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NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN

MAZAR-E SHARIF &

NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN

MAZAR-E SHARIF &

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160 MAZAR-E SHARIF TO BADAKHSHAN •• Kunduz

SURKH KOTAL

The acropolis of Surkh Kotal was built around AD 130 for the Kushan ruler Kanishka; it comprised a series of terraces built into the hillside overlooking the Anderab river. Kanishka was the greatest of Kushan kings, ruling from his capital in Kapisa (modern day Bagram) as far as Gujarat in southern India. He was a Buddhist king who traded with Rome and China, and whose art was influenced by Persia and ancient Greece. Excavated in the 1950s, little now remains at Surkh Kotal of the marble staircase and fluted columns found at the site, lost to war and looters. Archaeology buffs will get the most out of a visit, although the views over the valley remain tremendous. Two important relics from Surkh Kotal can be seen at the Kabul Museum ( p88 ): the remains of a statue of Kanishka, smashed by the Taliban but now restored, and a large tablet inscribed in Greek that would have been part of a temple sanctuary.

splits in the three major directions. Vehicles to Kabul (200Afg, four hours) leave from a depot on the southern outskirts of town. A further 40km south of Pul-e Khumri is the small town of Doshi on the Anderab river, where the back road from Bamiyan joins the main highway. This stretch of road is particularly attractive in summer, with the green farmland following the river until the road snakes up into the Koh-e Daman moun- tains, heading for the Salang Pass ( p112 ).

KUNDUZ

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The largely Uzbek and Tajik town of Kunduz lies amid rich agricultural land, and is one of Afghanistan’s most stable and thriving towns. The well-watered plains that sur- round it are ideal for growing rice, while the dusty loess hills to the north near the Tajikistan border turn emerald green at the first hint of the spring rains. Although there are few attractions to see in the town, it’s a relaxing place to rest up on the road and a useful hub for those aiming for Badakh- shan or Tajikistan. Not all travellers’ reports have been so

favourable. In The Road to Oxiana, Robert

Byron approvingly quotes a proverb of the time stating that ‘a visit to Kunduz is tanta- mount to suicide’. When north Afghanistan fractured into city-states in the early 19th century, Kunduz was ruled by the slave- raiding Murad Beg. He was the most power- ful and murderous of the northern khans, dealing with Kabul and Bukhara as equals. And if the slavers didn’t get you, the fever- ridden marshes probably would. Malaria remains a problem in the area today. Many settlers didn’t come to Kunduz by choice either. The town has a large Pashtun

minority, Ghilzais from the east who were forcibly relocated here in the 1890s as part of Abdur Rahman Khan’s plans to weaken his tribal enemies. Thirty years later the population exploded again with an influx of Uzbek and Tajiks fleeing the expanding Soviet presence in Central Asia. Kunduz was the scene of fierce resistance by the Taliban in November 2001 and was the first base for the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) mandate outside Kabul, with a German-run Provincial Re- construction Team (PRT). Although largely peaceful today, the Hezb-e Islami party has a sizeable presence in the area – Gulbuddin Hekmatyar ( p186 ) was born in the province – and there have been occasional incidents involving anti-government violence.

Information

Haqkhawa Internet (Sarakh-e Iman Sahib; per hr 60Afg) On first floor of building. Kabul Bank (cnr of Jad-e Haji Ghani) Has a branch of Western Union. Moneychangers (Chowk-e Kunduz) Several money- changers’ stalls are just north of the main square.

Sights

The remains of Murad Beg’s fort, the Bala Hissar, are on the outskirts of town off the main road heading north. Nothing remains inside, but the walls give decent views over the town. Also of interest are the grounds of the Takharistan Madrassa, west of the square on Sarakh-e Spinzar. The large mosque in- side has recently been restored, and respect- ful visitors are usually welcomed. The land around Kunduz is ideal for raising horses, so it’s no surprise that from late autumn to spring, buzkashi is popular in the town.

Kunduz

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MAZAR-E SHARIF TO BADAKHSHAN •• Kunduz 161

Sleeping & Eating

At the time of writing, chaikhana owners were banned by the police from taking for- eigners as guests in Kunduz.

Ariana Hotel (x070 274712; Jad-e Mahareif;

s/d/tr US$10/20/30) This basic hotel is the best cheap option in Kunduz. All rooms have attached bathrooms, which are kept reason-

KUNDUZ

INFORMATION

Moneychangers........................... C3 Kabul Bank................................... C3 Haqkhawa Internet...................... C3

3 2 1

SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES

Takharistan Madrassa...................4 B3

SLEEPING

Lapis Lazuli 2................................ B5 Lapis Lazuli................................... B4 Kunduz Hotel............................... C4 Ariana Hotel................................. B4 7 Days Guesthouse...................... B4

9 8 7 6 5

EATING

Juice & ice cream....................... C3 Fruit & vegetable market............ B3 Chaikhanas................................ B3

12 11 10

TRANSPORT

Taxis to Shir Khan Bandar........... B1 Faizabad................................ D4 Minibuses to Taloqan & Local rickshaws........................... B3 Ariana Afghan Airlines............... C3

14 13

16 15

16

To Shir Khan Bandar (55km); Ai Khanoum (100km)

ably clean, although many of the fixtures are pretty ragged. Rooms look onto a busy central courtyard, and there’s an attached wedding hall that could potentially make this a noisy option for light sleepers.

Kunduz Hotel (x075 5505 702; kunduz_hotel@

yahoo.com; Jad-e Dosti Afghan Aiman; s/d US$50/60; a)

If you’re after a solid Afghan business-class

0 0

500 m 0.3 miles

Bala Hissar (Ruins)

1 13 14 4 5 6 8

Mosque

7

To Taloqan (70km); Ai Khanoum via

Taloqan (145km); Faizabad (260km)

15 10 11 3 12

Chowk-e Kunduz

2

9

To Bandar-e Kabul (700m); Airport (12km); Baghlan (25km); Pul-e Khumri (105km); Kabul (340km)

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Jad-e Nashir

Sarakh-e Imam Sahib

Jad-e Dosti Afghan Aiman

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S ara kh-e Spinzar Ja d-e Mahareif

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