Paghman, Afghanistan (2012)
Paghman is a town of 120,000 residents, though it seems much smaller than that. It was home to several notable historical figures, including King Amanullah Khan, President Hafizullah Amin, and Governor Abdullah Wardak. Paghman served as a popular vacation spot for the wealthy of Kabul, and I understand why. It boasts a beautiful green landscape and stunning homes. If I could choose any place to live in Afghanistan (aside from Arghandeh), it would be Paghman.
A notable attraction is Paghman Gardens, which was destroyed during the war and has now been haphazardly restored. The Arc of Triumph (which King Amanullah Khan had commissioned after returning from Europe) has also been restored and sits at the far end of the gardens. This monument and the architectural style of nearby homes are the only remnants of the Europization efforts undertaken by King Amanullah Khan. The locals wear traditional clothing and the town has yet to erect any plexiglass covered buildings in place of its market stalls.
In Kabul, many of the young people wear western clothes, which aren’t flattering; Boys wearing skin-tight jeans and tshirts, the obligatory razor-thin goatee, and gelled hair. I went to a Pharmacy in Makroyan and the “pharmacist” was a 20-year old boy wearing a pink t-shirt with a bedazzled image of a Native American. They wear what they think is fashionable in the west, in the hopes that they will be perceived as modern and progressive. I prefer the traditional clothing worn by residents of Paghman. Anytime you try to mimick someone else, you risk looking ridiculous. Nowhere is that more clear than walking down the streets of Kabul.
We drove up a hill overlooking the stunning scenery. At the end of the road was some important monument my dad wanted us to see, near a military fort. However, two Afghan soldiers were stationed nearby and blocked us from entering because foreign delegates were visiting. Earlier that day, the streets of Kabul were stranded and there was a bit of nervous energy. We were told it was due to an international conference, and of course that meant there was an increased chance of a suicide attack. Thankfully, nothing happened, but the tight security measures had extended all the way to Paghman.
We turned around and made our way through the town. I loved the tree-lined streets everywhere we went, and especially the town center near the Gardens. New homes were being constructed throughout the town. Again, I suspect corrupt officials found a nice way to spend some of that embezzled aid money.
We stopped by a creek where families sat in private cabanas, sipping tea while the kids kicked their feet around the water. In stark contrast with its past as a hotbed of Mujahideen activity during the Soviet war, Paghman was a peaceful oasis and one I’m sure future tourists will enjoy.