Sunday, June 27, 2010

Of Herat

Photo by Herat on Flickr

Your correspondent was lucky enough to travel to Herat on Saturday. We left quite early (which is the excuse the Staff Photographer provides for not having the appropriate equipment along... tragically, no photos were taken, so we found the above picture of Herat taken by some other Flickr user).

Even though the whole trip was pretty quick, from the Herat airport to the site of a conference, and back to the airport a few hours later, there was a lot to see. As in many poor countries, it's always striking to see the chaos of traffic, with people carrying big sheafs of rebar on bicycles and hauling cartloads of watermelon around with tuk-tuks.

But more unique to Afghanistan is the mode of dress. Your correspondent was in not-so-far-away Uzbekistan not long ago, and while many women and some older men wore traditional clothes, many Uzbeks, especially younger men, had fully taken on Western clothing. It is certainly my impression from speeding by the people of Herat in an armored SUV that the men almost without exception still wear traditional clothes that many Americans would say look like pajamas. Interesting headwear and long beards were also abundant. And for women, there were a fair number of burqas, but also a lot of garments that looked to your correspondent like floral-pattern bedsheets wrapped around the head and draped over the body so only the face was showing. I don't know if the description is doing it justice - we really wish the staff photographer had made it.

In any case, it was a quick trip but a nice chance to see some of the country - and to be honest by driving for 40 minutes each way from the airport, I've now seen a lot more of Herat than I have of Kabul.

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