A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Herat City

 This is not Photoshop,'s Afghanistan.

While out West, I got to pass through the regional capital, one of Afghanistan's most significant and historic cities.  Herat is also an example of what can be done right today, in a number of ways.  Its answers may not be easily duplicated elsewhere, but still it is relatively a model of stability, growth and even tolerance.  It was as if we'd left Afghanistan completely and traveled beyond the border...

For contrast's sake, the rough landscape a few miles to the south...

Nicely paved roads, curbs, tree-lined dividers...and we weren't even in the city yet. I knew then that this would be unique.

Welcome to Herat! We're in the business now.

Military checkpoints don't slow down ANA vehicles much.

The Hari Rud, which flows from the Hindu Kush to the Caspian Sea.
My fellow passengers weren't nearly as giddy about that as I was...

"What the hell? Where am I?"

It didn't take long to see firsthand what I'd read and heard about...that Herat is its own thick slice of the country, doing quite well by doing things its own way.  Does that mean it's all above board?  Good God, no...we're talking about Afghanistan here.  And just as interference from Pakistan plagues the East and South, the same can be said of Iranian interference in the West.  But it's no more shady and entangled in various deals and alliances than anywhere else, from what I can tell...and it's prospering, safe and secure.

Even standalone buildings on the outskirts are done in style.

The villa of some connected guy or other, no doubt.

Speaking of, this could easily be a New Jersey diner. 

Tuk-tuks galore. They swarm the streets of this fair city.

Pink glass: extremely popular commodity here.

Persian influence is evident in the architecture, and even the fashion.  Rather than burqas here, women tend to wear patterned long robes that extend from a head covering, though with the face uncovered.  Scandalous, I on earth do the men contain their crazed lustful instincts?!  Insanity.  The pace here is busy; more western than you see in most of the country.  Yet there was an almost jarring sense of order about the place.

A city park! With tall trees...lots of them!

Ornate traffic circle centerpieces are the norm...

Though sometimes the classic umbrella will do.

Tuk-tuk drivers: they are even on G-mail now.

Anyone else see a "Main St., USA" vibe here?
OK, not exactly...but I think you know what I mean.

Poppy palaces do abound here as well...
(the girl wears a typical regional robe garment)

And another new pink building stands tall.

My apologies...but it's beyond late, and there is much more to show of this startling city on Afghanistan's western frontier.  I've decided to break it up into not seeing anything new in Kabul these days anyway.  And the last thing you want is a gallery of moustache shots!  Thanks for bearing with the slideshow...I'd have made a great substitute teacher.
Khodaafes, JagraniDan


Blogger Joneser said...

Those are some crazy photos! I love the tree-lined streets and the Jersey diner, but I HATE THE GOAT ON A BIKE!! THAT IS GROSS!! Thanks so much for the nightmare I shall have tonight.

December 20, 2010 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous NotLikeEisenhowerOrDeNiro said...

Hahaa -- I knew Joneser would love the goat on a bike! Did you send him out for a pass?

And don't think for a second that I didn't catch this one:
"not exactly...but I think you know what I mean."


December 23, 2010 at 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Prince Caspian said...

Khodaafes to you too, Jagran! (translation?)
Joneser's right, those be some sweet pics of Herat- I think she and YFDown want a few panes of that pink glass with which to deck out the Wellington Arms!

Btw, I knew Slappy would pick right up on the Mule line- the song immediately popped into my head upon reading it too
(as did another song from your mention of the Caspian Sea..."float upon the waves")

December 23, 2010 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger lorraine said...

I was in Herat in the early '70's It has always been a bit Western leaning - especially in those days with the Shaw in Iran. Of course all of Afghanistan was different in the days before the USSR invasion. I land traveled Kabul to Herat. Very few women covered their faces. Many chickens, goats and other fauna traveled however they could. We had chickens tied to the top of the bus I was in and a goat for a few miles as a passenger. At least he was with a tender. In India there was a goat on the bus that was put on and got off when his stop came up. Just like a kid (pun intended) going to school. Oh how I wish these countries weren't such a mess - I would love to go back. I'm too old and travel isn't what it used to be. Thank you for trying to bring some order to the mess there but frankly I'm not sure it can be done by outsiders. Even the problems are coming from outside - Pakistan and outside Jihadists, etc. The corruption is just part of doing business and that won't change anyway - neither will the drug cultivation. You can't take that much money away from people - it just needs to be used in Afghanistan - not to fund Jihad. Sorry for the essay. Have a great season whatever it is you do to acknowledge it and stay safe.

December 24, 2010 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Haha- nice work, lalahaa (brothas) and sistah Jonesah. And good pickup on an obvious Mule tossup and a sly Phish one!

December 29, 2010 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Lorraine, thank YOU for writing! Feel free to contribute an "essay" anytime...I love hearing from everyone who's interested, particularly those like yourself who saw these lands in a bygone era. And by the way, I agree with your assessment of things...
Much obliged,

December 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM  

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