Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fruit shops in Kabul, 1840

The Main Street in the Bazaar at Kabul in the Fruit Season', c.1840 . By James Atkinson.

"I paid my first visit to the city this afternoon. The path was crowded with people, and after a pretty long ride we entered, not by a gate, as usual, but by a narrow street, which is the introduction to Caubul. There we were, indeed, astonished by the luxurious appearance of the fruit shops. Melons, grapes, pears, apples, plums, peaches, in wonderful profusion, and all ranged in beautiful order on pieces of masonry, of different heights, so as to exhibit them in the most attractive way.” The shops themselves are little better than sheds. It is not only the beauty of the fruit, but its prodigious abundance, which strikes the mind so forcibly. We do not see half a dozen melons, or a dozen bunches of grapes, but thousands. This display continued a great distance, the shops twin-brothers all, but still delightful. Caubul has always been famous for its fruit. The Emperor Baber says in his Memoirs, “The fruits of the cold districts in Caubul are grapes, pomegranates, apricots, peaches, pears, apples, quinces, jujubes, damsons, almonds, and walnuts, all of which are found in great abundance. I caused the sour cherry-tree, the aloobala, to be brought here and planted; it produced excellent fruit and continues thriving. The fruits it possesses, peculiar to a warm climate, are the orange, citron, the amlook (a berry like the karinda), and sugar-cane, which are brought from Lamghanat, now called Laghman. I caused the sugar-cane to be brought, and planted it here; they bring the julghuzak (the seed of a kind of pine of a large size) from Nijrow; they have numbers of bee-hives, but honey is brought only from the hill-country on the west. The rawāsh of Caubul’ (rhubarb, tarts made of it have precisely the taste of gooseberries) “is of excellent quality; its quinces and damask plums are also excellent, as well as its bâdrengs, a large green fruit, somewhat like a citron.” He also says, that, “on his return from the conquest of Lahore, he brought plantains and planted them, and that they grew and thrived,” but I have not seen one in this country. As we moved along, other articles for sale were presented to view in succession. Cooks were preparing kabobs, and confectioners, sweetmeats. Cutlers and farriers employed on guns, swords, and horse-shoes; the silk mercer, the dealer in carpets, furs, lace, chintz, saddlery, &c., all attentive to their occupations, and all in the open day. The vegetables as well as the fruit are of an excellent kind; and the mutton sold in common to the inhabitants is much superior to any I ever saw in an Indian bazaar.
Every joint was a picture for painters to study,
The fat was so white, and the lean was so ruddy. 
Doomba mutton, however, though it looks so well, is not sufficiently delicate for European taste. It has a strong flavour. Nothing could exceed the industry that appeared everywhere around us ; everybody employed and intent upon his calling" ["The Expedition Into Afghanistan", By James Atkinson, p-271]

Monday, November 12, 2018

Afghan horse-dealers

Barikh Khan , an Afghan horse dealer in Lahore. 1886's painting by Rudolf Swoboda.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Afridi and the Mullah

A certain Afridi being desirous to learn to read, went into a village to a Mullah and said to him, that it would be a great favour if he would give him lessons. The Mullah asked him whether he had learnt any thing previously, and the Afridi told him that he had not learned to read. He then asked him what he would commence with, and the latter replied, that he would do as the tutor might direct. The Mullah told him that in the first place he should get the Alphabet by heart, and then commence reading the first section of the Quran; to which the Afridi having agreed, he was requested to come the next morning.

When the Afridi made his appearance the next morning, the Mullah taking the Alphabet in his hand pointed out the first letter, and requesting his scholar to repeat after him, said “Alif.” “Alup,” repeated the Afridi. “That is not the pronunciation,” said the teacher, “repeat exactly as I say—Alif.” “Alup” says the Afridi again with the greatest innocence possible. “Do not pronounce it so,” said the Mullah, “call it Alif.;” and the Afridi like an obedient pupil obeying his instructor to the letter said, “Do not pronounce it so, call it Alup.” The Mullah again said, “That is not correct, call it Alif.” “That is not correct, call it Alup,” said the Afridi. The Mullah, who was not a second Job, now losing all patience said, “Oh ! infidel, call it Alif,” on which the Afridi replied, “Oh ! infidel, call it Alup.” The Mullah at this becoming very angry gave the Afridi a box on the ear. The latter now thought within himself, “Master commanded me to repeat whatever he said, and doubtless it is necessary that I should also do as he does;” so thinking this a part of the lesson, he dealt the Mullah a hearty box on the ear in return. At this specimen of Afridiness, the latter becoming more enraged than ever, seized the Afridi by the throat; and the pupil obeying his instructor to the letter seized him by the throat also. In this state they both rose from their squatting position and commenced wrestling. At length the Afridi having the advantage in strength, succeeded with little trouble, in laying the Mullah at full length on his back, and seated himself on his breast; at the same time looking towards the latter expecting him to go on with the lesson.

