"Three foreign kings have subdued India. one of those was Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni ... the second was Sultan Muizuddin the Ghorid... and for many years his slaves and descendants swayed the specter of these realms. I am the third"
- Emperor Babur 1483-1530 born in Samarkand (uzbekistan?) buried in Kabul?
1st Mughal Emperor
Just read Rory Stewart "The Places Inbetween" c2004
About his walk from Herat to Kabul in January 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban. By the Northern route, through Ghor, In the footsteps of Babur Shah.
Is this the ultimate travel book? Certainly seems to me the only book I need to read on Afghanistan.
Khalili was the Hazara leader (is he still vice PM?)
7 Months before Rory's walk, Taliban dynamited the Buddhas at Bamiyan, the Westernmost point of Buddhism. When Babur went through in 1507 , indeed when Muizuddin went through C12, Buddhism had long gone. Rory is sanguine about the destruction, as indeed are the Hazara locals. Being Shia, they dont believe the Sunni Taliban destroyed them as Iconoclasm. "maybe they were looking for gold underneath" says one local.
Here the East met West and formed the Gandharan art where Buddha is represented as a person. As Rory says, the 200 foot niches now may be seen as earlier tradition, where the Buddha is shown as an empty space.
Rory is scathing about NGOs and Tony Blair, but retains adriration for the Brit Special Forces, who pass him in a snowstorm ..."you're a fucking nutter" which he takes as a compliment.
"postconflict experts have got the prestige without the effort or stigma of Imperialism. Their implicit denial of the difference between cultures is the new brand of international intervention ... Their policies fail but no one notices ... no one requires more than a charming illision of action in the developing world..."
I might demur in the case of my sister, who was in Bamiyan a couple of years later, advising on the training of midwives. Perhaps one of the few effective aid ideas. Midwifery being a subject the fanatical Sunni seminarian Talib youth seemed to regard as unnecessary.
Herat: the Governor was Ismail Khan (still??) who commenced the anti-soviet war in 79 by killing a bunch of Russian soldiers "and their families". I had failed to realise the extent to which the 79 Iranian revolution was a push to take land from big landlords. Teheran supported anti landlord struggles in Hazara. Some Begs lost all, the smart allied with Khalili and held on.
The Arabs conquered Herat while Ali was still alive (died C7) but took 400 years to advance a weeks walk East to Ghor.
The Ghorids sprung from their mountains to conquer all from Baghdad to East India, the only hill people to form a pan-Asiatic empire. Already in decline when Genghis Khan swept all away in 1216. The site of their Capital, the "Turquoise Mountain" is unknown, although Rory may have an idea. He now resides in Kabul with a foundation http://www.turquoisemountain.org/
devoted to Afghan culture. He came upon the Minaret of Jam, the American invasion enabling the comprehensive looting of the surrounds... sounds familiar.
Shia "assassins" claimed credit for murdering Muizuddin, the Ghorid prince and conqueror of India...
As a Roman Catholic, my sympathies are with the Shia, lurid posters, penances, saintology et al. as against the Sunni. Particularly with the Hazara, whose women talk to guests.
references : Eric Newby "a short walk in the Hindu Kush 1952
Nancy Dupree 1976 guide book, which steered hippies to the warmer Southern route to Kabul.
I stole my copy of "Places" from a bamboo hut beach resort in Negros Oriental. "The cuckoo nest", near to the legendary typhoon refuge harbour of Tambobo. Known only to skippers of ocean going yachts. I normally dont steal from resort bookshelves, but the reception we got was so abysmal we left after 2 nights. Previously we had enjoyed the spot, but this time the English owners were in residence. The woman, in particular, Nikki? was a hard faced crypto racist. Lonely Planet claims she is an event organiser, which seems hard to credit.. maybe she organises foreigner-only events where the locals are servants only. Maybe we got frozen out because we consisted of a family of a white guy, filipina wife, and 2 young nieces. English may still misunderstand the Filipino extended family, pehaps with wicked salacious dread. The custom seemed to be: white couples, all seated at one table (sans yt), talking about past occasions of drunkeness, very English. I would have preferred them actually to be getting drunk. Then again, I never got on that screamingly with English in England.
My advice : avoid Cuckoos nest when the owners are there (In September, they may be back in Blighty. Then few customers brave the typhoons, which may leave a bounty of beautiful shells on the beach... many of which walk, hermit crabs abounding.