A colleague sent me this collection of photos from Afghanistan during the 1950s and 1960s (facebook login required), when Kabul was known as the “Paris of Central Asia.” It is introduced as, “the Afghanistan that my parents lived in.”
The author of the album has this quote on his facebook page:
“Religion does not require women to veil their hands, feet and faces or enjoin any special type of veil. Tribal custom must not impose itself on the free will of the individual”
King Amanullah Khan, King of Afghanistan from 1919-1929
Afghanistan was neutral during both World War II and during the Cold War, and was a fortunate beneficiary of the rivalry between the USSR and the United States during that period. Both vied for influence by building Afghanistan’s main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure, which became part of the “hippie trail.” No one could have predicted the mad fanaticism, war, and destruction of holy and historic sites that came in the decades that followed.
As it happens, Curzon’s mother took this hippie trail overland from Great Britain to India in 1969, and these photos inspired me to ask her to recall her trip, shared below:
It was the summer of 1969. We drove through Herat, Kandahar and Kabul. In Herat we met the peace corp volunteer who was held up there over 6 months as he had accidentally knocked a cyclist (an old man) off his bike and ended up going to court every day, but they never got to his case…. and they’d confiscated his passport. He was a good tour guide of the back streets and he took us to the slaughter house, which was very old world (would not have complied with our local department of agriculture standards!)
We were in Kabul when American astronauts walked on the moon (yes, that was August 1969). Some of our group were invited to the American embassy and saw movies of the landing there.
The landscape was dotted with nomad tents, black goats and white sheep and their herders. Brightly painted trucks traveled the main route, which was an unpaved, dirt road, and had passengers in an open air top I remember on our return trip how very cold it got at night in the desert, yet it was still so hot by day.
I also remember the chai – hot black tea in small glasses…