Kabul might not be the world’s number one tourist destination, but there’s plenty to see in and around the busy capital that boasts 5 million residents. Hire a driver and check out some of the city’s top destinations.
This historic park, locally called Bagh-e Babur, is a calm respite from the rest of busy and congested Kabul. The gardens, situated on the western slopes of Ser-e-Darwaza Mountain, just south of Kabul, were laid out by the Mughal dynasty ruler, Muhammad Zahir al-Din Babur in the early 16th century. At about 27 acres, they are the largest green space in the city, and with their roses and poplar trees, arguably, the most beautiful. Ruined during the civil war, the gardens have since been restored, laid out on the classic charbagh (four garden) pattern. High walls, giving it a very protected and peaceful feel, surround the garden and it’s popular with local families who come to picnic and enjoy the natural space.
A camel and a Ferris wheel all in one place, the Kabul Zoo is an opportunity to enjoy Kabul as locals do. The zoo and its accompanying mini-amusement park are popular with families, but this is no Western zoo. The cages are small and protection between wild animals and spectators minimal. You will, however, see a few colorful birds, lions and bears up close, so for the curious it’s worth the visit.
Shah-e Doh Shamshira Mosque
Located just off of the Kabul River in the city center, the Shah Shamsira Mosque is a central place of worship that’s also well known for its yellow walls and popularity with birds. It has more of a European feel than Afghan, and its two-story structure and bright color make it stand out against the other surrounding buildings.
Royal Palace of Darul Aman
Built in the 1920s, Darul Aman Palace was once a bastion of grandeur. Today all that is left is a gutted skeleton of a structure, reminiscent of the mass destruction that Kabul has seen over the past few decades. Surrounded by a border of barbed wire, it’s off limits to visitors and protected by a crew of Afghan National Army, but if you’re lucky and have a good translator, you can manage to let them give you the full tour and show you around.
Afghan National Museum
Until 1992, the National Museum of Afghanistan was home to over 100,000 arts and cultural artifacts from two millenniums of Afghan history. That all came to an end during fighting in Kabul in the following years, leaving the museum looted and destroyed. The museum staff managed to hide the best pieces, but of the ones that remained, they suffered the policies of the Taliban, which ordered all art objects depicting the human form to be destroyed. The artifacts that made it through, however, provide an intimate look into Afghan history. Thanks to contributions from other museums and archeological efforts, today the museum spans 50 millenniums of Prehistoric, Classical, Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic history. The museum is open everyday of the week except for Thursday and Friday afternoons.
At the end of October, Anna Brones spent two weeks in Afghanistan with nonprofit Mountain2Mountain working to produce several Streets of Afghanistan public photo exhibits. This series chronicles the work on that trip and what it’s like to travel in Afghanistan. Follow along here.
[Photo Credits: Anna Brones]