EURASIA / CENTRAL ASIA
AFGHAN CITIES & REGIONS, ETHNICITIES & RELIGIONS,
FOLK TRADITIONS, CONTEMPORARY ARTS, GENERAL INFO
AFGHAN HISTORY & CULTURE:
PREHISTORIC, PRE-ISLAMIC, & ISLAMIC UP TO THE 18th CENTURY
AFGHAN HISTORY & CULTURE:
18th CENTURY AND BEYOND
AFGHANISTAN: PRE- & POST-9/11
Related Myth*ing Links Pages:
New York City, 11 September 2001: Gaelic Blessing
New York City, 11 September 2001: Many Voices
Letter from an Afghan-American
Letter from a Star Wars Expert: What Can We Do About Terrorism?
The Crone Papers: Notes on the Mideast
Wars, Weapons, and Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse
10 & 12 March 2010:
Like millions around the world, I am distressed by the continuing death toll of civilians caused by military thinking in the midst of appalling corruption on all sides. All sides. The deaths of soldiers, regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity, keep mounting without making any substantive changes for the better. I started this first page in the immediate wake of 9/11 with a contemporary war-focus. After nearly a decade, it is time to shift from war-focus to people-focus -- their land, history, cultures, and arts. Therefore, the page's original opening sections on 9/11 as well as the USA's botched military involvement dating back to Soviet control of Afghanistan, will now be found on a new 4th page, Afghanistan: Pre- & Post-9/11. This first page will retain what used to be its 2nd half on culture and general history; in order to expand more in-depth historical entries on page 2, some of its original cultural sections will now be found here as well. /// As of 24 March 2010, there is now also a page 3 -- it covers the 18th century and beyond, including the Afghan gold and ivory art exhibition. [Unless noted, all links and my annotations are from 2001.]
CITIES AND REGIONS
(& CURRENT) SIGNIFICANCE
The next series of brief pages looks at various significant locales in Afghanistan. This one looks at Herat (see photo above):Herat, northwestern Afghanistan, capital of Herat Province, on the Harirud river. Herat is perhaps the most beautiful of Afghanistan's ancient cities. It has been a settlement for over 2,500 years and has been fought over by successive rulers from Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. to Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1749. In the 7th century AD the city was captured by Muslims....
This is another page on Herat with three well-written and informative little subdivisions: Gardens of Herat, Grapes of Herat, and Pai Hesar. What especially strikes me is the brief page on the region's grapes:http://web.archive.org/web/20080307173242/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/qandahar.html: [Updated 3/31/10]There are many stories about the grapes of Herat. Some say the Aryans - the original inhibitors who moved in the region around 2000 BC - noticed the benefits of grapes in the Herat valley. Whether these stories are true or false, one thing is certain: the best gift of nature to the beautiful Herat valley is undoubtedly the grapes....The page concludes with an utterly romantic, evocative list of some common varieties of grapes available in the Herat Valley. Here are two of them:
... The way the grape vines are cultivated in Herat is unique by itself, and this method is not used anywhere else in the world. Instead of trimming the plant to a small size in a plain land which is common anywhere in Afghanistan as well as other countries, in Herat the plant is allowed to grow as long as five to ten meters on a slope. The reason is due to the wind and other climatic and environmental factors unique to the Herat valley. Commercially, they may not be so lucrative; since they are so delicate, the grapes get spoiled in less than 48 hours. However, the taste and aroma are different from the best varieties of grapes from anywhere else in Afghanistan....... Fakhri ghalamak are best in the autumn, very beautiful and have the aroma of cool white cognac, yellow in color with semi elongated grains.Do I want to know what's happening to these vineyards and to the people who once tended them as we bomb this region? Yes. Would I drink these unusual wines if we were nurturing them and the rest of Afghanistan's economy instead of bombing in the name of "infinite justice"? Yes. Would others do the same? I hope so.
Fakhri posht-e gul are very beautiful in appearance, colored yellow with shades of lilac pink, with semi elongated grains, very tasteful and resistant to cold weather....
This looks at the city of Kandahar, the target of so much recent bombing --http://web.archive.org/web/20080403213422/www.afghan-network.net/Culture/bamian.html: [Updated 3/31/10 -- it's for 2008 -- see below under Jalalabad]...a market for sheep, wool, cotton, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco.... Woolen cloth, felt, and silk are manufactured. The surrounding irrigated region produces fine fruits, especially grapes, and the city has plants for canning, drying, and packing fruit. Kandahar was founded by Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.). India and Persia long fought over the city, which was strategically located on the trade routes of central Asia. It was conquered by Arabs in the 7th century and by the Turkic Ghaznavids in the 10th cent....
The Bamian valley is where the famous Buddhist sculptures were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001. This page looks briefly at the region prior to the destruction (it includes photos and links to further information):http://web.archive.org/web/20080313094435/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/ghazni.html: [Updated 3/31/10]The Bamian valley...showing the ancient caves of the Kushan Dynasty...lies northwest of Kabul, the nation's capital...at an elevation of 2,590 meters....
Bamian is first mentioned in 5th Century A.D. Chinese sources and was visited by the Chinese travelers Fa-hsien around 400 A.D. and Hsüan-tsang in 630 A.D.; it was by that time a centre of commerce and of the Buddhist religion. Two great figures of Buddha there date from this period....
Ghazni is another very old Afghan city, which --http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/jalalabad.html: [Updated 3/31/10, yet unable to access page -- I suspect the asterisk in the URL indicates that this & a few others have been pulled; those w/o the "*" work just fine. OK, I just deleted their "*" and got this page from 2008. If you want the 2001 page, you'll have to wait until the other link provides it. Ditto for Bamian above. For other pages, I usually select the latest 2008 date anyway, but at least the earlier ones are still available]:...lies beside the Ghazni River on a high plateau at an elevation of 2,225 meter. Afghanistan's only remaining walled town, it is dominated by a 45 metre high citadel built in the 13th century. Around the nearby village of Rowzeh-e Sultan, on the old road to Kabul, 130 km northeast), are the ruins of ancient Ghazna, including two 43-metre towers and the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazna (971-1030), the most powerful emir (or sultan) of the Ghaznavid dynasty....
...Located on the Kabul-Kandahar trade route, Ghazni is a market for sheep, wool, camel hair cloth, corn, and fruit. The famed Afghan sheepskin coats are made in the city. The city, named Ghazna in ancient times, was flourishing by the 7th cent. but reached its peak...under the Turkish Ghaznavid dynasty....
This page looks at Jalalabad, another recent bombing target, which is --http://web.archive.org/web/20080309145626/www.afghan-network.net/Culture/kabul.html: [Updated 3/31/10]...in eastern Afghanistan, near the Khyber Pass. The city dominates the entrances to the Laghman and Kunar valleys and is a leading trading center with India and Pakistan. Oranges, rice, and sugarcane grow in the fertile surrounding area, and the city has cane-processing and sugar-refining as well as papermaking industries. Jalalabad is a military center and a winter resort. Its summer like weather all year round attracts many visitors. Present-day Jalalabad was the major city of the ancient Greco-Buddhist center of Gandhara....(Note: for a page exploring Greco-Buddhist "Gandhara art," here's a good introductory one: http://web.archive.org/web/20011012064635/www.afghan-network.net/Culture/gandhara.html. Updated 3/31/10)
Afghanistan's current capital is the heavily bombed Kabul --http://web.archive.org/web/20080317115526/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/khyber.html: [Updated 3/31/10]...in east central Afghanistan.... Kabul is on the Kabul River, situated at an elevation of about 1800 m (about 5900 ft) making it one of the highest capital cities in the World.... [I]t has long been of strategic importance because of its proximity to the Khyber Pass, an important pass in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Manufactures of the city include textiles, processed food, chemicals, and wood products. Tajiks are the predominant population group of Kabul, and Pashtuns are an important minority....
