Monday, September 26, 2011

Kabul: the Capital You Do Not Want to Visit

The capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, is located in the mountains, at an altitude of 1850 m above sea level. This is not only one of the highest capitals in the world but also one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. Unfortunately, longterm wars destroyed the once beautiful city and now it looks more like a huge dump with numerous checkpoints and garbage which no one bothers to clean.

Kabul has a long history. The first mention of it refers to the second millennium BC. And only in 1776, it became the capital of the modern state of Afghanistan.

British forces captured Kabul in September, 1879. History has a lot of evidence of their cruelty and vandalism. One of the most glaring examples is the fact that they erected a gallows in the shape of a circle (the so-called “carousel of death”) and used it to execute several dozens of people at once.

Now the city’s population is about 600.000 people.

There are many legends concerning the city’s origin and name. One of them says the following:
The horse of Padishah stopped abruptly. Further, there was no way. Only the water surface of a lake, in the middle of which – some mysterious green island. After some hesitation, Padishah gathered his viziers and ordered them to build a temporary bridge. A lot of straw was brought from the nearest settlements, put into the lake and strengthened with sand. When the bridge was finished, Padishah started his way to the island. Having reached the land, he heard the sound of beautiful music. It turned out that skillful musicians lived on the island dedicating all their free time to music and dancing. Padishah was fascinated by their play. He liked the valley so much that decided to build a town here and call it Kapul (meaning “a bridge made of straw”). Later the name was transformed into Kabul.

As you can see there are almost no tall buildings in the city.

Now, as the war ended, the city is being slowly rebuilt. Here you won’t see a crane or any other construction equipment. All is done manually.

The city is something like a maze of numerous slums.

It’s nice to walk here in the evening among the remains of ancient buildings.

Still, the locals don’t recommend to walk for a long time around one place. Of course, Kabul is one of the safest cities in the world, but sometimes some dishonest Kabulis manage to sell tourists to the Taliban.

A mosque and residential areas.

In some places Kabul is very much like Amsterdam – the same number of bicycles and picturesque canals.

A tall and very beautiful mosque stands right on the quay.

Over 50 years, nothing has changed here.

Kabul reminds of Moscow as well. It is too divided into two parts by the river of the same name. The photo depicts the riverbed of the Kabul.

And this is one of the most dangerous places in the city. The main buildings of the city are located at this crossroads – the offices of the UN, the central bank and different departments. Explosions and terrorist attacks surprise nobody here. On the card you can see the same place 40 years ago.

The Kabul River reminds of a stinking brook.

Water resembles waste engine oil – black thick stinking liquid.

Food, household waste, shit – all is thrown into the river.

In the previous times, people sold food on the quay and the river was clean.

Today, there is no quay – only one big dump.

A layer of garbage reaches 50 cm.

Look, how it looked earlier. Perfect cleanliness.

Now, this place looks like this.

Some of the poor manage to find food in these mountains of garbage.

Local taxis are yellow and white and usually stuffed with passengers. An average price is $ 3-5 but the seats in the trunk are cheaper.

Almost all public buildings and hotels are surrounded by high fences.

A typical checkpoint at the end of a street. Usually soldiers check documents, sometimes inspect cars.

Apart from ordinary taxis, there are also minibus taxis which stop right in the middle of the road to let the passengers board.

Some people believe that license plates are for losers. And indeed, if you have dough, the plate is not needed. Moreover, you can even have your own armed guards sitting in the trunk of your car. Very convenient.

Destroyed by the war building.

Old buildings are not restored.

The Olympic stadium. Some time ago this stadium was used by the Taliban. There, they cut off the hands of thieves in public and carried out executions. In the 90s hundreds of people were killed there.

Each district has its own team of garbage collectors.

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