Dec 28, 2006

Small shepherd in central part of Afghanistan

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Dec 19, 2006

On the course of Silk Road

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The biggest pass which created fairs and favor to travelers was the “Haji Yaqub” pass. The Haji Yaqub pass is the biggest and the highest one. We already had passed lots of others. The pass was filled with snow and it was stormy. An old traveler with his wife who came pilgrimage was behind me, they were telling weird words of God’s names and lots of others whom are followed by lots of people like prophet and imam. They were asking God’s help repeatedly.

When we were going to a slope and reached almost the end, the old man behind me shouted “Oh! There, the smoke comes up from the house We survived!”

The other whispered, “Yes we really survived. This was the most dangerous pass not only difficulty with snow, but robbers too.” They pulled their hands up, spelling words of Arabic and thanked god.

More than two hours later we were going into the darkness. The narrow road caused a traffic-jam and we stopped until the others left the road. After a few hours we reached a small coffee shop, which was almost full. There was only one room, where food was served. It had also a place for sleeping. I asked people where we were and what the name of the place stood for.

“This place is called Sarayee Markhanah” said the owner of the coffee shop. He told me the long history of this road and the “Sarayee”. He insisted that this was one of the roads linked with Asian countries.

I didn’t have a voice recorder to record the story. He was very old, almost 80 years old.
I realized that I am on one of the Silk Road routes. The Silk Road is the famous route where the Asian countries linked together. The Silk Road recently became a symbolic political aim for the western world to follow their worldwide political strategies in central Asia. Today, this road has a lot of specific signs telling its history.

“Sarayee” is a Farsi word meaning a big garage with lots of rooms for travelers and their horses. Lots of custodians took care of the luggage. People came from Japan and other Asian countries, through this route to India.

Several Sarayee still have their signs for counting time and distance. For example from this Sarayee to another one takes a whole day walking until the next one is reached.
I just asked the people and they named a few of them like: “Sarayee kotal onai”, “Sarayee duzdqol”, “Sarayee saisang”, “Sarayee Du Sang”, “Sarayee Markhanah” and “Sarayee Kotale Mullah yaqub”.

In the books written by historical writers, the Silk Road continues until Bamian but the end seems lost, it’s never mentioned where it goes after that. The reason why the history writer couldn’t follow continuing the Silk Road is still not mentioned and it remains anonymous.
But now I am on the route of one of the Silk Roads and in one of the famous Sarayees with the name of “Sarayee Markhanah”. I am writing this post from a coffee shop in this Sarayee. I don’t know the name of coffee shop. My travelers and others who came late in the evening are all sleeping. I am writing my diary and two others are talking about their adventures of being in different frontlines of fights during the Soviet Union invasion.

This place is in “Behsood” district, part of “Maidan Wardak” province. The room is almost 5x10m, more than 25 people sleep stuck to each other. Their breath makes me think of the sound of a generator, but not normal.

Tomorrow I should follow my way to the destination and step by step get it gets clear where I am going. I never before stepped around here, or heard the name of these places.

I just went to the toilet; I saw a young boy shivering out of the door, wearing a summer suit. “From which tropical climate you came here?” I asked him. “From behind the backside of this hill, called Gurdam, just 30 minutes walking” he answered. “How did you come here? By car or walking?” I asked him. “I came by walking here, there is no road where a car can pass, but a motorcyclist can get through the narrow passage.” He answered.

He told me there is a big valley, where 3500 people live, “But we don’t have road, we don’t have a clinic, we don’t have schools.” I asked him if they don’t have a hospital where they take their patients. “Mostly they die, but it happens rarely that they are taken to a hospital for treatment, because the hospital is so far from our place. The nearest hospital is 60 kilo meter away from us”, he said.

Almost sixty thousand people, and they have to take their patients to Tagab hospital in Behsood.
This is after five years of Karzai government.

In the last five years billions of dollars were spent in Afghanistan, but if you ask the people if they ever received any help from the government, they answer, “we think we are forgotten and we are probably not from Afghanistan.”

Dec 17, 2006

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Dec 7, 2006

Trip to Forgotten Land

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I left Kabul on a misty morning. Dust and smoke covered the face of the city, the laps of the mountains had been filled with snow by the clouds that came rolling down. It was different from other mornings. I couldn't see a hundred meters away, and worried about what would be ahead of me. But I left anyway.

We were 14 passengers, including the drivers, planning to reach the mountains in a van. I bought a small radio to listen to the news. As I walked out of the garage, the driver yelled: "Hey man, hurry up! We're leaving soon!"

The driver was afraid to leave the main road. The reason, he said, was the traffic police. "The traffic police always makes problems and asks money for nothing," he explained. I was sitting on a bench in the van with three guys from the Ministry of Education. The two beside me started to talk. Their breath smelled horribly and even the chewing gum I offered them did nothing to end the nauseating odor. I covered my nose with a shawl and didn't remove it during the whole trip.

We passed the Maidan shar, where three cars had been robbed by the Taliban not too long ago. The Afghan National Army (ANA) fought with insurgents here recently. Going down a hill, we saw the wreckage of a car that had been blown up.

"My brother and my wife were killed in this car," the driver sighed. "My brother worked for an international NGO."

Just minutes later we reached a narrow passage entering a small valley. "Look! This is the place where the three carred were robbed by the robbers!" said Ali, the driver.

We arrived at an old bazaar where we'd stop for lunch, and I couldn't take my eyes off wrecked cars ridden with bullet holes. This was Siakhak, in the district of Jalez, with a population of about 40,000 people. Eight years ago, when Kabul was captured by the Taliban and I fled from the city, I passed here on my way to Mazara-e-sharif. Then, this was a very busy and crowded bazaar. Now it was empty. I walked down the street and took pictures of the walls with all the bullet holes. I saw some people and asked them what had happened. They told me that when the Taliban captured this place they destroyed it because the bazaar was the main source of income for the Hazarajat and there was a military base of the Hizbe Wahdat party nearby -- they were fighting the Taliban.

This was not the first time the bazaar had been destroyed. When the Soviet Union invaded in 1979, the same had happened.

We continued our trip and reached the top of the Onai mountain, covered in snow. We arrived at another small bazaar called Tagab and halted again, this time for praying. That gave me time to talk to people and take some pictures. I asked a small boy if he went to school. "If I go to school, who is going to give me food? I am a shepherd here," he answered.

A young man, asked about education in the area, pointed at some place in the distance and explained that there was the only and first intermediate school ever in the area, built last year. Turning around and pointing to another part of the village: "Here is the only hospital which was newly constructed for us. Before that, we had to take our patients to Kabul, most died on the way, only a few survived."

The hospital has only three doctors. Patients are being brought here from all over the Behsood.

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I'll post more if I survive and have internet access again