Friday, August 26, 2011

Beautiful Badakhshan

Welcome to Faizabad, where the river is clean and the donkeys are strong!




Last Sunday I took a 3-day trip to Faizabad, the capital city of Badakhshan province, located in Afghanistan's far northeast.




It's a (relatively) very safe province, having served as the stronghold of the Northern Alliance during the Taliban years. Several residents proudly told me that Badakhshan was the only province to continuously allow girls to attend school, with no interruption from the Taliban.


This is the entrance to the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team), where the USG is based. We're guests of the German military.





The entire town of Faizabad is built around the river, and lots of the activity is centered around it:










USAID recently completed a paved road that runs parallel to the river, and it's a huge development for the town. Of course, most people still see the road from the back of donkey instead of the inside of a car.







Even more recently, USAID installed solar-powered street lamps along the road, which seem to be really appreciated. Since I visited during Ramadan, lots of people were out at night, eating and walking under the lights.




Ice cream shop along the main drag:




Banana-flavored ice cream. I still haven't gotten sick yet...




Grandpa and granddaughter hanging out at the ice cream shop in the evening:




Typical street scene:








Following behind a jingle truck on a death-defying mountain pass above the city.




View of Faizabad from above. There were also a couple other local tourists taking pictures.














This monument on the other side of the river is apparently constructed at the site of a mass grave, victims of the Soviet invasion.

















We visited the old town, which was constructed roughly 300 years ago and doesn't seem to have changed much.




The outdoor market has also been around since the 1700s:




Local mosque in the old town:




View of the river from a USAID-constructed bridge:





Back on the other side, we passed right by the town buzkashi field! Buzkashi is like polo, with a headless goat carcass replacing the ball (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzkashi).




Preparing for the day that buzkashi becomes an Olympic sport?




And on the helicopter ride back, flying over the mountains of Panjshir province, home of Massoud:



Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Kabul Skyscraper!

Magnificent!!



Woman in a burka, begging on Darulaman Road, near Parliament:



Hanging out in wheelbarrows on a Saturday afternoon:



Selling scarves along Kabul River in the old city:



Girl, playing with the pigeons, also along Kabul River:



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pictures from around Town

I went to go monitor a grant on the outskirts of Kabul a few weeks ago and learned a little more about burqas. Apparently, white burqas are more common in northern provinces, like Balkh, while green burqas are more prevalent in the south, especially Kandahar. Blue burqas seem to pop up everywhere.
If you look closely, you can see that ISAF is written on the street sign:


Japanese cast-off minibuses are everywhere



Peeling flyers on the side of a building:






Driving through the Old Town:




Yes, there's actually a zoo in Kabul. It's probably the most depressing zoo in the world:




Poor little donkey :(





Friday, August 12, 2011

Ghazi Stadium

A few days ago I visited Ghazi Stadium, which is in downtown Kabul. You might recognize the name from "A Thousand Splendid Suns," as it served as the site of public executions during the Taliban era. I thought about putting up a link to webpages with info about this, but they're pretty gruesome. Just google it.

Recently, the stadium has undergone some renovations and apparently has been rebranded as the Olympic Stadium. It's still not very inviting, but it hosts soccer games and serves as a training facility for both male and female athletes.





Very desolate. Renovations are apparently ongoing. The pole in the back righthand corner is obscuring a billboard of President Karzai.






The view on the way out. I don't know who that is...