INGULFED

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Archive for afghanistan

The Afghan Ski Challenge — Women’s Edition

The third annual Afghan Ski Challenge kicks off above 10,000 feet in central Afghanistan. For the first time, the festival holds a race for Afghan women, seven skiers and a snowboarder.

All powder, no nonsense.

I originally filed this video/pics/article for the Al Jazeera English Magazine. Check it out here.

Afghan photos and more at a-vl.com.

Cool off the Press: Breakfast with the Taliban

For the original, from the Daily Outlook Afghanistan in Kabul: click here.

One Saturday in June, traffic was light on the road from Kabul to the town of Bamyan, nestled deep in a high valley lined with sandstone cliffs 240 kilometers to the northwest. But for all the paving efforts that have made it among the smoothest in the country, this route from the Afghan capital through the 10,000-foot-high Shibar pass is less than perfect. One week earlier, head of Bamiyan’s provincial council Jawad Zahak had been targeted and dragged from his convoy by the Taliban. Four days ago, they told me in the car, he was beheaded. Hussein pointed: “Right… wait — there.”

I had found a tour company online and guessed an email address from a mush of pixels. Success came in the confirmation of a car that would deliver me from outside the dead-bolted orange gates of my hotel in Kabul to their lodge in Bamiyan. At six a.m., I was late. The hubcap-less white sedan drew a stark contrast to the polished and armored SUVs that take westerners to get mango milkshakes. And there were four men inside. Open the mind’s floodgates: this seems infinitely more kidnappy.
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Liwa — ليوا

Top to bottom:
Sand dunes in Liwa, Abu Dhabi, UAE;
More sand dunes in Liwa, Abu Dhabi, UAE;
Hillside in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan.

~ Happy birthday Grandpa ~

A Berry, Good Trip

100th Post!

(*not including all the photo ones)


The road to Kunduz, the last city stronghold of the Taliban, before they fell in 2001.

Afghanistan: Epilogue

After four hours on our way back from Bamiyan, we took a detour at a car wash/berry stand for a detour into the heavenly Panjshir valley. We had just passed a convoy of military trucks and emerged from the dirty, windy roads of Taliban territory onto smooth highway. Gull, my guide and the founder of the new Rah-e-Abrisham tour agency, looked infinitely happier. We waited while two boys meticulously sprayed and scrubbed the car back to white, and looked out at the road ahead: the road to Panjshir was safe, controlled only in parts by mafias — those who dealt in drugs, not people — and most of them could be bribed.

The berries were outside the town of Charikar, and we ordered them from the mechanic by claiming a woven dish of many thousands of white, pink, and purple fruits that resembled mini raspberries, and popping them into our mouths with scientific precision. The darker berries were the sweetest, sometimes too much so. The whitest were tart, and the pink and multi-colored could be anywhere in the middle. Gull and Ali Akbar, our fearless driver, were experts. Flitting across the surface with their fingertips, they avoided the mushiest and would put together a cocktail of two or three berries of different colors to toss back in the cup of their palm. Only I ever put four together or had one alone. After half an hour, in the pile wider than a large New York pizza, we had made respectable damage and returned the basket to its roadside table, where it waited under the shade for the next hungry travelers.

There is a checkpoint somewhere along the silver Panjshir river. The jagged walls of the gorge shoot up almost vertically, and a guard waved from a booth chiseled into the rock face for me to display my passport. There are small towns along the road, or by the wrong turns we took, but most of this detour is uneventful. For brief moments, with early afternoon light just right, wide open fields are golden with grain. But the big pay-off comes suddenly, right around one final turn…


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If you are drinking tea…


Full story over at The Express Tribune.

They invited me in for tea, six Patan engineers and construction workers and an older man, to their gated compound. We talked about the Taliban, Judaism, Islam, and guys from Kandahar and why they like little boys so much. We made lots of butt jokes. We had dinner. Now we’re friends on Facebook.


Be sure to check out the videos from Afghanistan here: VIDEOS!

All the photos from Afghanistan are here: PHOTOS!

A slideshow of the men from Bamiyan is below —

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Rocks and a Canon — الصخور في كانون

Afghanistan: Part Five

[This story has been submitted elsewhere and cannot ethically be published here. Until we can give up on “ethics”, I offer only a poor abridgment below. In order to read the full story complete with Bamiyan political history and portraits of kids: send an email to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM with a sentence including the words “Rebel”, “aperture”, and “iPhone”.]

My guide had looked at me like I was crazy to walk around on the streets of crepuscular Bamiyan for no reason. Not because it was dangerous, just because… why? I was hoping to take some pictures of people — and I got everything I was hoping for. A dozen children ran and played and strangled each other (quasi-jokingly) and when they refused my offer to photograph them, I gave them my Canon Digiital Rebel XT — certainly the first time any of them had held a camera of any kind. It was their weapon. The tides turned.

The following link is the 97 pictures they took. (View as an automatic slideshow or just click through — these pictures span 5:57—6:07 p.m. on June 12, 2011.)

Pictures, here!

The camera was left on Aperature Priority, so that when they turned a particular dial they underexposed the pictures almost completely to black. Many of them still had information that could be recovered by squeezing the RGB levels. These ones look pretty darn cool. I’m almost positive that’s what the kids had intended.

Below, and at this link, is the video of their exploits, filmed with a concealed iPhone on Sar-e-Aasyab Street in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

This photo and the following were taken by the children.


See all the photos from Afghanistan here, including more of the photographers themselves.

أفضل نزهة في آسيا الوسطى — The Best Picnic in Central Asia

Afghanistan: Part Four

[The following are adapted excerpts from an article that has been submitted elsewhere. To read the full story with a blow-by-blow of the drive from the central Afghan hub of Bamiyan to the perhaps the most beautiful lakes in the whole Caucasus, send an email to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM with a sentence including the words “picnic”, “caucasus”, and “dragon”.]

If you’re not doing anything later, you might like to check out Band-e Amir, Afghanistan’s one and only national park. Six sapphire-blue lakes 10,000 feet up in the Hindu Kush Mountains provide what may be Central Asia’s Number One picnic spot. Entry costs fifty afghanis (one dollar).

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