...An ancient community, Kabul rose to prominence in 1504, when it was made the capital of the Moghul Empire by the conqueror Babur. Delhi replaced it as the imperial capital in 1526, but Kabul remained an important Moghul center until it was captured, in 1738, by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah. In 1747 Kabul became part of an independent Afghan state, and in the 1770s it replaced Qandahar as the capital of Afghanistan....
Finally, there is the famed Khyber Pass:http://archaeology.about.com/library/atlas/blafghanistan.htm?terms=Afghanistan+HistoryThe Khyber Pass is a 53-kilometer (33-miles) passage through the Hindu Kush mountain range. It connects the northern frontier of Pakistan with Afghanistan. At its narrowest point, the pass is only 3 meters wide. On the north side of the Khyber Pass rise the towering, snow-covered mountains of the Hindu Kush. The Khyber Pass is one of the most famous mountain passes in the World....
...The history of the Khyber Pass as a strategic gateway dates from 326 B.C., when Alexander the Great and his army marched through the Khyber to reach the plains of India. From their, he sailed down Indus River and led his army across the desert of Gedrosia. In the A.D. 900s, Persian, Mongol, and Tartar armies forced their way through the Khyber, bringing Islam to India.......The Khyber, in its chequered history, has seen countless invasions. It witnessed the march of Aryans and victorious advance of Persian and Greek armies. It also saw the Scythians, White Huns, Seljuks, Tartars, Mongols, Sassanians, Turks, Mughals and Durranis making successive inroads into the territories beyond Peshawar Valley and Indus....
...The Aryans descending upon the fertile northern plains in 1500 BC subjugating the indigenous Dravidian population and settling down to open a glorious chapter in history of civilization. The Persian hordes under Darius (6 century B.C.) crossing into the Punjab to annex yet another province to the Archaemenian Empire. The armies of Alexander the Great (326 BC) marching through the rugged pass to fulfill the wishes of a young, ambitious conqueror. The terror of Ghenghis Khan enwraping the majestic hills and turning back towards the trophies of ancient Persia....
This is an excellent collection of briefly annotated links from K. Kris Hirst, the Archaeology Guide at about.com. Her focus is on archaeological sites (e.g., the Bamian Valley [center of commerce and the Buddhist religion by 500 AD]; Ghazni [a city on the ancient road to Kabul, built in the 7th century AD]; Kabul; and the Khyber Pass); museums; general culture; and ancient history. In the wake of so much Taliban destruction, there is a sense of sadness around much of this data, for it no longer exists. Regardless, the links are of great value. [Note: 3/31/10 -- their page hasn't been updated. Some links will be fine but any link for afghan-network.net will go to the questionable new owners of that domain name. Use my updated links above instead for that particular domain name.]
http://web.archive.org/web/20080327025906/www.afghan-network.net/Ethnic-Groups/: [Updated 3/31/10]
Men Praying in the Mountains
From Afghanistan Online [permission pending]
This Toronto-based Afghan Network looks at the major ethnic groups in Afghanistan: the majority Pashtuns (the Talibans' group); but also the Tajiks (a northern tribe, some of whose members are infamous for raping women in the south); Uzbeks and Turkmens; Hazara; and Nuristani, Aimaq, & Baluchi. Read between the lines here and you'll know why I pray the women of RAWA are given a chance to rule this land in a coalition with more moderate men.http://web.archive.org/web/20080327025500/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/languages.html:[Updated 3/31/10]
Again from Afghan Network comes a page covering 31 of Afghanistan's different peoples and their languages. The major ethnicities are here but also tiny groups like the Pashayi, who make up only 1% of the population:http://users.sedona.net/~strand/index.html...All Pashayi peoples have rich folklore and songs preserved by oral tradition....[Note: If anyone out there knows whether any of this Pashayi lore has been collected and published, I would appreciate it if you would let me know specifics.]
This is "Nuristân, Hidden Land of the Hindu-Kush," by Richard F. Strand:http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/afghanistan-hazara/phil-zabriskie-text.htmlThis site contains previously unpublished material on the linguistics and ethnography of Nuristân and neighboring regions, collected and analyzed by Richard F. Strand over the last thirty years....In addition to a wealth of linguistic and ethnographic data, Strand offers an insightful and fascinating update (from 6 October 2001) on the political situation in this remote region.
Where is Nuristân, and Who Cares?
The region called Nuristân is one in a chain of ethnic refuge areas.... Nuristân lies in the Hindu Kush mountains of northeastern Afghânistân.... It is the homeland of a unique group of Indo-European-speaking tribal peoples, now called Nuristânis, who fled and resisted Islâm as it spread eastward. In 1895-96 the Nuristânis were finally conquered by the Afghân armies of Âmir Abdur Rahmân Khân, and the people were obliged to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in favor of Islâm.
Nuristânis are today such devout Muslims that they were the first citizens of Afghânistân to successfully revolt against the communist overthrow of their government in 1978. Their success inspired others throughout the country to rise up and bleed the Soviet Union to death through thirteen years of war. The straw that broke the Soviet Union's back sprouted in Nuristân, and we must acknowledge the pivotal historical role that the Nuristânis played in nurturing the seed....
[Added 14 March 2010]:This is the National Geographic's moving, eloquent nine page article by Phil Zabriskie, "Hazaras: Afghanistan's Outsiders," February 2008 issue. Excerpts:
From p.1: ...Accounting for up to one-fifth of Afghanistan's population, Hazaras have long been branded outsiders. They are largely Shiite Muslims in an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. They have a reputation for industriousness yet work the least desirable jobs. Their Asian features—narrow eyes, flat noses, broad cheeks—have set them apart in a de facto lower caste, reminded so often of their inferiority that some accept it as truth....p.2: The ruling Taliban—mostly fundamentalist Sunni, ethnic Pashtuns—saw Hazaras as infidels, animals, other. They didn't look the way Afghans should look and didn't worship the way Muslims should worship. A Taliban saying about Afghanistan's non-Pashtun ethnic groups went: "Tajiks to Tajikistan, Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, and Hazaras to goristan," the graveyard....
