16 February 2009

Bad words, bullet holes couldn't mar the view

Despite the damage, it is easy to imagine the splendor of what remains of Darul Aman Palace on the outskirts of Kabul.

Sunday I walked around and through the bombed, burned and bullet-ridden concrete shell that used to be Darul Aman Palace built in the 1920s by King Amanullah Khan, widely considered to be a modernizing force in Afghan history. Our “tour guides” were two Afghan National Army soldiers who were guarding the historical site, probably to keep people from squatting there and to prevent from people from falling through the gaping floors in the upper floors. They were helpful and maybe relieved from their safe but undoubtedly boring duty.

We, an AUAF faculty colleague and I, were also accompanied by an escort who translated between the soldiers and us. The palace on a hill on the south side of Kabul offered a panoramic view of the city, the nearby AUAF campus, the site proposed for a new AUAF campus, an army base, the Kabul Museum, a smaller palace built for the King Amanullah’s queen, and a countryside and mountains blanketed by the heaviest snowfall of the winter.

There was a great deal of graffiti, most of it in Dari (also called Farsi) and a few were accompanied by illustrations, for example, a tree, a flower and a heart. The one that interested us the most depicted an automatic weapon, the ubiquitous AK-47, and a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher. We asked our escort what the words said. “Bad words,” he said. “Can’t you be more specific?” He hemmed and hawed and but eventually explained that they amounted to, Fuck the wives of all political leaders. OK, bad words.

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