Day 3, Wednesday March 16:

Babur Gardens

Today, more exploring of Kaul. This morning we headed to Babur Gardens, the largest green space in the city, an enclosed area of 11 hectares of landscaped gardens laid out in the 16th century by Mogul ruler, Babur, and containing his tomb. Left to ruins during the various wars, the gardens have been well restored by the Agha Khan Cultural Trust. The park is terraced up the hillside with a white marble water-course running down the centre. At the top of the hill is a large pavilion providing great views, an elegant white marble mosque and the simple tomb of Babur. On this sunny, warm day families and couples were enjoying the gardens. Tea shops, games areas and park benches were scattered around the park. The flowers and trees are not yet in bloom because the winter snows have just melted, but a few cherry blossoms had just started to flower giving a hint of how spectacular the park will look in a few weeks when everything is in full bloom. A place of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic city.

Babur Gardens mosque

Donna in Babur Gardens







Royal Palace of Daraluman

Built in the 1920’s displaying grand, European opulence, this massive palace is now an empty shell in ruins. I couldn’t help but be in awe as I imagined its former grandeur, and felt a tinge of annoyance, wishing the various militia’s could have left it alone for the peoples’ use. Martin said that a few years ago virtually every building in this area looked like this: pock-marked, half demolished. There’s been a lot of re-building in recent times. Near to the palace I saw another, quite serious, game of cricket. I really didn’t realise it had caught on here!

Palace of Dharulaman

Martin and Mustafa (out taxi driver) in front of Palace








Kabul Museum     

Considering the depth of problems and violence confronting this city, I am amazed and impressed that it even has a functioning museum! But it does, although it is a shadow of its former glory having been ransacked and looted over the years. And during the Taliban time, the Minister for Culture, ahem, ordered the smashing of all image-bearing items. So it’s quite remarkable that anything is there at all. And as you could imagine its collections would have been significant considering Afghanistan’s location at the crossroads of Asia, and therefore the intersection of various cultures. The museum is beautifully laid out with a large 15th century black marble basin in the entrance hall, known as the Budda’s begging bowl. There are many other Buddhist icons and statues, illustrating the significant part Buddhism played in the culture of Afghanistan. Another amazing exhibition was the wooden carvings and statues of the pagan people of Nuristan. These life-size wooden carvings of goddesses, ancestors, animals, and loving couples were quite African in style. Another exhibition displayed artefacts dug from excavations along the Silk Road, another precious collection. Outside the museum is a rusted old steam train, but it was never used because only a few kilometres of track were ever laid. Outside the museum is a sign: “A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive,” Indeed. Hats off to the staff and supporters of the museum for keeping the culture alive.

Martin and the Buddha's begging bowl

Wooden statue from Nuristan collection


Buddhist icon at Kabul Museum

Ancient Buddha head at Kabul museum


We headed back into town and as a deliberate contrast to yesterday we had lunch at a well known local eatery, the Herat Restaurant. In the company of local families and couples, we ordered yummy Afghan dishes and felt far more comfortable than the day before in the ‘secret, foreigner-only’ café. And the price tag was significantly different too, despite the meal being much more delicious!

Over dinner at the Guest House we met more aid workers and as I casually told them what we got up to today one of them opened his mouth wide in shock. “you did what? You walked the streets??”

“Well sometimes we hailed a taxi,” I replied. At this point he almost lost his mouthful of food as he spluttered: “you hailed a taxi? Just like that?” Oh my you guys are courageous, that’s amazing, how was it out there?”

I told him it was wonderful because out there were people, real human beings happy to talk to us. He was envious that he could not do the same, and emphasised that would not certainly be able to use a camera (he is Indian and could be mistaken as Afghani and that would be dangerous). He asked if he could have some of our photos. So tonight I felt more sympathy for the locked-up aid workers than cynicism. I know many are resisting the bubble, trying to find simple, low-key accommodation and work alongside the locals. More power to them – they are the courageous ones, working here day-in day-out. 

We lost power for most of the afternoon and evening, then the hum of generators started at the big hotels. Exhausted and sunburnt again tonight, it’s much warmer here than I expected, the Spring has arrived with haste. Would love to take time to write an overall reflection, but am waiting for more experiences and impressions.  Most of the delegation arrives tomorrow; it will be great to connect with them.          



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Andrew McAlister
    Mar 23, 2011 @ 16:47:24

    Thanks Donna…i really appreciate the sights and sounds you told us about here. So much more than just the daily war news!

    I hope you and Martin are safe and well…

    With love


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