Writers and farmers

4 05 2010

Istalifi Kid

We have many visitors often both friends and professionals with an interest in what we do. The author William Dalrymple fits into this category as a writer researching his latest book. As I write he is in one of the most dangerous areas which saw in 1842 the final demise of thousands of British soldiers at Gandamak, also the name of the bar/restaurant run by an ex-BBC journalist. I am particularly interested in this period of Afghanistan. As part of my more regional reading I am up to late 1800s in a book on Afghan history. Men such as Roberts, Stewart, Abdul Rahman and Dos Mohammad had key impacts on the development, and deterioration of the country.

Istalif Valley as green as it gets in early summer. Once the rains stop only the snow melt will keep the fields and trees from drying out.

Security is calm although you have to realise that any day it could change. Karzai’s pressure on internationals has given the police an excuse to be more bothersome, it’s hard to go through a checkpoint without being stopped. They will use any chance to hold you back and so we all now carry passports as it’s the one thing they can’t argue with. Copies of work permits, company ID and registration cards are also in the wallet to cover all issues.

Farmers who cultivate the steep rugged hills above the village of Istalif

With the weather opening up we’ve had more chance to get out of Kabul. This time back to Istalif. With rain keeping the valleys green and some of the trees still in flower this is perhaps the best time of year to see the hills.

These farmers took time from their work on the steep slopes to talk over a few cups of tea. They were quite surprised that I had made any attempt to learn Dari, but I have a long way to go before I can describe more than my jib and my country.

Terraces stepping up the hillside

The hills they cultivate are barren dust and rock for much of the year. They build channels to carry the water from far up-stream to the thin terraced fields above their houses.

Having spent a few hours with the farmers I then managed to injure myself climbing down a terrace. They were most hospitable and took care to check that my (own careless) misfortune wouldn’t prevent me from going back.  And so they take the place of this week’s Afghaniman.

Duncan DJ