Six years after the Taliban fell, scars remain in the highlands of the Hazara homeland, but there is a sense of possibility unthinkable a decade ago. Today the region is one of the safest in Afghanistan, mostly free of the poppy fields that dominate other regions. A new political order reigns in Kabul, seat of President Hamid Karzai's central government. Hazaras have new access to universities, civil service jobs, and other avenues of advancement long denied them. One of the country's vice presidents is Hazara, as is parliament's leading vote getter, and a Hazara woman is the first and only female governor in the country. The best-selling American novel The Kite Runner—now a feature film—depicted a fictional Hazara character, and a real Hazara won the first Afghan Star, an American Idol-like program.As the country struggles to rebuild itself after decades of civil war, many believe that Hazarajat could be a model of what's possible not just for Hazaras but for all Afghans. But that optimism is tempered by past memories and present frustrations—over roads not built, a resurgent Taliban, and rising tides of Sunni extremism.p.3: Growing up, Shafaq heard the stories of where his people came from, why they looked different from Pashtuns and Tajiks. He and his fellow Hazaras, the story goes, are the descendants of Genghis Khan's Mongolian soldiers, who marched into central Afghanistan in the 13th century, built a garrison, and conquered the inhabitants—a varied mix of peoples not uncommon along the Silk Road. When the locals rose up and killed Genghis's son, the conqueror retaliated by leveling Bamian and wiping out most of its residents. Those who survived intermarried with the Mongolian invaders and became the Hazaras—a genetic collaboration evident in the diversity of facial features among the region's people today.p.6: ...Money is short, but the village elder has persuaded farmers to resist the temptation to grow poppies. "It is haram," says Akbar, forbidden by Islam....In this tiny hamlet and throughout Hazarajat, education is a priority. Even if the school is a tent or a building with no doors or windows, even if the teacher has only a few years of schooling, parents want their kids to study, far more so than elsewhere in the country. Hussain Ali lives in a cave in Bamian, where his family sleeps on thin bedrolls and the walls are blackened with soot. His children could bring in extra income, but he wants them in school. "I'm old, my time has passed," he says, "but my children should learn something."p.8: Some observers believe the discrimination Hazaras face in Kabul could be fueling a long-elusive sense of unity—and a desire for democracy. "... people are experiencing this disparity between Hazara and non-Hazara in their day-to-day lives," says Ibrahimi. The director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar, agrees: "The Hazaras are more adaptable to democracy, because they feel the pain more than the others. They feel the discrimination. They really want equality and social justice."p.9: After so much hope, so many promises, the Hazaras are feeling ignored by the new government—led as it is by a Pashtun president. Across Hazarajat, the question echoes: Why has there not been more development and more interest in an area that is safe, where the population supports the government, where corruption is not widespread, where women play a role in public life, where poppies are not proliferating? It's not uncommon to hear farmers muse about growing poppies to sell on the heroin market, maybe even causing a little violence, because they think that might draw the government's attention.This is a disturbing, thought-provoking article.
[IMAGE REMOVED 2/02 AT THE REQUEST
OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER,
WHO FEARS ABUSE OF HIS WORK --
DESPITE MY DISAPPOINTMENT, HIS WORK IS REALLY SUPERB --
please click on the link below to see what I had originally chosen for this place]
Women in the Mountains [#460313 at http://www.ciriello.com/pw/46women1.html]
© A. Raffaele Ciriello -- permission pending
Postcards From Hell © 1999-2001
2 September 2006: this
dedicated photographer was killed several years ago and his website no
I have therefore decided to restore a few of his images lest they be lost.
"Women in the Mountains"
http://web.archive.org/web/20080327025204/www.afghan-network.net/Islam/: [Updated 3/31/10]
This is "Islam: an Overview" from the Toronto-based Afghan Network. If you're unfamiliar with Islam, this is a good survey. It concludes with the following succinct statement:http://www.afghan-web.com/islam/... with the exception of inheritance and witness laws, Islamic rights and obligations apply equally to men and women. The actual situation of women is more a function of particular social traditions predating Islam than of theoretical positions.
From Afghanistan Online comes a page of briefly annotated links focused on many aspects of Islam. The links are organized into the following categories: General Resources (these include audio recitations of the Quran, children's stories, even sites offering Islamic clothing, etc.); Islamic Schools and Education; Islamic Art (some lovely links here -- especially on calligraphy); Science in Islam; and Women in Islam.http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/holidays.html
This is Afghanistan Online's page on Afghan holidays and celebrations, both religious (following the lunar calendar) and secular (following the solar calendar). Data for each holiday is brief but useful.http://web.archive.org/web/20080205012003/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/attractions.html: [Updated 3/31/10]
Afghan Network also offers a page on national and religious holidays (data here is more fully developed than on the preceding site). The page also has a (pre-Taliban) section on tourist attractions -- some are linked to pages I've already annotated (under my section called "Cities & Regions..."); others offer data I haven't found elsewhere, for example, this brief, tantalizing passage on Nouristan:http://web.archive.org/web/20080712205833/http://www.afghan-network.net/Balkhi/: [Updated 3/31/10]...Nouristan is one of the country's most unusual regions. Set in striking mountains near the Indian border, this dramatic, forested area features wooden hillside homes. (The Greek god Dionysus figures prominently in Nouristani legend)....
This is Afghan Network's useful overview on the life and teachings of the great Sufi mystic known as "Rumi." He is so commonly associated with Turkey that I was startled to learn he was actually born in Afghanistan -- in the famous region known as Balkh (ancient Bactria -- see my Afghanistan II. for further data on the region):http://www.afghanhindu.info/: [Note--3/31/10: this site has moved from http://afghanhindu.freeservers.com/ to its own domain -- it's much, much larger now and provides current discussions on many challenging, often tragic issues (there are archival links dating back over a century to 1904). My comments below still date from autumn 2001 -- unfortunately, although Web Archive has the 2001 pages, the photo I mentioned is no longer available.]...Maulana Jalalludin Balkhi was born in 1207 in Balkh, Mazar-i-Sharif. His name was Jalalludin Mohammad. Even though he was born in Afghanistan, in Turkey and ancient Rome he was known as 'Rumi' meaning "from Rome". In the wake of Mongolian attacks his family moved to Anatolia, Turkey. He known mostly as Maulaana Jalalludin Balkhi in Afghanistan but in Turkey, to oppose his birthplace claims, Turkey is claiming that Jalalludin Balkhi is from Turkey and not Afghanistan. It is true that the far northern part of Afghanistan's area where he was born was known as Turkistan one time but to conclude he was an Afghan to the end....
This is a little site on Afghan Hindus -- few are now left but the site argues that the Hindus were among the most ancient inhabitants of Afghanistan, as place-names and remnants of temples suggest. There isn't much documentation here, but it's an interesting site. The opening page has a lovely, green, mountainous photo of the Afghan landscape (location isn't named).http://www.afghan-web.com/history/articles/jews.html
[12 March 2010: moved from page 2]: Finally, this is "The 'Other' in 'Afghan' Identity: Medieval Jewish community of Afghanistan." This carefully researched and footnoted page from Afghanistan Online is by Guy Matalon Ph.D. (the article was first published in Mardom Nama-e Bakhter, an Afghan scientific journal). In addition to his post-modern "Other" framework (which I'm afraid I found somewhat burdensome in an otherwise nicely focused historical paper), the author considers intriguing evidence from medieval tombstones. Here is an introductory excerpt:...Most of the literature about the Jews of Afghanistan and Iran is inaccessible to most of the scholars who concentrate on this geographical area. Most of the recent studies about the history of the Jews in Afghanistan are in Hebrew. Furthermore, the majority of the material is saturated with folklore and little concrete, archaeological evidence. However, there are some things that are known about the Jewish community in Afghanistan....It's an interesting paper about the little-known presence of Jews in an unexpected setting.
