Walking above Istalif and the Eid festival

26 11 2009

View of the Shomali plain from the mountains of Istalif. Both these territories were the battleground in the battle for Kabul.

One unforeseen benefit of being out here is the absence of Christmas hype. Instead this weekend is Eid, a three day religious festival with all the family extravagance and sheep slaughtering but none of the musak. What makes this even more charming is that the mullah who decides which days Eid actually falls on can only work it out a week before, as it is linked to being able to see the moon. This means that everyone gets four days off instead. Each family buys a sheep for hundreds of dollars, dyes its wool purple and spends the week fattening it up. Every spare piece of land in Kabul is full with numerous flocks and men negotiating over the right price. This isn’t like buying the right kind of Christmas tree although the sheep can end up decorated before the fateful day of slaughter and feast.

Stopping for a break on the way up to the mountain tops above Istalif

The nightly frosts were broken by rain earlier this week so we have built a temporary roof over the whole site. If we had managed to get the floorboards in the scaffold and tarpaulin cover would have done very nicely as a marquee for an Eid party. Most of the lime work is finished and the carpenters are flat out on shaping poplar trees into beams and window lintels.

Typical house built into the slope above the pottery town of Istalif

I’ve added a few pictures from our walk in the mountains around Istalif last weekend. This was the front line between the Taliban and Northern Alliance and the HALO trust have been busy in the town and surroundings. The strategic hill tops were heavily mined and a Northern Alliance tank sits improbably on a ridge, the turret facing the direction they retreated when the Taliban captured the site, using their own shells against them.

The week's Afghaniman, Qari Aktar from Istalif. He has four sons and drives himself and the rest of the team of potters from Istalif to Kabul each day.

Afghaniman is Qari Aktar, one of the drivers and potters from Istalif. Although probably younger than me he has four children and a beautiful walnut grove in the valley.

Qari means that he can recite from any part of the Qur’an. During our return into town he broke into tuneful songs from his favourite singer. Although the language is pure the message is more inviting. “I like you. Can I be your friend, you can come to my house.”

 Duncan DJ