Illustrated above is one of our forays into Kabul, Afghanistan. Lest I give the impression otherwise, in many ways Kabul is a thoroughly modern city of 5+ million people, where one often finds polar opposites. It is a city with luxury hotels, high speed internet and giant screen plasma animated billboards. It is also a city that is struggling to “modernize” to open sewers. (In many neighborhoods, human waste just runs out onto the street) The mixture of modern and primitive was made more stark for us, when we turned off a 6 lane divided high speed highway onto this narrow track, which also involved crossing the above river. This is the kind of crossing you expect to find in 1800s America with covered wagons.
Once across the river, we came into a miniature series of Afghan villages, inside of Kabul, but hidden from sight by the densely developed structures. As you can see from the picture above, it was peaceful, beautiful and idyllic. The road we were on kept getting narrower and narrower, though, and I was afraid of getting our vehicle stuck, but instead of reversing course, I decided to shift to four wheel drive and drive on.
I am glad we did, too. Just as the trail became almost impassible and narrow, it broke out into a scene that was amazing to behold. We came upon some Afghan farmers, working the small fields that one would never notice from the city streets just a short block away. And these farmers were not only working the fields, but their implements and techniques had not changed for 5000 years.
The motive power for their plow were two oxen, and the plow itself rested on the side of a mud brick tower which could double as a storehouse and a fortress. Looking closely at the plow, we could see that it had been manufactured almost entirely from wood, with a metal share, repurposed from a gardner’s hand trowel. The modern steel bit of the chisel plow was the only improvement made in this rig for the last 5000 years or so.
We sat with the farmers and enjoyed chai (green tea with cardamom and saffron) and discussed crops and the weather. Pretty much the same things farmers all over the world talk about. The farmers were warm, effusive and held forth on a wide array of subjects, some of which were critical of the government.
We went away quite glad to have taken this road, into the wilds of urban Kabul.