...There are a handful of articles that investigate the Jewish community in the Middle Ages. Due to the Mongol invasion, very few records survived in order for give researchers the opportunity to study these communities. Therefore, what I am able to offer is an introductory study of the Jews of Afghanistan in the Middle Ages.
Most Jewish communities throughout the area which is part of modern day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the surrounding area speak of their beginning by referring to the Assyrian Exile (720 BCE) and the Bablyonian Exile (560 BCE). It is difficult to refute, or supply evidence for this. There are no archaelogical remains that allow one to argue so. However, there is a mention in the Bible of the exile of a large community to the river Gozan (2). It would seem that the myth of the establishment of the Jewish community in the Fertile Crescent has some historical basis since the Exile did occur. And furthermore, there was a continuous Jewish presence in the area until the modern age.
Of the Jews living in Afghanistan, we hear nothing until the 8th century of the common era....
[Note: the portal page on history from Afghanistan Online offers links to other aspects of Afghan history not covered on my website; these include various 20th century constitutions: http://www.afghan-web.com/history/.]
(From Afghan Magazine -- used with permission)
From Afghan Magazine comes a 1999 page with several links to the contemporary Afghan music scene. I found especially moving a description of a 1999 concert in Dallas, Texas performed by a visiting group of middle-aged male musicians from Afghanistan. After annotating a link (below in the "Folk Arts & Traditions" section) on the blood-sport of buzkashi a few minutes ago (7:30pm, 10/10/01), I felt a sense of distaste for these nomadic males and their brutal traditions. But now, reading about their music, I'm melting again. Simplistic distinctions and judgments are difficult to sustain when it comes to Central Asia:http://www.afghanmagazine.com/arts/oct97arts/instra.htmlAfghan folk music is the essence and spirit of the people and their culture. Listening to Afghan folk music is enjoyable, but listening to it live is a distinct and unforgettable experience.(Note: music download links don't work.)
On May 8, 1999, the Afghan community of Dallas, Texas was blessed to have a talented Afghan folklore band perform live. The concert lasted over five hours...a rare feat compared to most concerts held by Afghan performers in the US.
Without a doubt, the audience enjoyed the performance and sang along to the traditional dou-bayeeti (poetic couplets). Many of the poems and lyrics which were sung of various distinct places in Afghanistan had been altered. The new lyrics consisted of images of the present war and the description of the ruins of cities, towns, villages and sites of past beauty.
It brought tears to the eyes of many older audience members revealing a vivid sign of the concealed and secret pains and feelings that many Afghans feel but do not normally express in public....
This is a lovely little page (illustrated in B&W) from Afghan Magazine: "Ancient Musical Instruments of Afghanistan" by Nabi Kohzad:http://web.archive.org/web/20080307173233/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/instruments.html: [Updated 3/31/10]In ancient Afghanistan(Ariana), there were three distinct types of musical instruments: dandweehi, wanaa, and yunaa. The windowed instrument, dandweehi, is the present toula (flute), the string, wanaa, is the current tar, and the bass, yunaa, is the modern dowl. All three instruments were heard in the prominent court of Yama (the first king of Ariana) four thousand years ago....
...In time, these unique, three instruments evolved into other forms and migrated to different parts of the world. The tar evolved to diverse, distinct forms: dutar, sitar, shashtar, tambour, and later made its way to the West as the guitar. The ancient flute (toula) of ancient Baakhtar (northern ancient Afghanistan) reached China via the silk roads. It is said that the ancient mountains passes and valleys of Afghanistan were once filled with tunes of these rhythmic instruments, and if you listen to the wind at night in an Afghan valley, you can hear the ancient, harmonious melodies played out in the breezes that blow.
You'll find interesting B&W photos (taken from Louis Depree's work) of various traditional Afghan instruments here: Daira, Drums, Dhol, Rubab, Richak, Sarinda, Tambur, Tula, Waj or Wunz, and Zerbaghali. The only text is this:http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/music/instruments.htmlHere are some of the musical instruments used in Afghanistan. The instruments are traditional instruments which are mostly used in folklore music but also utilized in modern Afghan music today as well...
From Afghanistan Online comes another selection of B&W photos of Afghan instruments: Daira, Dhamboura, Dol, Dolak, Rebab, Richak, Sarani, Sarinda, Shashtar, Surnai, Tambur, Tula, Waj, Zerbagli. (Note: these all seem to come from Louis Dupree but not all offer the same instruments and some of the photos are of better quality than others.)http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/music/pashtosongs.html
I fell in love with what used to be called "belly dance" music, when I was studying in a small midwestern Catholic college in the late '50's. That was a period when I was also in love with a tall, moody, young linguist who was teaching me Hebrew, Arabic, and Turkish all at the same time. My beginner's knowledge of the languages faded, as did my passion when I learned my friend was gay. But my intoxication with the music remains.http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/music/azahir.html4: [3/31/10: this page is gone -- not even on Web Archive. I'm keeping my comments in case it turns up again.]
From Afghanistan Online comes "Traditional Pashto Music." This is the ethnic group to which the Taliban belong. How can men who so despise women, who so brutally oppress and destroy whatever is different, nevertheless sing such gorgeous music? I can't fathom it.....except by analogy. Christians, whose Gregorian chant also melts my soul, were butchering Moslems at the same time some of them were singing that chant. Sad paradox and irony.
This Afghan site of "belly dance" music offers Real Audio clips of the following: "Taranay Watan" sung by Ustad Awalmir; love songs sung by Salam Logari, Kheyal Mohammad, Shawali; and "a deep poem" sung by Ustad Sarahung. The links all work (as of 6pm, 10/19/01), the pieces run from 3 minutes to over 8, and if you don't have Real Audio, there's a link you can click on to install it. Enjoy -- it's lovely!
Again from Afghanistan Online come five more Real Audio clips, this time sung by Ahmad Zahir, who is famous in Afghan circles, and whose music sometimes sounds more "pop" than the selections on the previous page. The clips hover in the 4-5 minute range (again, all the links work). Here are the selections: Gaa dar aghoooshe een (Either in his arms); Dewana-am Dewana-am (I am crazy -- I am crazy); Maadarem (My mother); Deldaar raseeda (My love has come); and Zindagee (life).http://www.nyfolklore.org/pubs/news/nlws98/queens.html
This is the New York Folklore Society's Newsletter, Winter/Spring 1998: "The Queens Folklorist: Reflections on a Folk Arts Program" by Ilana Harlow. This is a gentle, yet lively, piece, as much about New York City's multi-ethnicity as about Afghan immigrants. Afghans, in fact, are only a small piece in the overall tapestry here:...Neighboring nationalities also recognize and enjoy the cultural continuities between each other’s music; Queens’ Afghan community hires Bukharan and Persian artists to perform at musical events just as they would in their home country.I found it an interesting essay, full of hints of deeper issues (e.g., multi-ethnic cemeteries).
