KABUL: In winters, during school breaks from Kabul, I would go to Kandahar in search of warmer weather and the warmth of my extended family. Kandahar was a vibrant and cultured city in those days, with milder winters and mild-mannered people. The city smelled of pomegranate and fried fish. “Every weekend young people rode bicycles to the suburbs, to Arghandab, Sanziri, Shah Agha and Daleh Reservoir to picnic and play cards. Dand District, the lush western part of the city, was filled with Western tourists and young Europeans.”
This is a tale of a place in the richer past that one living in the present begrudges time and again; an Afghanistan without anguish and eternal ignominy, where foreign tourists keep pouring in and roaming cross-country.
Afghanistan Ambassador to the Court of St James’s and Ireland, Said Tayeb Jawad, narrates a tale of love, dance, poetry and good old times in his book ‘the first flamenco in Samangan’. The book blends culture with ecstasy, loosening reader’s grasp on time. It narrates the untold stories of the past which were kept in the hearts of many since decades.
Jawad recounts his love for poetry and literature in this book, beside his passion for politics. The book starts with Jawad’s childhood memories about the old Kabul, where cinemas, markets, restaurants, schools and universities witness a peaceful environment and people are benevolent and kind. Through an exquisite description of Kabul city, the writer injects pictures of old Kabul in the mind of the reader, making one feeling about the early days living in Afghanistan.
“Families with young daughters and sons would come to the cinema wearing their best clothes, showing off the latest fashion,” he says, while explaining the life style of people then. The existence of diverse religious in Afghanistan, especially the Afghan Jewish who later migrated to New York and the beauty of the society in which people were beholding and respecting each other. He exuberantly cherishes Afghanistan and constantly tells about his hassle-free trips to all corners of the country.
‘The first flamenco in Samangan’ can even qualify to be known as a novel as it includes real stories, beside poems and autobiography. Jawad didn’t just write about his life but also about a past Afghan society and Afghan people in that era. This book could be recommended to all generations from early and now because the stories for the current generation reminds them of how living was about four decades ago in Afghanistan. But don’t forget that the book is mostly also a reminder of the memories of people living in Kabul those decades ago. It makes a screen of the city in your eyes and minds. Once you start reading the book, it is very challenging to stop looking at the words that makes you wondered about Afghanistan.
“In the afternoon, I would leave Sufi Ashqari and go to French classes at French Cultural Center, Annex Francois Villon, named after a famous 15th century French poet. My French teacher was Ms. Spozhmi Zaryab a beautiful olive skinned slender and shy lady with sweetest smile. My Kabul, those days, accommodated both Sufi Ashqari, a mystic, traditional poet, and Spozhmi, a cosmopolitan, avant-garde Afghan female writer,” he writes.
Said Tayeb Jawad graduated from Istiqlal high school and studied law political science at Kabul University. He studied at the Westfälische Wilhelm University, Muenster, Germany and Golden Gate University San Francisco. Jawad also received an honorary doctorate in international management from Argosi University, Washington DC. He worked as the Chief of Staff to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Jawad alas served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico. He was a senior fellow in the US from 2010 to 2014 at John Hopkins University, Paul H. Niteze School of Advanced International Studies, and Diplomat in Residence. He played a tremendous role in establishment of a democracy and empowering of women rights in Afghanistan.