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Updated: Apr 5, 2022

The sun sets over Bamjan and illuminates the caves that once housed Afghanistan’s Buddha statues
Bamyan, Afghanistan; photo by ...

When I was a kid, I used to dream of the big wide world and all its exotic places. And this world began right in front of our home and stretched to the other side of the planet — just like a rainbow.

Maybe I did have this strong feel because I was home someplace else before I was born into my current existence. Or perhaps because of my parents’ enormous bookcase that had intrigued me since childhood. It was stuffed with unusual volumes and tales of travelers from around the world who had walked the rainbow — some of them a long time ago.

These books contained images of glorious temples, wide rivers, towering mountains, and people who looked so different from us. People with flat noses and black hair. With darker skins and of varying stature. Dressed in unusual clothes with captivating smiles. And then there was one copy that nearly blew me away: a heavy picture book with gold-rimmed pages. Afghanistan.

When we think of this distant country, often only disheartening stuff comes to mind: hostility, terror, war, and devastation. While undoubtedly some of it may well be true, it is still only just one side of the coin. Because there is the other one, too — the fascination that has so profoundly touched and stolen the hearts of many travelers. Just like mine.


Whenever I recall my time in Afghanistan I’m struck by a strange twinge in my heart, a vibrating melancholy. Which I can best describe as a deep-seated pining. It makes me remember its infinite sky-blue firmament that spans across the entire land, while clouds rarely tarnish it. I see the barren and scanty mountain ranges in front of my inner eye, on which life barely appears to be possible. And yet, when I look closer, allow my gaze to halt, I discover it.

There is aliveness that is so cleverly blended into the rugged slopes and the valleys that lie at their feet. Scarcely discernible from a distance, unless you know what you’re looking for.

The memory of Afghanistan’s vastness still captures my mind to this day, makes it pound and throb. Makes it jump with joy. There is a yearning that dissolves into the immensity of the land and does not wish to ever return. A desire to remain in the lap of the intimacy of these eternal ranges. An almost painful longing to put my head down under a flowering almond tree by the riverside and simply attain peace.

And when the sun starts to disappear behind Afghanistan’s graceful and barren beauty, a show begins that only Nature is endowed with. This is the fulminant moment when heaven and horizon merge, plunging everything into a single shimmering light. The contours of the rolling peaks start to radiate, glow in all the infinite shades the universe has to offer.

It’s a show no one will ever get weary of witnessing.

This is also the time peace descends of which Afghanistan has seen so little in the recent past—while there is such an enormous craving for it. And as the day draws to a close, hopes for a peaceful tomorrow are awakened. Like a heavenly dream that silently unfolds in the middle of the night.

Although my stay was too short to grasp Afghanistan thoroughly, it left a notable footprint in my heart. It was the novelty of what I was seeing, hearing, and witnessing. It reached out to me, took me by the hand, and invited me in to be its guest of honor — a call I gratefully and wholeheartedly accepted.

To the foreign onlooker, much remains concealed and hidden behind the walls that surround each home. And yet, in that respect, it is not dissimilar to my own culture — where, too, we shield ourselves from the outside world behind giant hedges, fences, and other protective measures.


But behind these towering walls and a misconceived hostility resides a warmth and hospitality that may surprise many. And yet, Afghanistan has always been renowned for the latter. And probably still is. But suspicion has settled in decades ago with the arrival of foreign powers that have repeatedly claimed the country for themselves.

It is a land of significant disparity and inequality, like so many others in the world. Yet, I have witnessed an inherent charm for which no single word, no color, or emotion seems adequate. It’s something I can’t describe, but only sense with my heart. And that is where Afghanistan, along with its wonderful people, will forever have a safe place.

A lot has happened on Afghan soil. Good, bad, evil. In this respect, too, it is no different from other nations. And at the same time, it is always up to the beholder to choose whatever seems appropriate (without ignoring what is wrong). Based on my experience, I’ve picked the good, the cordiality and hospitality, and the love Afghans have for their native land

That’s what they stand for. These are the same people who pray for peace, order, and prosperity — for themselves, their children, and the future of all.

I wish to return to Afghanistan one day. Because since long, I have been holding on to another dream. To be able to encounter the enchantment of this uniquely amiable country and its marvelous people once more— only this time on the back of a Royal Enfield. With a bunch of friends and love in our hearts and saddlebags.

Once peace returns, so shall I.


Thank you for reading. Hope to see you back for more!



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