Bamiyan is to Afghanistan what Kurdistan is to Iraq. It is home to the Hazara minority, Shia Muslims who were treated with special harshness by the Sunni Taliban during their years in power, the town offers respite from the tension in the rest of the country. One sign of repose is the newfound recreation of skiing—embodied by the Bamiyan Ski Club and its flagship program, the annual Afghan Ski Challenge.
“In 2009, the Aga Khan was looking into developing a ski project,” says Ian MacWilliam, a former communications officer for the Aga Khan Development Foundation “We hired a mountaineering specialist to be a ski consultant and he and some others started surveying the parallel valleys in the area and talking to the village elders. We tried to tell them it will be like the 1960’s with all the tourists. In 2010, the Aga Khan Development Fund produced a guidebook and set up a shop in a local guesthouse. There was some old equipment from some French people and our first clients were foreigners living in Kabul who needed a break and spent money.” At the same time, a Swiss journalist, Christoph Zurcher, now a features editor at the Neue Zurcher Zeitung, was dreaming up the first Afghan Ski Challenge. “I came to Bamiyan as a tourist,” says Zurcher, “and one day I sat on the roof of my hotel looking at the mountains and, as [I’m] Swiss it didn’t take long to start thinking of skiing. With the help from my newspaper I contacted some sponsors and in 2011 held the first race.”
Bagh-e Babur, Kabul, Afghanistan
Gardens of Babur, locally known as “Bagh-e Babur”, is a historic park in Kabul, Afghanistan, and also the last resting-place of the first Mughal emperor Babur, a native of Uzbekistan. The gardens are thought to have been developed around 1528 AD (935 AH), when Babur gave orders for the construction of an ‘avenue garden’ in Kabul, described in some detail in his memoirs, the Baburnama. Having initially been buried in Agra, India, where he died, Babur’s body was moved to the grave enclosure in the garden around 1540.
But time has taken its toll on Babur’s original garden. By 2001, foreign occupation and fighting between militant groups caused them to be almost destroyed, especially under the civil war in 1992. Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, however, the gardens have been completely restored. Restoration of the site began in 2002 by the Aga Khan Foundation. Now, the gardens attract more than 300,000 visitors per year who pay 20 afghanis (25p) to enjoy the open spaces and picnic beneath shady trees.
- Jalal Ad-Din Rumi - رومى