Last Saturday I visited the region of Paghman in the mountains outside of Kabul with some expat and Afghan friends. It is a spot that many Kabulis visit on the weekends to be with family, swim in the river, and get away from the dust and noise of Kabul. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Kabul, although the drive would be twenty minutes if the road was paved.
We found a nice place under some trees near the stream and unloaded the fruits and vegetables we brought. The air was cooler than Kabul, and fresher, and it was nice to sit in the grass and eat mango and watermelon. After relaxing a bit near the water we decided to go hiking up the nearby mountain.
It was a nice hike, but hard to do in my sandals and with my headscarf blowing in the wind. We stopped near the top of the mountain and looked at the amazing view below. There were high mountains in every direction, and the city of Kabul could be seen in the distance. In a valley below I could see the tents of the Kuchi, a nomadic Pashtun tribe. The view of Kabul and the countryside was so picturesque that it was easy to forget the years of war and repression that this country has suffered.
But then, suddenly, it was back to reality. An Afghan soldier approached us. He looked about 13 years old and was carrying an automatic weapon. I was nervous at first, but he turned out to be very nice. He had hiked up the mountain to tell us that the top part of the mountain (where we had been preparing to hike) was still heavily mined.
Due to years of war, Afghanistan has become the most heavily land-mined country in the world. There are thousands of unexploded mines scattered throughout the countryside and outside the city center of Kabul. Although there is an ongoing effort to eradicate these mines, the threat remains.
The vast majority of land mine victims are civilians, many of them children playing in mined fields. The soldier’s warning was a reminder that Afghanistan’s peace is extremely recent, and still tenuous.
The rest of the day was enjoyable. We ate a delicious meal of lamb kabobs and palow, an Afghan rice dish with carrots and raisins. And then after that it was back on the bumpy road back to Kabul.
Posted By Sarah Schores (Afghanistan)
Posted Jun 28th, 2004