In this unpleasant situation it struck the Mullah that his amiable pupil might probably have taken his words, “to imitate whatever he might say,” in too literal a light, and that possibly he might be only imitating him in this instance; so taking his hands off the Afridi he exclaimed, “Oh Infidel, let me go.” The Afridi replied, “Oh ! Infidel, let me go,” and allowed the Mullah to get up; after which he said, “Master | that was not a good lesson by any means, it was a hard fight.” The Mullah answered, “You speak truly; tomorrow it will come to swords.” “If such is the case,” said the Afridi, “I will go home and fetch my sword,” and he set out accordingly. The Mullah glad of this opportunity, thought there was no time to be lost; and that very night he made. ["A Grammar of the Pukhto, Pushto, Or Language of the Afghans", H.G.Raverty, p-vi]

Ali Masjid, Khyber Pass, c.1910. Photo by R.B.Holmes

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Kochi or Pawanda

"Powandah is the name given to the nomad tribes of Afghans who move about with their flocks and herds , and act as carriers between their own country and India" (Raverty, "A Dictionary of the Puk'hto, Pus'hto, Or, Language of the Afghans, p-1106)

Kochi caravan marching through Kabul to summer pasturelands in the north, 1950s

A shy Kochi maiden, 1950s.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Old Kandahar

Occupying the base of a bare rocky hill, about 3 miles to the west of modern Kandahar, are the ruins of the ancient city "Shahr -i- Husain Shah" after its last king, Shah Hussain Hotak. The remains of its former extensive defences crown the height of the rock, and were supplied with water from adjacent reservoirs partially cut out of rock, and partially built up. It is said to have been founded by Alexander the Great, and to have been several times destroyed and rebuilt by its Arab, Persian, Tartar, Turkman, and Uzbak conquerors, and was finally taken by surprise and sacked and destroyed by Nadir Shah, about 1738 A.D. The population of the city was resettled in Nadirabad, a new city built by Nadir on the site of his camp about 2 miles southeast in the open plain. This was hardly built before it was destroyed by Nadir Shah's successor in Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali, who founded the present city in 1747, and called it Ahmad Shahr or Ahmad Shahi.

The ruins of the old city are very extensive, and without apparent diminution have been delved for years and carried away as manure for the fields. They are also frequently searched for sulphur and nitre, both of which are met with in small quantities, as also coins, gold and other precious things, especially after heavy falls of rain. ["Kandahar and South-Central Afghanistan", by Ludwig W. Adamec, p-257]

Ruins of old Qandahar, c.1879. Watercolour sketch by Lieutenant John Frederick Irwin.

Ruins of old Kandahar Citadel, 1881. Photo by Sir Benjamin Simpson

" The good luck of the Khattaks is the misfortune of the Yousafzai "

" The good luck of the Khattaks is the misfortune of the Yousafzai "

د خټکو بخته د یوسف کم بخته

The story goes that when Nadir Shah Afshar was encamped at Attock , a Yousafzai lad stole some harem clothes. The King suspecting the Khattaks, ordered a mass slaughter of that tribe. Upon hearing of this, the culprit admitted his guilt. This proverb is said to have been coined as Nadir Shah turned his wrath on to the Yousafzai.

Source : Mataloona: Pukhto proverbs. Translated by, Akbar S. Ahmed.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Arrival of train at Bannu railway station, 1936

Arrival of train at Bannu railway station, c.1936. From Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf collection

Bannu-Kalabagh railway was opened on 1st December 1913. [Source: "Mianwali District Gazetteer", 1915, page-141]