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Note: Although this article is filed under: Travel, neither Wendy nor I have travelled in Afghanistan. The nearest we have both been is to Tajikistan on the northern border and Wendy has travelled in Iran to the west. 

 

The harrowing scenes (27th August 2021) of people blown to pieces while struggling to get to Kabul Airport in a futile to catch a flight out of mortal danger recalled scenes from the withdrawal from Vietnam but also brought into focus the terrible suffering of that benighted land, going back to the massacres of the Saur Revolution that prompted the Russian invasion in 1979.

Afghanistan has seldom been a stable place.  It has a two-and-a-half-thousand-year history of invasion. The population is correspondingly diverse, ranging from Persians to Arabs to Mongols to Chinese, harbouring age-old enmities and grievances, with residual population left over from each invasion. Tribal leaders and residual families jostled for power.

Kabul is correspondingly ancient. It's mentioned in the Hindu Rigveda, composed between 1500 and 1200 BCE. Around 2,700 years ago it was part of the Persian Median Empire; annexed by Cyrus the Great; conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great; then by the Arabs on their first Jihad; then by the Mongols under Genghis Khan; then again by Timur (Tamerlane) who would use the trade route provided by the passes from Afghanistan to conquer India. His dynasty would install the Islamic Mughal Empire, famed for the Taj Mahal. Afghanistan in turn became part of the Mughal Empire through to the 18th century. 

 

Even before Alexander the Great the only practical trade routes, by land, between the Indian subcontinent and Europe were through a handful of passes that traverse the Himalayas from northern India (now Pakistan) into Afghanistan. The most famous and easiest to traverse of these is the Khyber Pass but the Dorah Pass is one of four or five more challenging alternatives. These trade routes would come to be called the Silk Road. In the past two decades we have travelled to many locations along this ancient trade route and can read a lot more about the Silk Road and its history on this website:

 

Central Asia map

 Elsewhere, (in Travel) on this website, I've described places along the Silk Road, from Beijing to Venice. 
Along this 'road' are northern China; the 'stans'; India (and on to the spice trade); the Caucasus (the sea route to Venice); and Turkey (Constantinople)
Visited cities, appearing on elsewhere on this website, that also appear on the map above, are marked with a red dot. 

 

 


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Travel

Istanbul

 

 

Or coming down to earth...

 

When I was a boy, Turkey was mysterious and exotic place to me. They were not Christians there; they ate strange food; and wore strange clothes. There was something called a ‘bazaar’ where white women were kidnapped and sold into white slavery. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, or was it Errol Flynn, got into all sorts of trouble there with blood thirsty men with curved swords. There was a song on the radio that reminded me over and over again that ‘It’s Istanbul not Constantinople Now’, sung by The Four Lads, possibly the first ‘boy band’.

 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Memory

 

 

 

Our memories are fundamental to who we are. All our knowledge and all our skills and other abilities reside in memory. As a consequence so do all our: beliefs; tastes; loves; hates; hopes; and fears.

Yet our memories are neither permanent nor unchangeable and this has many consequences.  Not the least of these is the bearing memory has on our truthfulness.

According to the Macquarie Dictionary a lie is: "a false statement made with intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood - something intended or serving to convey a false impression".  So when we remember something that didn't happen, perhaps from a dream or a suggestion made by someone else, or we forget something that did happen, we are not lying when we falsely assert that it happened or truthfully deny it.

The alarming thing is that this may happen quite frequently without our noticing. Mostly this is trivial but when it contradicts someone else's recollections, in a way that has serious legal or social implications, it can change lives or become front page news.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Jihad

  

 

In my novella The Cloud I have given one of the characters an opinion about 'goodness' in which he dismisses 'original sin' as a cause of evil and suffering and proposes instead 'original goodness'.

Most sane people want to 'do good', in other words to follow that ethical system they were taught at their proverbial 'mother's knee' (all those family and extended influences that form our childhood world view).

That's the reason we now have jihadists raging, seemingly out of control, across areas of Syria and Iraq and threatening the entire Middle East with their version of 'goodness'. 

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