An Otherwise Peaceful Place

Photo essay: Nature walk in the village of Istalif, outside Kabul

by Princess
A colleague, Sara, and I set out at 7.30 in the morning to go to Istalif, a village located about 18 miles northwest of Kabul and known for its handmade glazed potteries. She is a middle aged English woman who teaches at the institute and like myself is an avid walker and hiker. The plan was that one of the drivers, Rafi, would drop us off in the centre of the village and wait for us there while we went for a day-long walk along the river. The idea was that we would walk along the river to get to a guesthouse about 12 KM away,have a light lunch there and then walk back. See Kabul Diaries: Istalif Walk Part 1 - Part 2

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by Princess on

Sima jan, I am delighted to see your Afghan friend's comment. Thank you for posting it! :)


ShellaE, I am glad you liked it! 





by SheilaE on

love these!!


از طرف یک دوست افغان


متشکرم بخاطر لینکی که فرستادید از دیدن تصاویر هم لذت بردم چقدر از این که بازدید کنندگان ایرانی این سایت این تصاویر را می بینند و احساس همدلی در آنها ایجاد می شود، دچار حس خوشایندی می شوم بارها به آشنایان ایرانی ام در ایران می گفتم که بر همه تان لازم و ضرور است که افغانستان را از نزدیک ببینید همانگونه که بر هر افغان لازم است که به ایران بیاید و .... برای بسیاری افغان ها جنگ و آوارگی این شرایط را فراهم ساخت که از نزدیک ایران را ببینند ولی برای ایرانی ها هنوز رفتن به افغانستان چندان عملی نیست به دوستان ایرانی می گفتم تنها ادعای این که روزی با افغانستان هم سرزمین بودیم کافی نیست، باید در عمل هم نشان داد که با آن سرزمین پیوند دارید به امید روزی که در هردو سرزمین صلح و صفا و دوستی حکمفرما شود با درود


Thank you!

by Princess on

Dear Azadeh, Unfortunately, I can't say that I know Atiq Rahimi or his work, but now I have to look him up. :) Thank you! 

Jeesh Daram, Thank you very much for the name of the flower. Your knowledge of the botanics seems most impressive. Thank you for putting a stop to my search. :)

Thank you, Jaleh. 

Sima jan, I am ashamed to say that I did not anything about Asef Soltanzadeh and his work. Thank you for introducing him to me. As for discussing his case on this thread, no need for apologies. This exactly the kind of discussion I had hoped my little stories would generate. So please carry on. I agree with you, we do not hear nearly enough about the best and the brightest Afghans. In general, I think the Afghans could do with a lot more positive role models to provide them with a tangible goal to aspire towards. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the issue with us.

Thank you, Irandokht jan for your continued interest! 

Red Wind jan, Thank you very much for this sweet song! I love Azeri music. In fact it has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of mother and my grandmother. It's effect on me even stronger due to the fact that I don't always understand the lyrics, but I think I understood some lines in this one.:) Thank you doust-e aziz! 



Abarmard jan, the treatment of Afghans in Iran is shameful

by sima on

It wasn't that Asef Soltanzadeh and others "were allowed" to leave Iran. They were in effect kicked out -- Golshiri prize or no Golshiri prize. In fact, you know that it is not easy to earn a living as a writer any where in the world so someone like Soltanzadeh had to do all kinds of unrelated work (to writing or his degree in phramacology) to earn a living in Iran. His book, Toyi ke Sarzaminat Inja Nist, gives you an idea of that.

In English, for a story on the teatment of Afghans, check out PIR by Farkhondeh Hajizadeh in "Another Sea, Another Shore," edited by Shouleh Vatanabadi and Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami.

Princess jan sorry to use your post to carry on this discussion. But I think it's for a good cause. Occasionally one hears about the tragedy of the poor and helpless in Afghanistan (especially women and children) but you never hear about what happens to their best and brightest, men or women.

Red Wine

Dedim ona Deyme.

by Red Wine on

Princess jan, i don't know you like Azeri music or not but i dedicate to you this wonderful azeri video music to you .

I hope you like it :=) .

Dedim ona Deyme .


Dear Sima

by Abarmard on

I find it very sad that a man who has received two awards for his work inside Iran, was easily allowed to leave for Denmark. If I were the system in Iran, I would beg him and offer him many incentives (along with many others) to remain there and add to our culture and society.
The system in Iran has not yet understood this important factor. I believe Khatami and Mousavi are in line with that thinking.


an otherwise peaceful place...

by IRANdokht on

Thank you Princess! I finally had the chance to look at all the pictures. Those children look so beautiful. I kept looking at their innocent faces and the title of your photo essay "an otherwise peaceful place" kept tugging at my heart. It's a shame that the warm and friendly people of this land had to endure so many decades of poverty, war and bloodshed.

Thank you for your diary of the trip and the photos.



Princess jan, this is wonderful!

by sima on

Great pictures and very touching narrative. Thank you for reminding us of the loveliness of Afghanistan with such tenderness. It is really a pleasure reading the accounts of your visit.

My heart really breaks for Afghanistan. I want to draw everyone's attention to this story by Asef Soltanzadeh who is a splendid Afghan writer leaving in Denmark. I wish more Iranians knew him. He won the Golshiri prize in Iran twice and has very touching stories about living in Iran. This one is about occupation:


I am extremely unreligious but sometimes I just want to pray for peace in Afghanistan.



Beautiful contrast!

by Jaleho on

With all the pictures of war, mayhem and blood that comes out of Afghanistan, these pictures feel like a fantastic fresh air, and have the aroma of a gorgeous Fall in koohestan!

