Sunday, August 01, 2010

Not For Nothing Was Kabul Once Called 'The Paris Of The East'.

Down the Murad Khane's busy flagstone passageways you will still find old, richly filigreed window frames, door screens and facades in the Nuristani and Kabuli styles. There are still "hammams," the old domed-roof bath houses, and relics of ornate Simgili plasterwork in walls that surround cool and quiet courtyards. Some of the old houses still tilt and groan against elaborately carved Kandankari veranda posts, and there are still faint echoes of the grand Mughal style in the great serai, the central gathering place.

Through winding corridors and up and down staircases I was led by Zabi Majidi, a 30-year-old Afghan architect, raised and schooled in Germany and Britain. Zabi is the youngest of Afghan journalist Mohammad Shah Majidi's five children. Kabul's old city was Mohammad Shah's boyhood neighbourhood, and Zabi grew up on its stories. Not for nothing was Kabul once called the Paris of the East. When Mohammad Shah came back shortly after the rout of the Taliban in 2001, he brought Zabi with him. He wept, because everything from his childhood was gone. "It was terrible for him," Zabi remembers.

- from today's essay in the Calgary Herald, the latest in a series of my portraits of Afghans. Note the tagline at the bottom: Herald reporter Michelle Lang, who was killed in Afghanist an by a roadside bomb last year, had planned to meet ordinary Afghan heroes like Zabi Majidi. This series is in honour of her.


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