inside a Bedouin tent in Afghanistan


A Bedouin tent on the outskirts of Herat, Western Afghanistan 1974.
(sorry about the big download, but I'm trying to put you inside the tent by filling your browser with it. This picture was created from two separate photographs)
 

I walked North out of Herat towards the ruins of a mosque I had seen on the horizon from the bus when arriving in town the day before. Only its four mud brick minarets remained standing (I've got a picture of it somewhere). Children were playing amongst the ruins and in a hollow off to one side of the hill on which the mosque was built was a Bedouin tent. I'd seen these tents before on the plains of Afghanistan's Western desert. A teenager beckoned me to follow him and gestured for me to enter the tent. Heck, who'd pass up an opportunity like that?

The women disappeared as I approached. I sat down on a blanket on the mud floor as an honoured guest. As you can see, I was scrutinised with intense interest. Staring is quite the custom all throughout Central Asia, and why not? Life is worth a good hard long look and I was certainly a strange sight - a beardless man. I'm a quiet shy kind of bloke but sometimes you can get a hundred pair of eyes staring intently at you. Unnerving at times, but you get used to it.

I was amazed at how light and airy the tent was. From the outside, its material seemed so dense and black but in fact it was made with a very loose weave. Look at the way their cooking stove grows organically out of the mud floor. Isn't it great?

Islam requires its followers to be hospitable to strangers. This may be a practical necessity of peoples who live in difficult arid regions but the sentiments are genuine. The gracious old white-bearded man served me a most welcome cup of refreshing hot tea, some 'nan' bread, on the floor above, and, as I recall, some tiny white peppermint sweets.

I smiled and acted the clown for the children and amused all and sundry by fiddling with my camera. A young man tried to speak to me using a few words of French. I shrugged. Of course without the tools for communication, the novelty for both parties soon wore off leaving awkwardness in its wake. It was time to say good-bye before things became too spooky.

 

 

 

Out of the largely colourless beige landscape of Afghanistan comes a wondrous array of vibrantly coloured artifacts for day-to-day use. Pictured above are kilims..visit a carpet shop?
or continue the journey
© david.atkinson@rmit.edu.au
created 1october 1998