(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

أفضل نزهة في آسيا الوسطى — The Best Picnic in Central Asia

Afghanistan: Part Four

[The following are adapted excerpts from an article that has been submitted elsewhere. To read the full story with a blow-by-blow of the drive from the central Afghan hub of Bamiyan to the perhaps the most beautiful lakes in the whole Caucasus, send an email to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM with a sentence including the words “picnic”, “caucasus”, and “dragon”.]

If you’re not doing anything later, you might like to check out Band-e Amir, Afghanistan’s one and only national park. Six sapphire-blue lakes 10,000 feet up in the Hindu Kush Mountains provide what may be Central Asia’s Number One picnic spot. Entry costs fifty afghanis (one dollar).

The 90-minute drive from Bamyan passes by the short detour into Dara-e Azhdahar, “Dragon Valley”. In this town just off the main road, a dirt path winds up the face a massive stone hill. As legend has it, this hill is a once great dragon defeated by Ali, son-in-law of Muhammed and the fourth Islamic Caliph. The dragon weeps to this day, gurgling loudly for eternity, spitting salty water in erratic spurts.

Band-e Amir, named for Ali, is the King’s Dam. These six lakes visible from space are named for the dams of travertine — a white calcareous precipitate — that separate them: Hubaiyat (grandiose), Gholaman (slaves), Qambar (Ali’s personal slave), Zulfiqar (Ali’s sword), Pudina (wild mint) and Panir (cheese).

If the water is too cold, which it will be for almost anyone without polar bear skin, look for the shallower crystal clear ponds at the lakes’ edges. With a bag full of bread and lamb, spiced with local salt and cayenne, who’s to say Afghanistan is no picnic?

All the pictures from Afghanistan here.

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