Saturday is the first day of the Islamic week, like our Monday. We got down to business for some serious meetings and visits. I remember it being particularly cold this day.
We started out by visiting the National Museum. We had to go through security first. We went through a lot of security checkpoints in Afghanistan; the guys generally got a patdown from the main guard with a gun and they asked the women to step into a back room, often behind a curtain, where a woman was waiting to check you. This time when we peeked behind the curtain there was a very old woman who wouldn’t let us leave without having some tea. While the men shivered outside, we drank green tea and smiled with this lady.
When we got inside the museum it wasn’t much warmer than outside, in fact, it was quite a bit colder. In the spacious and lofty museum, with its high ceilings, we found guards huddled around a single heater coil.
After walking around the first floor we were able to meet with the museum director, Omara Khan Masoudi. He told us that in 1992 the museum had 100,000 pieces, but after the Soviet Invasion and Taliban civil War 70% of them had been looted.
The image below was taken in 2001, the museum had no roof for two years during the war and thousands of pieces were destroyed. With a grant from National Geographic they have been able to inventory 52,000 pieces so far. Mr. Masoudi was hopeful for the future and was working on building a new building and 12 provincial museums throughout the country.
On display right outside the museum was the first steam engine in Afghanistan, alongside the official car of each King, Queen, or President of Afghanistan who had a car. There are a few pictured below:
After that we went to visit Abdul Hakim Mujahid, who currently serves on Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. There was heavy security getting into his office, we had to sign in, they took pictures with our cameras to make sure they weren’t bombs, and we walked through a cavernous labyrinth before we reached our meeting room. Abdul Hakim Mujahid had been the UN representative for the Taliban for 4 years from 1997-2001. When we met him he was working on an address for the Taliban in Qatar. He stressed the importance of sharia to the Afghan people, saying they had always been the law, and that although the government has changed, the laws cannot.
Lastly, we visited Nasima Paymar of Nasima Silks and Zarif Designs. Like Fatima, she is a widow who founded her own business with help from B-Peace. Everywhere we went they gave us tea, but Nasima also gave us delicious dried mulberries to get us through the end of the day. Below you can see her showing off some designs in the factory, the women working didn’t want their pictures taken.
Thanks again to Tim for the sweet photos!