Kabul April 2003
I about 4.00 pm I left Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul, with Liisa (a Finn) and Briita ( Danish) heading for Bibi Maru, the mountain made famous by Babur on his return from Herat in 1503.
From the run-down streets, blocked drains and drab houses I remember in 1996 and in March 2003, the area is now flourishing with newly paved streets, footpaths repaired, and renovated houses painted in bright colours and alongside some, new houses are being built. The poky little street corner shops that used to be stocked with a maximum of 20 items, have been enlarged five-fold and overflowing with goods from every corner of the world, to cater for the needs of foreigners. Shoe shine boys that once looked like skinny waifs, show a plumpness in the face from the foreign largess.
The walk up Bibi Maru was a climb up memory lane. As we arrived near the top the sun was setting to the right of the hill where Babur was buried. The reflection of the last rays of the sun was just visible in a murky trickle that is still the Kabul River. Ford O Ford of Kabul River wrote Kipling about this once mighty river where thousands of British soldiers lost their lives in crossing one dark winter's night long ago.
Bibi Maru, the moon-faced lady, hasn't changed, but the occupiers have. They are no longer Parthian, Persian, Greek, Mongol, Turkish, Moghul, British, Soviet or Taliban but Romans. Ironically, almost 2400 years after Alexander and his Greek Army stood astride this very hill, the new Romans, ISAF troops in 3 APC's from Italy, settled in for the night to protect Kabul. Does Kabul need Romans to protect its beauty ? In my garden and all around Kabul, the thorns are protecting Kabul's roses as they have done for centuries. Roses, Romans, conquerors come and go, but the new and old thorns mingle, and protect Koh Daman and its settlements.
From the summit I drew in a view I had seen at least 50 times before, but each is different. Gazing over the plains to Istalif and then up to the awe inspiring Hindu Kush, freshly coated in snow, two thousand years of history flashed in a blink.
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