...Thus far I have organized a festival of Greek, Turkish, and Armenian traditions, as well as a concert of Uzbek, Afghan, and Persian music. The concert, "Musical Bridges: Jewish and Muslim Traditions of Asia," was the most significant of the projects I have done. The program explored Jewish-Muslim relations through the music of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran and aimed to sensitize the audience to the varieties of Jewish and Muslim traditions and historical experience. (e.g. Jews were the court musicians for Bukharan Muslim amirs). The concert also highlighted continuities between the music and poetry traditions of the three countries in general. Fortuitously, the Afghan and Bukharan singers featured in the concert used to perform together when they visited each other’s countries as part of government-sponsored tours....
Boy riding a donkey laden with fodder in front of market stalls in Ghazni province, Afghanistan in 1974.
Donkeys are a practical and traditional form of local transport in this mountainous country.
(Hutchinson Family Encyclopedia/Image © Ric Ergenbright/Corbis: updated 3/31/10)
He is riding the donkey, but has lost the donkey.
[My sense of what this means is that if we don't stay grounded and aware of what we have, it may already be slipping away from us; alternately: in the midst of life, we may already have lost it.]
http://members.tripod.com/~Sulimankhel/afghan/Proverbs.html: [3/31/10: site is gone]
Proverbs are a subcategory under the general field of "Folklore." Thus, I was pleased to find several collections from Afghanistan. This site offers 100 proverbs. There is also a graceful introduction -- here's an excerpt:http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/proverbs.htmlProverbs enter into the real flow of life and they express the vibrant culture of the people. They deal with friendships, hospitality, and the homespun wisdom of family life. The people of Asia are extremly fond of proverbs, and the Afghans are not exceptions. If a person who is learning the language can quote a proverb suitable to the occasion, the response evoked is surprisingly appreciative, and at times even results in applause....This site takes much of its material from, according to the author, "...the booklet written by J. Christy Wilson, Jr. , who had been to Afghanistan." I enjoyed browsing here -- and offer one final proverb for these troubled times:In the ditch where water has flowed, it will flow again.
(Meaning: Previous prosperity will follow disaster.)
From Afghanistan Online comes a collection of 32 proverbs, for those who prefer a medium-sized collection....http://www.afghanistans.com/Proverbs.htm
...and for those who just want a taste of Afghan proverbs, here's a tiny site with only seven.http://web.archive.org/web/20080412110843/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/superstitions.html: [Updated 3/31/10]
Along with proverbs, folk superstitutions are also included in the general category of "Folklore." Here are a handful from Afghanistan.Rhetorics and Politics in Afghan Traditional Storytelling: [3/31/10: the Barnes & Noble link expired so I'm using a more reliable amazon.com link but keeping what I wrote in 2001....]
Mythic Sun Rising over Mountains and Birds
Detail from a rug woven in Afghan Refugee camps
(From Afghan Magazine -- used with permission)
This scholarly work (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991) by Margaret A. Mills comes out of a 1975 storytelling evening in which Mills was the only woman in an otherwise all male audience. The page is from Barnes & Noble: it has an assortment of small but interesting reviews. Here are several excerpts:http://web.archive.org/web/20010801212550/http://www.afghanan.net/afghanistan/folklore.htm: [Updated 3/31/10]...The storytellers wittily integrated themes of sense and nonsense, gender and sexuality, religion and public and private social control in thirteen recorded stories, here translated in full. In interpreting texts, Margaret A. Mills argues for a rhetorical sophistication among adept traditional performers which enables them to mount performances of traditional materials which are highly, and in this case slyly, sensitive to the political and social identities of self and audience....
...Mills is a professional folklorist with a good knowledge of Afghan and Iranian Persian and considerable experience in Afghanistan....
...The exotic character of the stories themselves will intrigue tale lovers. The first chapter--an academic's delight--concerns the key theoretical issues of contemporary social science field studies. The backdrop (not to be forgotten) is the looming invasion by the Soviets....
This is "Folklore & Folk Music" from Louis Dupree's 1980 AFGHANISTAN. Note: despite the mention of "Folk Music" in the title of this page, I found no evidence of folk music in the article itself:http://web.archive.org/web/20071118100454/http://www.afghan-network.net/Funny/index.html: [Updated 3/31/10]AFGHAN folklore and legend often intimately relate to Islam, although much of the corpus definitely preceded Islam. Of course, all religions, however sophisticated, build on neighboring earlier faiths and adapt existing legends to fit new needs. Folktales and folk songs in Afghanistan, as in other non-literate and pre-literate societies, are group reinforcing, and psychologically satisfying to the individual....This is a lengthy, no-frills, quick-loading page with great examples of fascinating lore mixed with local traditions.
...I have collected hundreds of folktales in Afghanistan, and have reached some tentative conclusions concerning the patterns and functions of folklore in non-literate Afghan society. Several are discussed here....
...I have divided the folktales of Afghanistan into five, somewhat overlapping, categories: religion, history and legend, love and jealousy, virtue and morality, and, for lack of a better term, jokes.
This is a two-page collection filled with delicious "trickster" teaching-stories about Mullah Nasruddin (familiar to many of us in the West through the Sufi books of Idries Shah):http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/jokes.htmlMullah Nasruddin: The name that every Afghan remembers hearing about in childhood. Here is few of the thousands of humurous and thoughtful stories about Him. His identity is being claimed by three countries. Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey....
From Afghanistan Online comes more humor of Mullah Nasruddin. There are six good examples here.http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/wisdom.html
From Afghanistan Online come four "Short Afghan Wisdom Stories." Like the preceding, they have the droll wit of Sufi humor.
FOLK ARTS & TRADITIONS
[12 March 2010: entire section moved from page 2]
From Afghan Magazine comes an eerie article, "Woven Icons of War" by Charles Lewis, Ph.D., Oct.-Dec. 1999:The incorporation of war imagery into a recognizable rug design has been an unusual outgrowth of the Afghan-Soviet War (1979-1989). The flow of these war rugs or war aksi (smaller size carpets with a predominance of war iconography) from Afghanistan and the refugee camps to the West has been documented in several articles in the Oriental Rug Review (O'Callaghan, 1997; O'Connell, 1997).The author then looks in detail at such "war-rugs," including images of the jets, helicopters, and tanks depicted above.
Expert opinion has been able to trace the origins of these rugs (refugee camps in either Iran or Pakistan, or Afghanistan itself) based on details of their construction or from details of weaponry that fit a specific theater of combat (verified by Russian veterans of the conflict). Personally, I have favored certain subsets of these carpets. These rarer cases either hide minimal war imagery in the overall rug design or most fascinating of all, appear to tell a story of terrible struggle in a sequence of images in the rug much like some primitive silent movie, but rich with colors. These rugs stimulate my imagination and I would like to take a few moments to try and pass this fascination on to those who are the inheritors of the proud traditions of Afghanistan and perhaps of the War itself....
