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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Sunday, 24 October 2010

October 24th: Kabul

On October 24th 1972 I was in Kabul.

Just to get to Kabul was something of a relief. We drove into the city with, as I recall, only two gears working, fourth low ratio to get started and fourth high ratio to drive along. I didn't want to stop anywhere because moving off was difficult. The gearbox had started to play up coming down off the spectacular Salang Pass with its tunnel and colonnaded sections passing under the snow-covered Hindu Kush at 3400 metres, the highest point on our journey.

There was a Land-Rover garage in Kabul and we found it easily. They opened up the gear-box the next day and discovered that a pin which had been replaced before we left in London had sheared after the pressures of the Northern Route. It was going to cost about £60 to fix and take three days plus the weekend. This completely broke our budget, which had already suffered from the flotation of the pound and rising oil prices. On top of this we had to stay in the Ariana Hotel for several nights, at £1 per night for the room, instead of camping outside at much less. To celebrate this misfortune we ate out with friends at the Intercontinental Hotel, where we had camel steak, red Afghan wine (produced by an Italian family) and good desserts for a total cost of about £1.50 for the two of us. These were huge prices in Afghanistan at that time.

The stay in Kabul could have become miserable, but it was still a picturesque place if you didn't look too closely at the Kabul River running through the middle. We visited the museum which was great with all the Gandhara art, and also the zoo which was interesting if not fun. We went shopping in Chicken Street and the Silver Bazaar. It was also a social time as the Ariana was the place where many overlanders parked up and swapped stories. We enjoyed meals at the Khyber Restaurant and the Marco Polo, both of which I think still exist. In fact most of these landmarks have been in the public eye over the years, the Intercontinental being the journalists' centre during the civil war, the zoo became famous for the lion called Marjan which survived the ravages of the Civil War and the neglect of the Taliban, and the museum was ransacked by the Taliban. The Ariana may be the same building that became the headquarters of the CIA, but I'm not so sure.

Video from Kabul in 1972 by Erich Siegel on YouTube.

A street picture of Kabul in 1972 here.

Kabul River in 1972: picture by Ard Hesselink, CC
Kabul shop in 1972: picture by Ard Hesselink, CC

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