December 11, 2005
Be Still My Herat
Shortly after September 11, 2001, when US troops were being sent to Afghanistan to root out our former friends the Taleban and to capture our former friend Osama bin Laden (by the way, did we ever finish those?), I started reading about Central Asian history and culture. I suppose I have this need to picture where the soldiers will be. I read about a city in northwest Afghanistan (by current borders) that has lived through a lot of armed conflict and its consistent forerunner, commerce.
We've all heard of The Great Silk Road that connected Europe and the so-called Far East, but do we know much about the areas in between? While Europe was slinking through the Dark Ages, great and shining cities appeared like mirages in the high desert. (Yeez, who's writing this?) Stops along the long overland trading route became cosmopolitan wonders as ethnicities and experiences commingled under a pan-Islamic blanket. These places beckon the traveler in me. Sammarqand. Tabriz.
One day, I guess it was late in 2001, I got to hear some recently recorded sound from a restaurant in Herat. The clip included music -- hey, it sounds like one could merely go out for tea and end up hearing a live band, much different from our beer-and-karaoke fare -- and the tunes were astonishing. Something that sounds like a sitar, a pair of tablas, okay, I know that; but wait, there's other percussion, and another stringed instrument, and that reed pipe (that is surely the ancestor of the oboe) that I more often associate with Morocco. The food there must be what inspired the "heaven" concept in so many Near Eastern religions. This is the land of apricots, almonds, pistachios, figs, pomegranates -- and 100 varieties of grapes grown in the area. Who knows? Rice could be made with raisins in it and not be rice pudding, but something far, far better.
I would love to pack up the wife and kid and just head on over to Herat. I am a peaceful person; don't you think we could just hang out, drink some tea or some wine, listen to some music, and eat some good food? Perhaps if we sent a special request to a Mr Ismail Khan, we'd do pretty well. It seems a high risk, still, and there are plenty of places in the good ol' USA that we haven't yet seen, where we could get in and out a lot more safely. Uh, wait a minute.
Does that flight connect through Istanbul?
Sunday Drive | By joe lance | 09:29 PM