Exit Strategy

12 07 2010

Overlooking the largest lake at Band-e-Amir. The magnificent blue comes from the minerals in the 150m deep water.

As the heat builds up for another dusty-blue day in Kabul I pack my things for my return to the UK. I sit recovering from the late conclusion of the world cup (2am Kabul time) and I can’t yet tell whether the time has passed quickly or actually this has been the longest year of my life. Although the country is fascinating and often beautiful it is definitely the people who have made it an enjoyable experience. As opening a British newspaper any day will tell you, looking in from the outside can be a little disturbing but conversely it can be easy to become complacent about the places and the experiences. My visit to the Russian Cultural Centre last month and occasional encounters with possible minefields are the most extreme of this.

View of the green Bamian valley seen from the caves beside small Buddha. The niche of the larger Buddha can be seen through the window.

My trips out of Kabul and Afghanistan have been essential breaks from the challenges of working here. Just returning from the ex-Buddhas at Bamian and the cliff-bound blue lakes at Band-e-Amir 200 miles from the capital I can say that these places are two of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. More beautiful photos to come on this and Darulaman Palace in Kabul.

I had planned a trip down to Lashkar-Gar to visit some historic buildings and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) projects run by the British Army but plans change but the resulting extension to my Bamian trip made up for this.

I truss up my last two carpets that will join (by post) the 3 carpets already waiting for me at home. I take home calligraphy, jewellery and woodcarving; Three of the four TM crafts – I was kindly given a ceramic bowl for my birthday.

An inquisitive girl and her brother near the mosque of Amir at Band-e-Haibat

Afghaniman is a young girl pictured with her brother below one of the lakes at Band-e-Amir. The people in the Hazarajat region are some of the healthiest-looking I have met, mainly I think, because of a better-fed outdoor lifestyle that is hard to come by in Kabul. They talk proudly of peace and inter-tribal harmony in these green, crop-filled valleys.

Duncan DJ