To see the aftermath of the utter destruction of Kabul during the civil war of the 1990s, followed by the dark period of oppression imposed by the Taliban, is hardest of all for those who grew up in the Kabul of the 1950s, 60s, 70s or even 80s. For it is these Afghans who can still remember a cosmopolitan city where tradition and modernity mixed harmoniously, a place of old and distinguished character that simultaneously could offer many of the developed world's latest amenities. For the rest of us, a great deal of imagination is required to see into the past, beyond today's thick haze of pollution, out of control traffic, and the haphhazard reconstruction characterized by Pakistani-style narco-palaces, gaudy wedding halls, and forbidding compounds hidden behind barbed wire and concrete barriers.
I am one of those who relies on imagination rather than memory. I only know the complicated Kabul of today, a bustling, spirited and chaotic city sitting atop layers of history and rubble. It's a city from which the educated, the wealthy, and the cultural elites fled, and into which...More >>