Published: November 11th 2004November 11th 2004
A shrine photo
They're walking around the shrine. The building to the left is the gatehouse.
An update on what I've been doing the past few days. I've settled into Mazar-i-Sharif, now a regular at one juice stand and an Indian restaurant, which is nice. Mazar is a dirty, dusty city, filled with beggars, but it has one of the most amazing structures in the Islamic world, the shrine of Ali. It's really impressive in person, the photos I'd seen of it before didn't really do it justice, and neither do mine, as you can probably see.
The highlight of my time in Mazar was a side trip I took to Balkh, probably Afghanistan's oldest city, and the birthplace of Zoroaster. It's filled with ruins, the city was huge before being completely levelled by Jenghiz Khan. It was fun walking around the site where the city used to be, it's littered with human bones and pieces of ancient pottery, some remnants big enough that you can pick up and see the patterns. The local police apparently don't allow any archaeological excavations, but the locals dig around to find artifacts they can sell to aid workers, and some more signifigant pieces international clients send assistants to pick up from here for their personal collections, black market.
I really can't get enough of them
This was also in Alexander's empire, I think the capital of the Bactrian empire, and I bought a coin in perfect condition with Alexander's portrait on it for ten dollars. I talked him down from thirty, and probably still overpaid, but I figure it's 2400 years old, it's probably not too bad of a value. Besides, I've wanted one of those for a while. I met an English student home for the weekend from Mazar who showed me around all the ruins, showed me where Jenghiz built the pyramid of skulls(someone showed me where he built it in Kunduz, too) and I finally saw some of the cannabis fields. It's big hashish country here, and probably about half the men smoke hash. I was offered some in Ishkoshim, but I declined... for some reason I prefer to stay sharp all the time, though I did have those two beers. I figure if the swiss tourists got beaten to death for photographing women in burqas, I probably can't be too straight laced. The next souveneir purchase I want to make is some Iraqi dinars with Saddam Hussein's portrait on them- I've heard you can buy them around here. Other than that
Man on bicycle
Cycling the remains of Jenghiz Khan's castle in Balkh
I've just been generally enjoying myself, drinking juice all night and chatting with various students about politics and America and whatnot, trying to look at women without getting caught(not actually that big of a deal in a big city like Mazar) and eatting meals so gigantic after the fast that I'm nearly sick each night. Tomorrow I will go to Kabul, which despite the kidnappings is still probably the safest place in the country. It was a pretty daring attack by the 'militants', and it probably took at least a couple of months of planning to execute(no pun intended-bwahahaha!) Plus, security has been even more intense since then, which is pointless in my opinion because the militants aren't from Kabul anyway. So don't worry. Okay until next time, goodbye
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