zygmunt korytkowski

Short records on Afghanistan.

For the last four days I have been in Kabul.
My plans of going to Herat are slowly dissolving as the airport in Herat is closed and all flights have been cancelled. I don’t really feel like staying any longer in Kabul so I’m considering going to Bamyan where the famous Buddhas of Bamyan used to guard over the picturesque Bamyan Valley. In 2001 the Buddhas were intentionally destroyed by the Taliban in the belief that the monumental statues were “idols” and Sharia law forbids any examples of human portraits, whether they are in the form of sculpture or image.

There are two roads that lead from Kabul to Bamyan. The southern route is unfortunately too dangerous, especially for foreigners. This route goes through Wardak Province which is under Taliban control. I need to take the longer north route, crossing Shibar Pass. This pass divides the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia. Rivers from the east of the Shibar Pass join the Indus River, while those on the west flow towards Amu Darya.

On the way to Bamyan I discover the true beauty of Afghanistan. For the first few days in Kabul I felt under constant pressure. There was a tense atmosphere in the air. It was very quiet but it gave you feeling that at any moment things could blow up, explode. People were busy going about their daily routines but the backdrop was very intimidating. Life for people in Kabul is never bland. Most houses have been destroyed in military operations and even today some parts of the city are ruined. Majority of people do not have running water or electricity. In winter it gets extremely cold, often with fatal consequences.

Sunrise (Central Afghanistan)
Kabul in ruins

One of the most asked questions by my friends is: “Why Afghanistan?” Even today I cannot really give a straight answer. The idea of travelling to Afghanistan was an impulse and I knew that I needed to fulfil the curiosity that was absorbing me. I was driven against all principles of common sense. I knew it was the right thing to do at the time and I had peace in my heart. I believed that nothing could happen to me and it was in my power to make this trip safe. Every day I felt more confident about my decision to go.

Initially I didn’t know where to start... how to prepare myself for such a journey? I’ve never heard before of anyone travelling to Afghanistan independently. I started to do my research by browsing the internet and collecting information.

We have all heard about Afghanistan, but what do we really know about the country? The only news the radio or TV tells us is about yet another young soldier who has died in a military operation with the Taliban. We never hear about people and the places in which they live, we do not know what kind of reality they have to face each day in a country shattered by war for the last 30 years. What do we know about their culture, heritage? To be honest, not much really...  That’s why Afghanistan was even more interesting for me. I wanted to find out more about the Afghan people and to see with my own eyes how the country is coping with a reality scarred by war.

My journey to Afghanistan in summer 2008 was a very moving experience. It felt like I had travelled back in time where my western eyes feasted on everything new, fascinating, different and peculiar. Some streets in Kabul looked as they did hundreds of years ago. Nomads in central parts of the country, moving with their herds, live similar lives to those of their ancestors. They eat the same food and build their tents the same way. They also spend their free time in similar ways to their forefathers. The only difference, and a reminder that we are in the 21st century, is the constant buzz of mobile phones on the busy streets of Kabul.

Images presented in this slide show aim to show a world forgotten, abandoned and often unwanted.

This is the real world, scarred by history which we share...


all content © 2011 by zygmunt korytkowski