Friday, 17 October 2008

17th October market stalls, gardens and on to the hills!

Friday in Kabul and everyone has a day off. The streets are lined with market stalls and Kabul is alive with people and donkeys and buses and colour. The Kabul river, which I saw so recently in flood, is now dry and thirsty.

Went to the Babur Gardens for an exhibition of Contemporary Iranian, Pakistani and Afghan art run by The Turquoise Mountain. It was held in the Harem palace overlooking the entire city of Kabul. Beneath the palace, all spectacularly restored and breathtakingly beautiful, lie the gardens of Babur - also lovingly restored and full of Afghans, sitting beside the glorious full bloom roses in magnificent bursts of colour, enjoying the gardens of Kabul as in the days of peace,which must seem so far in their past.

I wish that the world could see this - what can be done in Kabul and how life can be in Afghanistan. Their hertitage restored, hundreds of Afghans flock to these gardens and buildings today and visit the wonderful exhibition. It is almost more amazing and fulfilling to watch the Afghans at this exhibition and how they admire the art, than the art itself, which is stunning.

As we walk out of the exhibition,we walk through an arch which frames the Kabul hills, with their tapestry of mud houses climbing and clinging to the slopes and the clean blue sky above, dotted with kites. It is a scene depicting the might have been and the fragile possibility of what could be in the future and also the beauty of the present moment. We met some of the Turquoise Mountain staff and had fascinating conversation with them.

The afternoon was bizarre - had a meeting with Sophie Swire,who is an amazing woman who has built schools in Pakistan and run an import business in pashminas and also in cashmere spun in Nepal and has now set up a gem cutting woprkshop in Turquoise Mountains fort. Our meeting took place at the Serena Hotel - Kabul's top hotel which recently underwent a ghastly attack and expates and Afghans were killed. I have never been to somehwere so heavily fortified this 5 star luxury hotel with spa and gym ringed by concrete, metal, barbed wire and fear. Huge steel doors and barriers to cross and then you enter this haven of luxury and once again find it all so bizarre. Our meeting thoiugh was fascinating and we also met up with Sam Akexandroni, from the New Statesman, who will travel with us tomorrow.

Tonight we will meet and have supper with Catherine Day at the Embassy and then tomorrow, at last to the Hills!

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