Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shahr-e Gholghola

"The city of noises" or "the city of screams" - like Shahr-e Zohak, this original city of Bamiyan was destroyed by Genghis Khan (and later mined during the civil war). A story I've found only in my Lonely Planet guide, however, suggests that a surprise betrayal may have caused this fortress considerably greater anguish than its red-stone neighbor.

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola have deteriorated more than those of Shahr-e Zohak, and their plain stones lack the beauty of red brick, but the hilltop view of Bamiyan city and the Buddhas below made the climb very much worthwhile.

Overlooking modern Bamiyan, these ruins commemorate the city's history while serving as an eerie reminder of even this remote valley's susceptibility to invasion. Homes destroyed several hundred years previously interspersed with recent mine-clearing markers mar the idyll of green, green fields below. Afghan National Police sprawled in their watch post atop the hill have little to do, but stand watch over the ruins nonetheless. A skinny dog wagged hello and came to have me scratch its ears - Arif translated to the policemen as I greeted the animal, and they laughed when I asked if it had a name.

Reaching the top, I looked up into the southern peaks and out along the valley toward Kabul. The Buddha-holes seemed much smaller in their cliff from this height, as did the communications tower perched by the airport. Even the New Zealand PRT base appeared to vanish into the shadow of the surrounding hills. After enjoying a few moments' quiet atop the fort, it was time to return to the town below - we had an early dinner invitation from Afghan friends and packing left to be done - though after a month in Bamiyan, Afreen was ready to return to the big city, the departure came all too quickly for me.

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