A weekend in Balkh & Mazar-e-Sharif

Back in Kabul Afghanistan 8:05 a.m.

Well, so much for flying to Delhi last week. We just couldn’t drag ourselves away yet from this first engagement with Afghanistan—so we changed our tickets (at no cost, thank you Afghan air travel system) and went exploring furthur into the Afghan hill country. Nothing like 20+ hours of driving to get a quick hit of a place.

We launched on a fantastic weekend road trip north of Afghanistan across the Salang Pass high country into Mazar-e-Sharif with our favorite Zuhaak driver, Said. It’s a solid nine to ten hour drive from Kabul up to Mazar, even with not many stops made along the constantly incredible terrain. We traversed numerous landscapes and colorful stone canyons and had a wonderful time leaving Kabul far behind. Landing in Mazar-e-Sharif after dark, we had a mellow night of it, deciding with some regret not to join the several folks from TMF who had also driven up that morning—Tommy, Jila and Constance—as they left the following dawn to visit and meet with an archeologist working a nearby site where, quite possibly, Alexander the Great met and married Roxanne here in the farthest reaches of the Greek empire. It sounded just staggering, and right near a place called the healing spring too. We tried to visit later but our driver had heard of security concerns and didn’t want to bring us there.

I stayed back to deal with some necessary e-mail business, sorting out details of a selection of vintage Uzbek and Tajik textiles I’ve been sourcing for my former employer ABC Home in New York. By late morning we headed out to meet our TMF friends in Balkh—a wonderful quiet little town evincing little hint of its former glories: stomping ground of Alexander and Roxanne, birthplace of Zoroaster, and the place where the mystic poet Rumi grew up until age twelve when he and his family fled the incoming Mongol hordes. We searched for Rumi’s family house, or what was left of it, and before finding it we were led first to an amazing ancient decomposing domed mosque, where we feasted on ripening fresh mulberry fruits, a first for me. After prying ourselves away from that gorgeous building, we eventually found it: the old mud walls comprising the remains of the Rumi family domicile. We found a group of more than a dozen local kids running around, unusually friendly and engaging, though many were girls and hence usually much more reserved.

There’s too much to express right now—having landed back in Kabul, it is now time to finish up everything: FedEx’ing these textiles to America, finishing up my buying here with a few pieces of Afghan lapis jewelry and another stellar batch of great vintage textiles. I’m particularly delighted by a stylish collection of incredible embroidered boots (unbelievable!) and velvet and vintage textile vests and “cosmic smoking jackets” that I scored in the last couple days—I can’t wait to have a little “Afghan goodies” sale after I get home and all these goods arrive—way cool!

OK, time to get up and enjoy the last day here in Afghanistan. More details, and photos, later…


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