This is "Examination of a Mythical Afghan Rug," again by Charles Lewis, Ph.D., for the excellent Afghan Magazine, July - December 2000. The page discusses a rug depicting horsemen, a somber figure wrapped in a flayed lionskin, a bull, and the lion who has slaughtered the bull (two hypertext links will take you to a full view + a detail):http://web.archive.org/web/20080205012008/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/buzkashi.htmlThe Afghan-Soviet war has produced changes throughout Afghan culture and this extends to carpet weaving. Refugees in Iran and Pakistan have continued weaving rugs, often producing non-traditional designs, perhaps to appeal to Western consumers. A subset of these are pictorial rugs including the popular "war-rugs", but others may show images with more subtle hints about the psychological struggles confronting them as refugees of war. One such pictorial rug that is new is collected by a Pakistani exporter from Afghan weavers in the Peshawar area....With sensitivity and psychological insight, the author then explores the implications in this "Horse Man" rug. Here's the moving conclusion:...Without knowing whether the Afghan rug weaver was literate or not, he or she was probably aware of the emotional consequences of war. Such timeless archetypes may form an unconscious reservoir in the psyche of war's survivors that is operative alongside feelings of terror and retaliatory anger. I believe that these symbols can emerge in the iconography of a contemporary Afghan weaver, an observer and perhaps a victim of war and its aftermath. Yet, the final outcome of such a psychological struggle with elemental anger, of the man wrapped and immobilized except for a grimace, remains uncertain.
From Larry B. Lambert comes another view of horses, this time in buzkashi, the disturbing, fierce blood-sport whose roots extend far back into antiquity. The author's introduction explains:http://web.archive.org/web/20011012063233/http://www.afghan-network.net/Culture/costumes.html: [Updated 3/31/10]The ancient game of bozkushi is part of Afghan life and [this essay] is offered as a primer to that end. It has little to do with politics but much to do with the spirit of the place.I'm deliberately leaving out graphic details about what's done to the little calf (or goat, if there's no calf available).
Bozkushi is a game that dates itself into Afghan antiquity. The name bozkushi, literally translated means "goat killing" suggest it was derived from hunting mountain goats by champions on horseback. Today the rider (or team) who is able to pitch a dead calf across a goal line first wins. The game may last as long as a week and is as free-wheeling as the Afghan spirit.
Legend has it bozkushi was played for the first time in the Oxus basin. The turkik peoples and others who migrated from the steppes to Afghanistan domisticated the horse and used to as a mobile weapons platform for combat....
...Horsemanship in Afghanistan was customary during the Vedic times. The people in the Oxus basin domisticated the horse in order to defend their homeland against the marauding cavalry of enemy tribes while herding their flocks....
...Horsemen are frequently carried away and in their excitement they will bump, hit and jar opponents. When they return, they are usually bruised or have a broken limb. Sometimes, they choose a site for pitch near a river and a few horsemen conspire to drown their opponents. The Afghans play for very high stakes and take the game very seriously. It is not uncommon for riders to continue in the game with cracked ribs, broken limbs and various head injuries.
This is "Traditional Costumes of Afghanistan," a very brief, general survey. There is a good opening illustration of a man and woman but neither their region nor ethnicity is identified, which is somewhat frustrating. Still, if you just want a quick overview, the page is useful.http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/clothing/
From Afghanistan Online comes another page on traditional clothing. It offers four colorful photos of items of clothing -- dress, coat, hat, turban. Unfortunately, there's no text and, again, no regional or ethnic identification.http://web.archive.org/web/20080317025516/http://afghan-network.net/Cooking/: [Updated 3/31/10]
You can learn a good deal about a people by knowing what they like to eat. This is "Afghan Cooking," offering more than 3 dozen traditional recipes. I wish these recipes offered some of the lore or history behind these dishes, but they don't. For those who like to cook, this won't matter. Here are a handful of dishes: Afghan Kadu Bouranee (Sweet Pumpkins); Afghan Spice Rub; Afghani Lamb; Aush (Noodles); Bichak; Bonjan Salad (Spicy Eggplant Salad); Boolawnee (Fried Leek Pastries); Bouranee Baunjan (Eggplant w/ Yogurt); Chatni Gashneez (Coriander Chutney). There are many more on this site.http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/cooking/
From Afghanistan Online comes another page of recipes but, as of 10/12/01, it's temporarily under construction so I haven't been able to see if lore is included with the recipes. Keep checking the site if you're interested in foods. [3/31/10: it's online and lovely -- no lore but the food looks great.]
ARTISTS, FINE ARTS,
[12 March 2010: entire section moved from page 2]
From Afghan Magazine comes a lengthy page of contemporary Afghan fine arts from an exhibit sponsored by the Afghan Student Association of Washington, D.C. in June, 2000. The many clickable thumbnails load somewhat slowly, but I found it worth the wait -- there's much of value and interest here (I have used several images from Afghan Magazine on my page).http://www.afghanmagazine.com/july99/visualarts/asaartshow/index.html
Again from Afghan Magazine is a page of fine arts from a 1999 exhibit. There is some beautiful, haunting work here.http://www.afghanmagazine.com/previousissues/index.html
If you'd like to spend time browsing through back issues of this excellent magazine, go to this link. The issues run from April-June 2000 back to July September 1997. There are a wide variety of topics covered in each issue -- fine arts, music, Afghan society, poetry, literature, and much more. What I saw here, I loved -- rich, moving, humane. Two links follow...
This is a heartbreaking page because the pain of this artist is so deep, and his work is so good. He is A. Shokour Khesrawi and this page offers some of his paintings (see directly above). Here are his words from the January - March 1998 issue of Afghan Magazine (Lemar-Aftaab) -- lest this site ever vanish, I'm quoting him in full:http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/poetry/poems.html#I always had a passion for painting. From a child to now, I'll always enjoy and treasure it. After graduating from art school, I wanted to work in an artistic related environment to achieve my goals and dreams. Unfortunately, it did not happen.
I was not able to work on my paintings because the price of art supplies were too expensive and scarce. Therefore, many of my artwork has been created on cheap paper or canvases that are not graded for painting purposes.
The war against the Soviet invasion was intensifying. The famine, scarcity and homicides were evident in every corner and alley. I, just like the other hundred of thousands of Afghans remained astonished and lost in not knowing what to do and where to go.
The political and economic situation in Kabul and around the country was getting worse every day. The danger was growing every moment. People's dead bodies were left on the streets, on the sidewalks and the terror was filling the air. The members of my family and me decided to leave our beloved country and go to Pakistan.
Now that my family and I are living as refugees in Pakistan, we are facing cultural, financial and communication difficulties. I cannot afford to rent a studio with a working table to paint. I sit on the floor. This makes it difficult to paint because I am not able to bend my leg.
The recent political situation between Afghans and Pakistanis has not been stable. I pray and hope this nightmare will end. I am not able to freely express my thoughts through my work. I am hoping to achieve freedom so that I would be able to create artwork without being persecuted.
An artist's duty and mission is to tell the truth, to reflect the pain and suffering of mankind and the realities through his work. The artist must dedicate and sacrifice his life to his art.
With all due respect,
A. Shokour Khesrawi
From Afghanistan Online comes a wide-ranging collection of poetry from early as well as contemporary poets.http://www.afghanmagazine.com/july98/arts/poetry/journey.html
Again from Afghan Magazine comes a poem about the death of a beloved, "My Journey and My Prayer," by Zaheda Ghani (from the July-Sept. 1998 issue). Here is how it begins:
it was the face of truth,
which came shining through,
causing the tears to drop,
one by one,
each pregnant with a wish,
like a child,
i know God did smile,
and so i prayed,
not for sadness,
but for beauty.
