1976 Afghanistan


“Do you need a toilet?”

“There’s the very good toilet…..”

So much for the very good toilet! It’s a black hole in the ground just in the middle of a field of blossomed potatoes (I really hope nobody offers them to me for dinner…) (the potatoes, I mean!)   

We’ve do it! After a six-hour journey on an old russian jeep and two stops for the chai (tea) we arrive in Bamiyan in the early afternoon, after leaving Kabul and its comforts reluctantly: it’s called Paris of the East.


              Buddha Avara    and    Avanzvara



web courtesy of Valossa,thank you!


In the valley of Bamiyan after the field of potatoes enriched by the… black hole… two big Buddhas stand out in the mountain, carved in the rock and high more than sixty meters: Avanzvara ( in afghan language) e Avara ( in Indian idiom).

     People tell Buddhism was born here: maybe this is why in Afghanistan, during this lukewarm august of 1976, we can breathe an atmosphere of quiet and gaiety.


                      Kochi Girl                     Afgan lady in front of Kabul’s Hospital


                                                               Best smile in Kabul

To read: The kite runner ( Khaled Hosseini) www.edizpiemme.it


     The roads in Kabul is busy with Sitar players and Kochi girls, who come down  to sell yogurt (zapati)  and lamb meat, wearing  coloured and mirrors embroidered  dresses, faces uncovered, long raven hair and eyes that send back happiness if you  looks into them.  On the pavement two couple of old men are playing draughts on the draughtboard painted on the corner of the road, the turbans wrapped up over their heads, large shirts without buttons closed with strings and the skin of their faces  wrinkled by the excess of sun.  I’m thinking of them and of the afghan tailor who made my jacket with the high nepalese collar  and the sleeves, long until over the hands… it is more useful than ever this jacket in Bamiyan! We are at over 2000 meters: the rarefied and biting air makes me forget the moment in which he gave it to me shaking off two inopportune cockroaches! Near his shop there was “the very good backery” where we could buy the bread, chapati ( a kind of piadina but close as a wallet where to put every kind of course from lamb meat to white cheese as feta)…expelling the cockroaches, however ….



                My personal Tailor          and a….very elegant way to clean





                                              also sheeps are so elegant




                                            One Hotel downtown in Kabul


Alighiero and Boetti , my great friend and sweetheart for a short time,  conceptual painter from Turin, two years before run a very particular hotel in Kabul:  the  One Hotel ; his wife AnneMarie and his children had followed him in this marvellous country too.



Embroidered with natural colours by the capable hands of the afghan women, the whole, possibly, dressed up by some good oily afghan and  certainly a lot of chai…”To redouble halving”…this concept nearly biblical on the ability of looking at things in their wholeness…to read, rather, “feeling between words marvellous concepts of the art expressed by Alighiero and Boetti….



                                   Three worlds on Kabul’s roads.



I don’t know how much he’d have suffered hearing of the barbaric destruction of the Buddha statues, of the annihilation of that wonderful society which enlivened with liberty that strip of earth close between the strictly moslem Pakistan and the extremist Iran; already in 1976 there was a huge  difference.


Where are now the smiles of Kochi women? Where the tents, the carpets, the coloured dresses, donkeys and camels always dressed up, where, in which edge of the desert  will they have taken shelter?

      Or is maybe the desert that has taken shelter on their heads now covered from the chador?

Shit , shit , shit…..

      It is difficult breathing during the climbing on the Buddhas mountain but it is a worthwhile sight that encourages…a sensation of unrestrainable calm reaches you, you feel to be a little thing even if you are sure to be a grain of sand.. which, merged with others, deletes its debt with time…I think I need a good bath full of water to drown all the anxiety born from the doubts that a place like this can inspire in my soul.

Bamiyan’s Valley


In the only hotel in Bamiyan we have obtained to spend the night in the only private room with a wooden double bed with ropes and a dazzling white hair mattress…already I foresee a wonderful night of love with my  travelling companion  Giorgio Conti… I wonder why I always fall in love with the devils of this earth, I feel incredibly attracted by them….maybe because they are angels that have lost their wings or maybe because they have a bottom of absolute truth in their damnation, a challenge I like to contend, angel as I am, trying not to get my feathers burnt…

    So I need a space where reconstituting me, regenerating my integrity, transferring to the mirror the image of my soul same to that of my vital spirit, rejoin with  my ego…in few words: to spruce me up, charming over any thought… To do it somebody points me a door outside the hotel where, paying, I could renew myself.  I go in: it is a big room and… wonderful.. there is a big  silver basin on a red and blue afghan carpet, the water is supplied by two silver barrels half embedded in the wall: one supplies cold water, the other warm water…but in which manner?  There’s no electricity in this area, when evening comes down kerosene lamps lit up…I investigate. Somebody shows me a nearby room, with an entrance from the road, where the other halves of the barrels appear and under one of them it is lit a wood fire that, blackening it, makes the water warm, but what warm, hot!


                                                                                  Natural pumpkin


                           Woman Pumpkin

     I’m in my seventh heaven, I adore living in such an ancient and civil manner! To be a part of a tradition of a people that I’m visiting let me feel alive and enthusiast: I’m in their time! Happy I go back in my “bathing room”, the basin is nearly full, it hasn’t taken a long time because is very low, the water will reach my waist when I seat inside.

     I strip calmly, let my dresses fall down on the carpet, I’d like to be alone anymore to taste all this….feel the skin of a man near mine, his caresses put my senses on alert, the turgidity of my breasts is growing and my mouth is ideally searching his to lick his lips. The kiss: I couldn’t live without a kiss, it’s the most important relation to know a person… it has to be wet and long… enthralling… I shall be able to kiss him and then feel  his tongue that have me, fill my mouth arousing my desires to feel him lower.

     When I go out from the bath I am sexier than before, the afghan men lower their look at my passing and I know that I have on me a sexual charge that is very life. Will it be enough for my partner? Rather it will suffice to shock him, to bring him back to pure pleasure…maybe yes, even if for a short time. But it needs a short time to understand life, the secret is to remember it.



 It is really true, the first excitement comes from the kiss, stimulates more than everything to pure love even if I met in my life people which didn’t kiss in name of some pre-established bond of respect…Well, I think they neither knew where respect was: no respect for the one who is in front of you,  no respect for yourself but above all I believe there is no respect for the one who is absent. In short, doing it without a kiss in my opinion is brutalizing and restricted and if it exists somebody that can object “the intimacy that proceeds from the kiss” I object against them ”and all the rest, then, is not intimacy?”



                                                                        Happy Eva


    In a past life I should have been a vestal, a perfect lover able to let love coexisting with sexuality with anybody, for the only fact of dividing in that moment such an important act, that sets free more than every other thing  and frightens in the same way…You need to be made of the right stuff to love anybody in that moment…Yes, but maybe in that past life there were more knowledge than in this, more equity, more truth in the feeling that respected the identity of a person saving it from breakup and destruction… It must be so because really I shouldn’t feel up to be a vestal in our times…hard life and too much waste of energy…chapeau to the one who manages to do it….

                                             travelling to Bamiyan

    Kandhar , homonymous of Alessandria, grounded by the same creator of the egyptian town Its name  hides forever his memory because is the afghan translation…but how could have become in the centuries the country of the extremists? What mechanism has permitted its decay and why there already in 1976 there was a atmosphere of oppression?  I walk in the public road and I feel glances of deep resentment… I don’t like the place at all and only thinking at it I loose the smile that lits up my face in the crisp sunrise that sees us leaving at the cry “Bamiyan –Bandi-Amir” repeated by the shouts of the chief of the convoy. We are getting over the pass to arrive at the lakes  and at the waterfalls of Bandi-Amir at 3000 mt height. It’s a show that opens the heart to see these places unfold before  one’s view after the desert, the air is so bright and there is so much light… the slides will become almost white, except that turquoise of the lakes that end in a waterfall.



                                               Bamiyan’s Valley


                                            Bandi-Amir’s waterfall, 3.000 metres high 


I wonder how can they do when in september the pass will be closed and the people will remain cut off until the snow melts. They have houses built with big stones with a winding structure, a fireplace in the centre of the roof,  a mix between a trullo and a Sardinian nuraghe.



                             At  Bandi-Amir this is the only game to play with


                                                               houses in Bandi-Amir



                                                          blinding light on the white tables 


For us there is a big white tent,  arranged at the centre of the scarcest tourist village I have ever met during my wandering. White tablecloths cover the tables placed  in the open, the color is dazzling, it’s impossibile to look at them without sunglasses so as it’s nearly impossibile smoking a joint…too little oxigene… better leave off for the moment and perhaps also for the future, this form of union hurts more than does good… at the beginning  opens a door in our sleepy spirit, then it’s only illicit trade, a pure mechanism of trade as many other. Thank you Bandi-Amir for having let’s known it…it offers itself so much to our sight to replace plentifully the drug-induced blisses.



                              Ely with afghan children on the Bandi-Amir Valley


    Time’s stopped in this valley, for thoroughly six months cut off from the rest of the world,  maybe every single day is beated from the rising of the sun but how can determine the lenght of a match played with the horses and a skin of ram in a field without any boundary? Maybe with a sand-glass? But who indicated the measure of the time in filling it? Who told “this is an hour” in inserting the last grain of sand in the glass?  It seems all so simple and foreseen to us, but it’s not so when you manage to relate to a people that use his own ingeniousness to find those same measures to which we are so used,  from our birth,  that we don’t notice them anymore.



                                            The very good toilet 


Picture of Giorgio in the “very good toilet” , a cesspool fenced by a low wall, just the essential to preserve tourists’ honour…all around the nature, in the bottom the water that falling down from the lake turn into a waterfall. There is a scent of sweet bread and I really think I guess the thought of this people so strong and ancient, they ask themselves how can we tourists survive in such a state, in the group there are japaneses too, with a white mask on the mouth.. a real shame!

   Maybe a foreboding enlivens their ancient minds: they feel that it  won’t be adeguate to close the pass in the winter, it won’t suffice to protect them against the barbarism. I am ashamed for the stupid Japanese tourists: they don’t know that the only bacteria that exist in the area are on their skin, brought here from the native island and that probably we should use the masks… yes, but on our eyes, to see them no more! Luckily they don’t remain, go back to the valley…get out of the way. Hurrà, we can spend another night under the stars to tell us stories and ideals, living that time as our best dream.



                                 we sleep in a particular “trullo” Hotel in Kabul


     Returning from Bandi-Amir we arrive at Bamiyan when darkness has falled down and we aren’t lucky enough to occupy the private room anymore, somebody has already arrived from Kabul and got in  possession of it. It remains the big room furnished only with a lot of carpets that totally cover the floor, I ask where I can lean my things and they show me with a sign: everywhere in that room. I lie down along a wall and I have no difficulty in falling asleep…but I am awaked an hour later: I must move! “Everywhere” means  everywhere but only  with the head leant to the wall and not all the body to occupy four places!!! What a shame! The usual western mentality that doesn’t care of other possible  guests. Afghans laugh at my presumptuousness.

       Two days before the 20st August 1976  I woke up in the same hotel with a strong sensation of anxiety, so strong that I had to wear my dresses in the room with the big white bed and go out in the incipient  dawn, crossing the bloomy potato field and, driven by an invisible strength, climb up Buddha Avara until the peak. There, sitting in the first lights of the dawn, an irrepressible crying had shaked me such from the deep that I didn’t think to be able  to stand it. It was something ancestral, inexplicable, I was crying all my tears with a perception of void inside, of deep regret, a irreparable sorrow…Only returning from  Pakistan during  my stop in London, at the Restaurant  San Lorenzo, Mara Berni, offering me  her condolences informed me that in that day has lost her life my sister Ala, Halina Zalewska , born of the first marriage of my mother and whose name was her same. Ala for me, since a baby so beloved, had lost her life in a fire, maybe a arson, in her home in Vicolo del Porto in Trastevere where she lived just above the house of Marcello Crisi, the painter who had sheltered Paul Getty Junior before his kidnapping. But this is another sad story that I don’t feel up to discussing  yet…it was finished a transit on this world, only this meant. Ala was no more alive. Ala is no more near me.


   My sister Halina Zaleska , Ala

It returned  to my mind the words of the policemen of Karachi, before our leaving for London in a private visit in the room of our  hotel, while they took away the stereo stuffed with best afghan with which Giorgio meant to realize his projects, they overawed him telling that the day after at the airport it will be worst: they’d have arrested him…but I’d have made the same end then him, they reminded him how Pakistani prisons were famous to be dreadful places where an  “Angel” like me wouldn’t have survive. “She is an Angel , an Angel” and he hadn’t, no, he hadn’t to submit me to that risk, he had to remember it forever: “Angel”…they took away the Nikon from the Angel too, however…
Life in  Carachi was really similar to our image of hell, many, too many miserabile and crippled beggars in the markets, some matched together to survive: a woman without legs carried on his back by a man without arms…Terrible to realize how the same medicine so in the van in our countries is so far from the reality of pakistani people: crows and mud, deads wrapped up in pieces of cloth on the roads and a lot of cockroaches everywhere.
Our room at the attic of the hotel had a rooflight on the passage and underneath a tank leant to the wall…it was used to spy the close moment of western infidels…they on the contrary…It was enough to open the door to see them disappear just like the cockroaches that slipped into the sinks of our unimaginable private Turkish toilet.
I think I never come back to that poverty and it doesn’t surprise me the present outcome of that country, already at that time deranged by ignorance. In Quetta just passed the afghan border,  a bar set in the middle of the desert,  people threw stones at our passage because we walked hand in hand… Only men could walk hand in hand…
I think it was the lack of every kind of love to turn a people in extremists so full of hatred against themselves to lavish it against their  own fellow men. There is nothing worst than ignorance, than dull narrow-mindedness in dogmas. Poor people! A wish for afghan people: that could recover,    rejoicing, his origins and run again through his life as in the past, as in that far july 1976.

Kabul was a  Paradise

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