Grey skies in Kabul shed more than thirty centimeters of snow on the 24th and 25th of December. As the snow started to fall, it melted in the
muddy streets. By mid-day on the 24th, a white film started form. Soon, all of Kabul was covered with a thick layer of white powder.
Children and adults alike gleefully
gazed at the glittering white powder. The city seemed transformed in these festive days of preparation for Eid-al-Azha, here called Eid-e-Qorban.
On the streets of Kabul, while the snow continued to fall, men engaged in snow-ball fights.In front of several compounds in the city, security guards sculpted snowmen from the piles of road-side snow. Children wrote messages in the great white
slates of fresh snow and slid across the icy streets, ice-skating with the heels of their boots.
The snow stopped falling on the 26th,
and as the sun started to shine fiercely, blazing light reflecting from the fresh snow, men of all ages set out to shovel their roofs and driveways. Though the reality of the heavy snowfall was setting in, with work to be done, the Kabulis continued their playfulness: pushing a mound of snow from the roof onto a passerby below; joking with drivers that they would need to pay a toll to pass through the freshly shoveled alley.
I was planning to fly out of Kabul on the 26th, and was convinced that with the clear skies, I would be in Pakistan by evening. While waiting for the flight
confirmation phonecall, I went for a drive to the south of the city. The dilapidated Darulaman Palace was sprinkled with snow, like a crumbling confection. Past the Palace and the Afghan National Army camp, the road narrowed through a village with small shopfronts and a young boy
on each roof, scraping down the snow. The hills opened for a wider valley, on the left bank the wall of an old fort, and beneath it a slow-moving river, dotted with snow-pillowed rocks.
As we turned back towards Kabul, I got a phonecall
saying that the flight wasn’t going.I tried again the next day, and by Friday knew that I wouldn’t be leaving: the next day was the first of Eid, marking a closing in all humanitarian flights.
On Friday we drove outside of the city, West, past the Karga Lake Dam and the Kabul Golf Course into the Paghman valley. In the summer, families picnic on naan, kebabs and chai on the terraced
The four-wheel drive vehicle parked at the vertex of the valley, near the stream, where a rivulet from a spring joins the river. A few men from Kabul squatted by the walled spring, filling their canisters with springwater to take back to the
Several kids gathered. I quizzed them on whether they go to school, where the best innertubing spot is, and whose shrine was at the top of that
“Yes” one of the boys answered in
Dari, “we go to school down the road, in the white tents.You should go down that hill, last year kharejis came here with tubes also. The shrine is of a traveler, who died here
300 years ago.”
“You must join us,” I told him,
then remembering another question I meant to ask, added “is this area mined?”
“No,” he answered, “there haven’t been landmines here.”
I wondered whether there might be
mines anyways: buried under the snow and rocks.’At least there is a path, and we’ll try to stay on it’ I thought.
I grabbed an innertube and watched the small river, trying to decide at which point of the ice-covered rocks I would cross. One of the village boys waded through the water, shouting over his shoulder “It’s warm if you put your
On the hillside, we struggled through the
knee-deep snow, trying to forge a wider path for the innertubes. Soon, there was a pit of a run, and we took turns sliding down. One of the boys who
had been watching our antics from the riverside timidly came up the hill.
“You want to try?” I asked him in Dari, and he nodded.He picked up an innertube and slowly walked further on, to the start of the run. He sat on the tube and dug his feet into the snow.”Lift your feet” we called out to him, and when he did, he shot down the slope, over the bump in the path, flying farther and higher than any of us adults.
As the sun tucked further behind the Paghman mountains, we felt the melted snow on our clothes turn to hard ice. An old baba appeared behind us as we walked to the car. “You must stay-
have tea, eat with us!” he said when he neared our vehicle. “You are our guests, please join us for
tea.” We had a thermos of hot water and tea bags in the car, so instead asked him to have tea with us. After two polite denials, he heartily agreed,
and squatted on a rock near the spring with his paper cup of chai siya.