..."and so i prayed, not for sadness, but for beauty" -- if only we could remember such wisdom in these troubled times and not forget the beauty, the wonder, the promise, the humanity.
http://www.afghanmagazine.com/A dirt road through hills near the Koh-i-Baba Range in Bamian Province, Afghanistan....northwest of the capital, Kabul. It was an early centre of the Buddhist religion and contains numerous archaeological remains. (Hutchinson Family Encyclopedia/Image © Corbis. [Updated 3/31/10]
This is the home page for the excellent on-line Afghan Magazine. Plan to spend hours exploring here. I've already annotated a few wonderful folk and fine arts links (see above) but there are dozens more in all categories. This is a marvelous site on the news, arts, cities, and culture of Afghanistan. It is both literate and beautifully presented.http://www.icarp.org/afghan.html: [3/31/10: unfortunately, this site is gone and Web Archive has been blocked because it is a discontinued project. For more on the Bichel's work in the region, see this google search page. I'm keeping my 2001 comments below.]
From the Worldwide Web Virtual Library comes a page with great links organized into these categories: general information; maps & flags; culture, history & language; politics & law; travel; environment, health & science. The page is maintained by the Interactive Central Asia Resource Project (ICARP), created by Anthony and Rebecca Bichel in 1993 as part of a graduate research project at the University of Hawai'i. It's another great place for browsing. The links are well chosen and briefly annotated.http://ebooks.whsmithonline.co.uk/encyclopedia/35/M0019535.htm: [Updated 3/31/10]
[12 March 2010: moved from page 2]: From England's Hutchinson Family Encyclopedia comes a good overview of Afghanistan's history:http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/bgnotes/sa/afghanistan9407.html...Part of the ancient Persian Empire, the region was used by Darius I and Alexander the Great as a path to India; Islamic conquerors arrived in the 7th century, then the Mongol leaders Genghis Khan and Tamerlane in the 13th and 14th centuries respectively. Afghanistan first became an independent emirate in 1747 under Ahmed Shah Durrani....The summary of more recent history offers good detail without getting too lengthy. If you're unfamiliar with the country, this is a good place to start. There are four clickable photos taken in 1974 (I've used these on my site as well).
[12 March 2010: moved from page 2]: This is a lengthy 1994 U.S. Department of State overview, of interest for its details, especially the historical ones. Here's a brief sample:http://www.afghan-web.com/fauna/...Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam....The site includes a wide range of useful historical (early & modern), political, and societal data.
This page from Afghanistan Online looks at the animals and plants of the country. There a brief page on the Afghan hound, a second page lists all the animals found in Afghanistan, a third lists all the plants, and a fourth looks at medicinal plants and their uses.http://www.ldb.org/vl/geo/asia/3afg.htm
This is the Worldwide Web Virtual Library's page on Afghanistan's Public health issues, including a link from RAWA on women's issues:http://web.archive.org/web/20010508044055/http://ebooks.whsmithonline.co.uk/encyclopedia/01/C0000001.htm: [Updated 3/31/10]Revolutionary Assocation of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) - "established in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1977 as an independent political organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan"....
This is a very useful "Fact Sheet" & historical chronology from England's Hutchinson Family Encyclopedia (also see listing above under History).http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/middle_east/afghanistan/
This is a travel-oriented site, "Destinations" by the in-your-face and always informative Lonely Planet, an organization that covers destinations around the world. It offers a clickable map plus a good selection of facts and figures interspersed with interesting data:http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107264.html...The Taliban, a particularly firebrand bunch of Islamic fundamentalists, took control of the capital, Kabul, in 1996 from their bases in southern Afghanistan. While many towns and a large part of the countryside remain outside their control, they have planted a kind of medieval system of justice in the country and sown terror wherever they've been, with mass hangings, stonings of adulterers (or accused adulterers), and brought back that old favourite - lopping off the hand of thieves.
The United Nations, Amnesty International and the EU have repeatedly criticised the Taliban for their flagrant abuses of human rights and their contemptible treatment of women, and aired allegations that they are financing their regime by the sale of narcotics. The folks in charge aren't swayed, though, and their struggle to consolidate power continues....
...Afghanistan is certainly a dicey proposition in all but the most die-hard's travel journal....
This is a fact sheet from Info Please; there's also a clickable map (direct link is near the top of my page).http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/Countries/Afghanistan/
This is Yahoo's regional search page on Afghanistan -- the links are well chosen and cover a wide range of briefly annotated categories for those who like to explore topics on their own: Arts and Humanities (includes history links); Business and Economy; Computers and Internet; Country Guides; Entertainment; Government; Health; News and Media; Recreation and Sports; Reference; Science; Social Science; Society and Culture; and Travel.http://web.archive.org/web/20080317115516/http://www.afghan-network.net/Books/: [Link updated 3/31/10 -- there are now 13 pages of book lists & all the links seem to work]
From Afghan-Network comes 6 pages listing some 300 books -- click on any title and you'll be taken to amazon.com's site for further information. Unfortunately, the books aren't organized either alphabetically or by category, which I found frustrating. Still, if you're willing to browse, this is a great collection of largely unfamiliar titles.
...Although after 9/11 I had explored many online webpages, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner is the first book I ever read on Afghanistan -- this is probably true for countless other Americans as well. I was fighting off a flu and read it straight through in two days, 13 and 14 March 2008, ignoring computer, phone, and TV in order to focus solely on the unfolding world of this book. I found it extraordinary throughout. Truly extraordinary.
[Mentioned or related to these Afghan pages]
...I started Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns on 14 March 2008, late the same night I finished his Kite Runner. Unfortunately, although I was still feeling ill, I could no longer neglect a backlog of demands and deadlines. Thus, it was March 30th before I finished this novel. It was a painful book to read. (I had heard from a colleague with friends in Kabul that many Afghan women couldn't bear to read it because it cut too close to their own daily realities.) I wrote my reactions on the last page: "Beautiful, powerful, haunting. [X's] death breaks my heart. It's terrible enough reading newspaper reports of what the Taliban did, but the power of this novel is that one comes to know so much about the person, so the death becomes very intimate and searing."
...Within a few days of finishing Hosseini's second novel, I turned to non-fiction and started reading The Punishment of Virtue by Sarah Chayes in the wee hours of 1-2 April 2008. Over the next two months, I read slowly, not wanting it to end. It was 8 June 2008 before I finished, writing briefly on the last page: "powerful, eloquent, savvy. Ending is too rushed but I understand why she did that." Chayes, an incisive former NPR reporter, who now lives in Afghanistan, started a homemade soap company in the dangerous Kandahar region to provide income (other than growing opium-poppies) for local workers. She traveled widely in the country, was taken under the wing of President Karzai's elder brother, and saw firsthand how virtue, not vice, was punished by corrupt leaders. Portions of the book are hair-raising and sickening, but that's the reality she lived. Parts are also wondrous. She includes long, meticulously researched chapters on Afghan's earlier history -- to write those chapters, she had rare, obscure books translated into English, commissioned special maps for the work, and fought her publisher to have them included. Of all the non-fiction books I have read on Afghanistan, this is my favorite. Because Chayes lived near Kandahar for so many years, she knows deeply, long, and well those with whom she peoples her book. As a reader, I came to know them too, especially her police chief friend, and to mourn when tragedies struck. Threading through every page is a strong, analytical, yet deeply caring intellect. This is a book that should be much, much better known.
..Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin: the summer of 2008, I was reluctant to turn to another non-fiction work. Even though I had finished Chayes' book, I was still absorbing the intense experience and preferred not to dilute it. However, many friends kept praising this one and I finally gave in. Like them, I too found it hard to put down, reading it in five days from 16 to 20 August 2008. In a nutshell, where Chayes' focus is on people and political realities, Mortenson's is on people and educational realities (which, though extremely challenging, are at least not as depressingly intractable). His book unfolds, not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan (which in earlier times was part of Afghanistan). Since it was a New York Times #1 bestseller for ages, it's so well known that there's little left for me to say <smile>. It deserves all the acclaim -- it's beautifully written and full of persistance, adventure, inspiration, humanity -- and hope.
...In the wee hours of 20 August 2008 after finishing Three Cups, I immediately picked up The Places in Between. This is Rory Stewart's account of walking across Afghanistan in 2002, guided by the memoirs of Mughal emperor, Babur. The journey of this journalist and former British diplomat is quite engrossing, graphic, often harrowing. Initially, his short, episodic chapters irritated me because there was no thread to pull me in and hold my interest -- I kept comparing it to Three Cups, which in hindsight was probably unfair. Nevertheless, I kept reading because I appreciated the data on Babur as well as the up-close, on-the-ground look at Afghanistan and her people. Overall, Stewart writes well, has a good eye for detail, and creates lively verbal portraits of the many people he met (he doesn't spare himself either -- his behavior is frequently exasperating, even pig-headed). Ultimately, however, what stays with me is the sadness and senselessness of the ending (why didn't the two leave on the same plane?). That still haunts me.
..I haven't read this one (nor the following one) yet but because I put info on it on my webpage in 2001, it belongs in this BOOK section. .The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's Untold Story, by Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf and Major Mark Adkin, concerns a very personal account of the fight against the Soviet Union with the often peculiar help of the American CIA. It is a soldier's well written, lively, hard-hitting, somber account. The above amazon link has some lengthy, terrific, well-balanced customer reviews. By the way, in 2001, this was a free e-book -- some hardbound copies are now selling for nearly $200! [Tip: you can often find less expensive copies if you google for the title.]
...The Kingdom ofAfghanistan and the United States: 1828-1973: this 1995 book by Ambassador Leon B. Poullada, a career US diplomat who served in Afghanistan as an Economic Officer, and his wife Leila D. J. Poullada is "a combination of memoir, personal recollection, and academic scholarship."
Mything Links' General Reference Pages:
AFGHANISTAN, Page 2
(Prehistory, pre-Islamic, and Islamic history, culture, & arts up to the 18th century)
AFGHANISTAN, Page 3
(18th century & Beyond)
AFGHANISTAN, Page 4
(Pre- and Post-9/11)
MythingLinks Search Engine
Cross-cultural, Multi-regional, Interdisciplinary Collections
General Reference Page (online libraries, reference help, literary texts, world languages, word-lover sites, help on writing research papers, copyright information, film plots, themes, and/or films representing various historical periods)
Special Interest Sites for Pacifica Faculty, Students & Colleagues(includes Jung, Campbell, Freud, Eliade, Otto, Hillman, other depth psychologists, mysticism, anthropology, religious studies, archetypal perspectives, foundations for mythology & psychology, relevant journals, books, videos, etc.)
Teachers' Reference Page for Primary & Secondary School Education
Related Myth*ing Links Pages:
New York City, 11 September 2001
New York City, 11 September 2001: Many Voices
Letter from an Afghan-American
Letter from a Star Wars Expert:What Can We Do About Terrorism?
The Crone Papers: Notes on the Mideast
Wars, Weapons, and Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse
Central Asia / Eurasian Portal Page
Up to: Asia's Opening Page
[Note: most regions are forthcoming]Afghanistan I
Down to: Europe's Opening Page
This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
Copyright © 2001-2010 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Designed during the wee hours of 15-16 September 2001;
16 September 2001, 4:25am: still under construction and not yet "officially" on line;
some 13 hours later: 16 September 2001, 5:22pm: it's now online "officially"
but it's still a work-in-progress for at least another week.
Updates: 17-21 September 2001; 22/23 September 2001;
1-2 October 2001 (annotated 3 more links); 4-5 October 2001 (annotated more links);
9-10 & 10-11 October 2001 (added & annotated more links); 12 & 13 October 2001 (ditto);
16-17 October 2001 (ditto); 18 October 2001 (ditto + split into 2 pages);
19 October 2001 (finally completed page 1).
9 February 2002 (removed 3 images at request of photographer).
2 July 2006: removed U. of Nebraska at Omaha link after I learned from a disillusioned student that their Afghan "Center" is a means to attract funding and does not actually exist, except on paper.
2 September 2006: restored two Ciriello photos; added U. of Nebraska link to diplomat's book.
7 November 2007: added my Page 2 Afghan link near the top (I'm still keeping the bottom link from 10/01). Updated Bear Trap link since it's no longer available as a free e-book download. No time for further links check.
22 July 2009: yesterday, I re-read everything and "amazoned" two book links so that I can include them on my new Bookstore page. Again, no time for a links check although I'm sure many are broken by now. Apologies to my readers -- if you really need to see one of the links, try the Wayback Machine, where many websites are archived (the bottom of my home page/site map has the link or just google for it).
17 September 2009: I don't think the July changes ever took effect as had to reload them tonight in order to update Nedstat/Motigo. :-(
10 March 2010, 2pm-4:15pm: re-located all war-focused pre- and post-9/11 data to a new 3rd page because I no longer wish to start my opening page with such dismal material. In addition to my usual Myth*ing Links header and footer templates, both the opening Afghan page and the new third one have identical 10 March 2010 statements, plus the same opening map & additional map data, plus all these bottom-of-page logs. Nothing else has been duplicated between them. To the 3rd page, I added a new image at the top depicting a soldier against map of "Af-Pak." Otherwise, no changes -- and no time for a links check (many links are probably broken, but maybe not). I'm keeping Nedstat on the 3rd page and deleting it (as of c. 4:15pm EST) from the opening page because I'm curious to see if military/"spook" hits will migrate.
11 & 12 March 2010: decided I needed to re-arrange everything on page 2, add data & art on the Oxus civilization, etc. To keep the length of the 2 pages approx. the same, I'm shifting contemporary sections on art and culture from p. 2 to here. No time to do any links-check for these entries.
20 March 2010: the new page 2 has now been split into pp. 2 & 3. What was p. 3 last week is now p.4.
24 March 2010: forgot to update opening green-text announcement with new links.
25 March 2010: added new BOOKS section with two unread books from my "Bookstore" + 5 new ones that I have read.
31 March 2010: trying to update links. All afghan-network.net links now go to a pimp-site; web archive still lists the original pages but none seem to be available today due to heavy traffic or something (later: I figured out how to trick the system so they're ok now). The site, afghanmagazine.com, exists but all links go to a current 2010 home page instead of to individual pages from 2001. Before I could search the site for specific links, something trying to load on their home page called "cdn.turner.com" crashed my computer! It took me three nervewracking attempts before I could get it up again! So I'm skipping them entirely. Later, 6:30pm: spent all day updating all the broken links.
Note to readers: for broken links, try pasting the desired link into the Wayback Machine (aka Web Archive) at: