Entry: Of Fruits and Fanaticism (Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan) Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Having spent an entire week in one place, I've developed a sort of routine.  Upon waking, I go out to the market to pick up two pieces of roghani nan from the bearded Uzbek who keeps them fresh and warm underneath the cloth covered basket.  It goes down well with Happy Cow cheese or peanut butter.  I read for several hours, nowadays imbibing the philosophy of Bertrand Russell and wisdom of Benjamin Franklin. 

I keep a store of fruits on the counter of which my favorites are the honey melon and pomegranates.  But today I discovered a new delight; I am sure it is a kind of pear, but like no pear I've had before.  The flesh is not of the boring grainy mush we are used to back home.  This pear is crisp and juicy with twice the sweetness and ten times the pear-ness.  When I was previously asked which country had the best fruits I would invariably answer Thailand, for the variety and deliciousness of those tropical fruits are second to none.  But perhaps it was also the novelty of new and exotic specimens that influenced my opinion.   If I am to compare apple to apples, quite literally, then Afghanistan has better apples, better pears, and better melons than any of their counterparts back in the States.  A fruit back home is a mere shadow of what it could be.

In the afternoon I sat with some young carpet sellers who are studying to become engineers.  I was abhorred to find that these educated young men actually applauded the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas in Bamiyan.  This underscores the threat that religious fanaticism poses to a developing nation.  In spite of common sense and a broad education, there are individuals who will remain blinded by religious conceit and who seek to impose their own small-minded views on others whom they consider inferior, executing their philosophy through the destruction of history and degradation of the country's minority groups.  Nothing grates on my nerves more than this ...

Today a boy from a village near Balkh had come into Rafi's antique shop with a small horde of coins he had discovered while building a house.  The coins bore the inscription of Ghengis Khan who ruled the surrounded area in the 13th Century.  I was curious what kind of price they would fetch but they would have to be examined more closely.  Rafi's brother told me of a gold coin he once bought from a local boy for $100, which he in turn sold for $800, and which was subsequently sold in the West for $5000.  He was wracked for not having sold it at a higher price, not content with his mere 800% profit.

For dinner we sat on the floor of the shop and had some very special "balany" made in the tandoor by Rafi's mother.  The balany are like spinach filled quesadillas and are dipped in fresh yogurt that is much like sour cream.

Rafi lamented that since the shooting few days ago, no foreigners had come to the shop.


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