Always pronounce "I" as "ee" and "U" as "oo".) Here we were to stay at the Textile Club which sounds posh. However, a little brook ran from our toilet right across the floor. When we objected, nobody understood. Everyone kept saying, "But it works! It works!" In the end Mr. Noory gave up his room which had no toilet and therefor no brook. We used facilities a little way along the hall from our room.

We ate in the garden where myriads of roses bloomed madly. One tall bush had cascades of white roses trailing nearly to the ground. We thought to turn over the tea cloth, but the other side had also been well used. The tea, however was boiling hot.

Copyright 1996 - P. Weston

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