I flew to Kabul to out process the company and depart for home. First day back, I relaxed. Chilled out a bit. I set up a tour with the Afghan Logistics Service (ALS). ALS is a company in Kabul that provides everything–Logistics services, Security, Vehicles, Tours, Cars. Anything you might need when setting up in country. They also provide a “mini-cab” service. They’ll take you anywhere in the city for 7 bucks. They’re a pretty handy company to have around in Kabul. I’ve used them quite a bit.
While working for MPRI, we’re only supposed to go to authorized areas. The Green Zone, ISAF, KIA, etc.
I can’t do it. I have to get out and see things. How can you experience life with those “granny” rules? MPRI is concerned with lawsuits and such. I don’t care. I want to do what I want to do. Rules be damned.
I called ALS and set up a tour of Kabul. The primary site I wanted to visit was the Bagha Babur. The Garden of Babur Khan. Babur Khan was a minor Prince in Central Asia. He came to the throne of Ferghana when he was 13 or 14. Young! He was a scion of both Timurlane and Genghis Khan. That’s a serious blood line. He started out not so well. He captured Samarkand and had it taken back twice. The Uzbeks were a riddle that he wasn’t quite powerful enough to solve in his youth. His Kingdom Ferghana was also usurped by his half brother while he was in Samarkand. He left his 6 open and his half brother took advantage and left him a homeless bandit prince.
Later, he was offered the throne of Kabul when the King there died with no heir. It was important to keep the bloodline of Genghis and Tumr on the throne. He took the throne and used it as a base to forge an empire. The Moghul Empire. He carved his empire using modern technology. He was the first to bring fire arms to bear in battle in Central Asia. He purchased that technology from the Turks and used it to create Hindustan which is the approximate area covering what we today know as Kabul to Peshawar down to New Delhi and Agra today. He named it Hindustan and called himself the Moghul Emperor after the Persian word for Mongol.
Babur Khan was a Muslim. As a descendant of Genghis, though, he never forgot his roots and still openly courted the favor of the Great Blue Spirit of his homeland and the same deity or spirit whom Genghis worshiped. The Mongols felt a great kinship with the land and nature. This was reflected in the Moghul brand of Islam. Babur also learned about the Hindu religion of his new Empire and took an interest in the animism, Sikhs and Buddhism of his Empire as well. Like Genghis, he was open to different voices where God was concerned.
Having read about Babur Khan and his trek from Herat to Kabul through the Mountains of what is today Ghor province, I wanted to visit his Gardens. Babur died in Agra, but, his wish was to be buried in Kabul. His son, Humayun, had his body preserved in ice and transported back to Kabul where he was laid to rest in his favorite garden spot. Today, this site is known as the Bagha Babur.
Like everything else, Bagha Babur was destroyed by the ravages of the Mujahideen Warlords in the post Soviet Era. Instead of celebrating peace and the defeat of the Soviets, the Warlords became factional and turned on each other like animals. No city suffered more than Kabul. Doostum, Rabbani, Massoud, Hekmetyar and others fought for control of Kabul. They bombed, rocketed, looted, raped and pillaged. Many people hate the warlords today for these crimes against the Afghan people.
The warlords then, of course, lost everything to the taliban and most fled the country like cowards.
Recently, UNESCO and the Agha Khan Foundation repaired the garden and the walls of the Bagha Babur. It was nicely done. Even so, one can still see scars on the structures. Bullet holes and nicks in various places on the Shah Jahan Mosque and the various grave stones in the Tomb area. Like everything else in Afghanistan, funds are short and everything has a ragged quality to it. Bagha Babur is no exception. It’s a magnificent garden and tomb. Hundreds of years of history. We almost lost it all. Thanks to UNESCO and Agha Khan, though, the people of Afghanistan have an important piece of their history to share with each other and the world.
I also drove around other parts of the city. We drove out to the Palaces and the Kabul Museum in Darulaman. The Darulaman Palace is all but destroyed as you can see from the pictures. Another legacy of the Warlords.
The city of Kabul was virtually untouched as the Soviets withdrew. Not until the Warlords started fighting each other did Kabul feel the ravages of modern war. These are the same folks whom we (the US) supported during the Afghan War against the Soviets. Later we imposed these same Warlords on the people of Afghanistan. Many of them are no better than and in some cases worse than the Taliban. I suppose you could say that they are “our” taliban.
Lastly, we cruised up to TV mountain where one can take photos of both sides of the city. It was a cloudy, dusty day. So my photos aren’t great. Even so, they give one an idea of the dusty, central Asian city of Kabul.
Note: Shah Jahan is the man who built the Taj Mahal. He is the Grandson of Babur Khan.