Afghanistan / Places We Go

Kabul, Afghanistan – Part 1 (Featuring Bala Hissar, Babur’s Gardens And More)

Kabul – The capital city, and the chief trading city of Afghanistan is one of the oldest cities in Southern and Central Asia. It is situated on the Kabul River and is about 1800 meters above sea level.

The view from the top floor of the Spinzar Hotel where we stayed.  It was nice to eat breakfast while gazing out at these views:




While driving through the city, you will see many scenes like this one presented by a convoy of German soldiers:


And more “cargo container people” living and working in these classic symbols of globalization:


A typical Afghan transport scene:


A timber workshop with a view of the Bala Hissar in the background:


The ancient citadel of Bala Hissar was home to some of Afghanistan’s most important kings (such as Babur) and is now officially restricted to visitors.  The latest civil war also left the area very heavily mined and so it is rather dangerous to go exploring anyway. However this fortress dating from the 5th century has played a role in every part of the city’s history. Bala Hissar sits to the south of the city center at the end of the Kuh-e-Sherdarwaza Mountain. The Walls of Kabul, which are 20 feet high and 12 feet thick, start at the natural fortress and follow the mountain ridge down to the river. Bala Hissar was originally divided into two parts. The lower fortress where the stables, barracks and three royal palaces were contained and the upper fortress which housed the armory and the infamous Black Pit, the dungeon of Kabul.

In 1880 it was essentially destroyed during the second Anglo-Afghan War. Since 1939 it served as a military college and garrison for Kabul before being destroyed again during the most recent civil war by rocket fire. As mentioned above, it is now almost impossible to gain entry even if one is wiling to offer generous bribes.

A broader view of the Bala Hissar with the timber workshop in the foreground:


An Afghan girl hanging around the timber yards:


The Americans:


An American MRAP driving through Kabul.  The MRAPs are actually from South Africa and have an innovative, V-shaped hull that very effectively disperses much of the energy of a land mine or roadside bomb away from the vehicle:


I told you this was a typical scene… These were all different convoys.  Karzai and the coalition troops have a lot of power in the cities, but you don’t see scenes like this out in the countryside.  On only three occasions did I see coalition troops outside of Kabul (and most of them were troops from New Zealand stationed around the relatively secure town of Bamiyan):


Afghan police ALL drive these Ford Rangers:


Babur’s Gardens are located on Sarak-e-Chilsitun road and are officially open every day from 07.00–19.00 (but like all things in Afghanistan, if you’re willing to pay, it will be open whenever you want).

I believe these 6 hectares of walled gardens are going to be one of the most beautiful spots in the city in a few years. Completely destroyed during the most recent civil war (the trees were cut down for firewood and rival factions would frequently shell positons in and around Babur’s Gardens), the gardens today are enjoying a rebirth.  More than twenty gardeners toil away at the site, landscaping and planting. Already new bushes and the layout for a rose garden are visible. Trees and flowerbeds are also being planted.

The gardens were laid out in the mid-16th century at the behest of the first Mogul emperor, Zahir-ed-Din Mohammad Babur Shah and remain one of the few cultural landscapes in Afghanistan to retain their original shape.

On the final terrace at the top is the tomb of the former king himself, Babur Shah (built by his Afghan wife Bibi Mubarika Yusufzaui after his death in 1530). His wife is buried separately, but her tombstone is perhaps even more beautifully carved than that of her husband.

The entrance to Babur’s Gardens:


It may be a pleasant park, but it’s still Afghanistan:


First view in Babur’s Gardens looking up the mountain:


Flower blossoms in the gardens:


Young Kabul hipsters in Babur’s Gardens eager to have their picture taken by a guy from California:


At the top of the terraces looking back down to the exact location where the first picture taken looking up the mountain was taken from:


One thought on “Kabul, Afghanistan – Part 1 (Featuring Bala Hissar, Babur’s Gardens And More)

  1. Pingback: The Primacy Of The Gun « The Velvet Rocket

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