Security, watermelon and the National Museum

30 07 2009
Goats being hearded through Kabul rush hour

Goats being hearded through Kabul rush hour

Not surprisingly traffic in Kabul is erratic and one of the biggest dangers we face. Although I’ve not seen any injuries serious accidents are a common sight. Cars are mostly second hand from neighbouring countries, both right and left hand drive.  The police stop and search cars on impulse, often looking for a reason to keep you hoping that you’ll bribe them. They are armed yet young so you keep calm and let the driver do the talking. Apparently the regular searches in Kabul have uncovered large quantities of guns and drugs.
On the other hand I’ve had two or three encounters with heavy security in the last week or so.

Pottery student working in the sun outside the ceramics school
Pottery student working in the sun outside the ceramics school

The last, a Turquoise Mountain party with most of Kabul’s ambassadors (including all five american ones) was here in the fort. The US special forces guys couldn’t believe such tranquility existed in Kabul and took it in turns to go and relax under the pergola for their “10 minutes of holiday”. 30 armoured cars lined up outside with double that number of security personel is a stark demonstration of another state of mind that exists in this troubled city. TM have started to clamp down on our own security. I think I will go to Istanbul for a week during the elections. It will be, as the Chinese say ‘interesting times’ here but not much fun corralled in the fort.

Afghan of the Week - Nural Gar, Head Mason

Afghan of the Week - Nural Gar, Head Mason. From Kabul his tribe is Tajik and he smokes a lot of hashish. Age:41

Building – In contrast to last week’s positive progress on site I stopped the masons working for the day on Monday. Patches of poor quality stonework had started to appear. I put the site to work tanking the foundations and digging lime pits instead. It is time to get a site engineer. I would involve a junior architect but their single-track training and inflated egos make them difficult to work with let alone mentor. Also they refuse to wear site boots, I think because they find it demeaning. I am still looking for size 11 safety boots, my walking boots have to do for now as it is still far too hot for my steel toe-capped wellies. There is a trainee site engineer who may work out; Jawad from Ghazni. Enthusiastic, bright and straight out of college he will need to improve his English to make my life any easier as I take on some of TM’s more ambitious plans for Murad Khane. Nural Hak is doing his best to improve my Dari as the teacher shows no sign of coming back from the States. Afghan of the week is my head mason, Nural Gar also know as Okhgarseb, a deferential term as a relation of a religious leader called Gar. He’s going to be crucial when it comes to building the stone stairs and windows. We’ve made a 1:1 model of the window out of mud and straw which goes a long way to understanding the stonework involved.
11 am watermelon break from the heat and stonework

11 am watermelon break from the heat and stonework

This week’s on-site snack is water melon, not as exotic as fresh almonds but ideal mid morning as the heat starts to make work tough. I had a photo of lunch with all the MK team but my characterful camera has walked so another time. During lunch today there was the sound of a shot probably less than 50 metres away although difficult to tell exactly between the between courtyards. No one really noticed although we all recalled it afterwards.

The shell of the National Museum outside Kabul in 2003 before recent repair

The shell of the National Museum outside Kabul in 2003 before recent repair

A small group of us went to the National Museum to the south of the city near the palaces at Darulaman to see the handfull of items on display. Until the Taleban ravages of 2001 this held a truly significant body of artefacts from this part of the world. What the Teleban didn’t steal or destroyed subsequently ended up on the Blackmarket and is probably to found in an antiques shop or collection a few miles from wherever you are reading this. The remaining 10% is now stored in secret caches across Kabul waiting until the ANA and ISAF forces have solved the security situation in Afghanistan. They may well be clearing a thick layer of dust by the time it is put back on public display.

Duncan DJ

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