Thanks for sharing the rare perspective. 

Jeesh Daram

regarding image number 21

by Jeesh Daram on

You were wondering about the name of photo number 21. Most likely "Tagetes lucida" common name Mexican Marigold.

Vast variety of Marigold in USA.  From family Asteracea / Compositae. 

Used as a durable decorative plant, but also because it acts as a mild insecticide for other plants in a flower bed, hence very pungent smell.

Thanks for the lovely pictures of our Afghan relatives.

Azarin Sadegh

Dear Princess,

by Azarin Sadegh on

Such a lovely picture essay! It reminded me of Atiq Rahimi's work and his Earth and Ashes (or Terre et Cendres), a breathtaking story...     

Also, I realized that I have missed a true treasure: your Kabul diaries...I am going to read them asap!

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us! Azarin 


I don't mean just the shah part, the whole name as it rhymes!

by Anonymouse on

Look at the Iranian names; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (no shah in his name ;-), Khomeini, Khamenei, Mousavi, Karoubi, Ahmadinejad, Razavi, etc.  We know them as such which are from places or sir names but nothing that rhymes.  These names are not even one type names like the Brazilian names, like Pele, Nene, Ronaldo, etc.

We need a stage name for the next Iranian leader, like John Cougar Melloncamp (of course a fake name ;-) or Leonado DiCaprio or Golshifteh Farahani or even Makhmalbaf or something like that! Or Maz Jobrani! LOL 

Everything is sacred.


Interesting you should say that

by Princess on

Many Afghans have 'Shah' as part of their names. So if you look around you mind find even cooler names.


Ahmad Shah Masoud is also popular because he has a cool name!

by Anonymouse on

I think if Ahmad Shah Masoud's name was not taken and we had an Iranian leader by his name, he'd have been the death of this regime!

Everything is sacred.



by yolanda on

Hi Princess,

I was thinking that classroom needs to have a roof to block the rain & birds' droppings. I have never been to a roofless classroom in my life.....



Dear Friends

by Princess on

Red Wine jan, MPD jan, Tahrih jan, Ebi jan, Bambi jan, Abarmand, Ahvazi, and Monda jan, Thank you very much for all your kind comments!

Darius jan, I sincerely hope that the plight of the Afghan nation and our own nation come to an end soon. There has been more than enough suffering for both nations.

Yolanda, I am not sure why the outdoor classroom made you sad. I doubt they hold outdoor classes in Winter.

Anonymouse, After all something has to indicate our kinship with the Afghans, no? 




Yep I did know where you had walked

by Monda on

it's only the smells and sounds that I missed. Princess jan, thank you so much for sharing.


Very nice and timely! To think these pics are from last week!

by Anonymouse on

It is interesting to see the pics are recent with all the autumn colors.  By the way Ahmad Shah Masoud was popular because he was not only a fierce fighter during the Soviet occupation, he was also the only one who was a true opposition to Taliban.  He was the only one who had the chance of one day defeating Taliban and setting up his own Govt. 

After Soviets left Afghanistan and prior to America and NATO's involvement, Afghans would go through different type of Govts like JJ goes through his socks! So Afghans were hoping Ahmad Shah Masoud would one day free them from Taliban the most brutal of them all, thus his popularity.

He was assassinated by a suicide Al Qaeda operative right before 9/11.  It is believed that his assassination was part of the 9/11 plan to solidify Taliban's grip on power in response to any possible backlash after 9/11.

Iranians like their heros dead too!  From Mossadegh to Takhti to others. 

Everything is sacred.



by ahvazi on

Thank you for showing us the other side of Afghan life.


Thank You

by Abarmard on

We are very lucky to have a member bringing Afghanistan in stories and picture to life for us. The villages reminds me of many Iranian villages around our home country.



by yolanda on

Hi Princess,

    Thank you for releasing your highly anticipated photo essay. You have both photo and essay, which is very exciting! When I saw the pictures with captions, I tried to match them with your essay. The pictures have made your story come alive, I saw the photo of Shah-Muhammad, the poor guy who got yelled over the Estanboli......I like #36 , the structure that was built and blended into the hill. I also like the Hazara boy's photo #52, it is amazing that Oriental looking guys live there. All the kids look so cute in #32, #33, #47, #48, #49, and #51....I like the plates on the wall in #60. Outdoor classroom pictures in #58 and #59 make me sad! I think kids in this country should see it, so they won't take things for granted! Some of your other photos show that civilization has eluded Afghanistan.

Thank you so much for sharing!


Thanks for sharing the

by bambi on

Thanks for sharing the photos, and providing descriptions.  I enjoyed it a lot.

Darius Kadivar

Amazing photos Princess Jaan

by Darius Kadivar on

I truly wish that our Afghan brothers and sisters will one day live in a peaceful country. To think they have been in War since 1978-79.

30 Years One they deserve better.

Fortunately life continues and is stronger than death ...

Thanks for sharing with us your unique insight and photos here with us cowards ...

Warm Regards,


ebi amirhosseini

Princess aziz

by ebi amirhosseini on

Sepaas for sharing.

Ebi aka Haaji


So interesting!

by Tahirih on

Such a nice photo essay,I really enjoyed it since this was the first time I could see Afghanistan without images of war. Your brave for travelling there. Thanks.


Multiple Personality Disorder

Wow! Very beautiful!

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

I'm glad I read the diaries of your hike first before I saw these pictures, because based on what you wrote I was making images of the Afghan countryside in my mind, borrowing also from my memories of Iran.  Your pictures are exactly what I imagined.  You did a great job in your writing. Thank you,

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

Princess jan . Thank you very much for those pics. God bless you Princess :=) .