Kabul – Eid Mobarak

Afghan guards offer prayers in the Presidential Palace People were waiting with anxiety yesterday: whether they had finished their Ramadan fasting or they had to keep fasting one another day. Not until 10 p.m. Kabul time the decision was announced: Eid to be on Friday. President Hamid Karzai offers his Eid prayers in the mosque inside presidential palace compound. These years, as the security situation in Kabul is worsened, it is not wise if the President prays in public place. Two years ago the President still had his Eid prayers in Pul-i Khisthi mosque together with his people. But now any ceremony attended by the President will mean the arrival of armed bodyguards, area sterilization with the security dogs (it was introduced by the Americans to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), some helicopters patrolling around, and tightened security on all main roads. Letting the President to pray in public mosque under current situation is too much risky. This resource and energy wasting, [read more]

October 12, 2007 // 0 Comments

Shakhimardan – An Uzbek Island Surrounded by Kyrgyz Mountains

Shakhimardan, an Uzbek “island” surrounded by Kyrgyzstan As artificial as any other thing in Central Asia was the border lines between the countries. The nations created by the Soviet rulers now had to be provided their homeland. Stalin might say, land populated by most Uzbek should be Uzbekistan, those inhabited by mostly Mongoloid Kyrgyz then became Kazakhstan (the Kazakh was called as Kyrgyz) and Kyrgyzstan (of which people was called as Black Kyrgyz). But the matter was not simple in the Ferghana Valley. Ferghana Valley was always a boiling pot in Central Asia. The people were renowned as deeply religious Muslim, if not fundamentalist. It was more than necessary for the Russian to divide this huge mass with the highest population density all over Central Asia. Then, besides the division of ethnics (who were Uzbek, who were Kyrgyz, and who were Tajik), there was a clever intrigue by dividing the border lands to divide the people. Then, the identity in Ferghana Valley [read more]

April 7, 2007 // 1 Comment

Turkistan – A Journey to Turkistan

A pilgrimage to the holy land of Trkistanrkistan The holy journey to the holy land The train departed from Almaty 1 train station after I had a little incident with station police. I was just informed that taking photos in a train station was extremely prohibited. I was taking photos of the train, passengers, and security officers, and then suddenly a man called me to follow him to a special room. Here I was interrogated by the woman who was the head of the police. I explained that I was just a tourist and I was interested by the Russian train. They let me go after I deleted the photos. Many passengers of the train were students. The way going to Turkistan passes Shymkent, the important southern town bordering with Uzbekistan. Most of the passengers, compared to northbound train routes, were mostly Asians. Southern part of Kazakhstan was dominated by native Kazakh and Uzbek. The holy man The train journey was long. But as here, most passengers were Kazakh and Uzbek, comparatively they [read more]

December 12, 2006 // 0 Comments

Tokmok – The Dungan

A Dungan family “Хуэйзу либянди щинфу” – Happiness Among the Dungan Hueimin Bo 26.01.2006 My first interaction with the Dungans was with its food. There is a busy, crowded, small restaurant near the Iranian embassy in Bishkek offering Dungan food. When I entered the underground room, I felt I was thrown again to China. It is Chinese, and only Chinese language, spoken among the cook and servants. The food also resembles Chinese food you eat in mainland China, with slight variation of Central Asia touch. That second I immediately decide: I want to know who the Dungans are. Tokmok is a little town 70 km east of Bishkek. This town is located nearby to Chuy River which now separates Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Tokmok is a kaleidoscope of ethnics: Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Russian, Uyghur, and Dungan traders stuff its busy Sunday bazaar. Tokmok is home of most Kyrgyzstan’s Dungan population. Not far from the bazaar there is a little Dungan mosque. Here, in Central [read more]

November 26, 2006 // 1 Comment

Karakul – the Giant Death Lake

The giant death lake of Kara Kul. Karakul in Kyrgyz language means ‘black lake’. The lake itself is not black. In fact, this huge water body was deep blue when the sky is friendly, and turns to be grey when the sun chooses to hide behind the clouds. But the life is as dark as its name. There is no life at all in this huge lake. The lake has high concentration of salt. But despite of the salt, the lake also freezes in winter. The village next to the lake, bears the same name, is a Kyrgyz settlement with only one Tajik man inhabitant – a policeman. I was supposed to stay with the Tajik policeman, as it’s the only chance for me to communicate with my Persian knowledge. But when I arrived there, the Tajik man had left to Khorog.I stayed with a Kyrgyz family, an Acted-arranged guest house. They don’t speak Tajik, but the husband know little bit and can sing the national anthem proudly, “Zindabosh e vatan Tajikistan e azadi man (Long Live o Fatherland, My Free Tajikistan!)” He [read more]

November 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Ishkashim – Peeping into Afghanistan

Afghanistan, seen from Tajikistan It is just separated by a river. But the live over there is a world away. Khorog and Ishkashim are connected by a stretch of a 106 km long asphalted road. It is a 3 hour journey with public jeep, but cost as much as 20 Somoni ($6). Despite of lack of money that people earn, everything in Tajikistan is very expensive as the country produces almost nothing remarkable but water and electricity. The road to Ishkashim as along the Panj river, with Afghanistan Badakhshan province at the other side. The river itself had not strong stream (as the temperature is already quite low at this moment) and was not wide at all. Afghanistan is just less than 20 m from here, but the life there is a world away. While we are traversing smooth road of Tajikistan with a jeep, the road over there is complete dirt road and you may observe Afghan travellers wandering the world on donkeys. When women passengers in our jeep in Tajikistan side sit aside the other male passengers, [read more]

October 20, 2006 // 1 Comment

Istraravshan – The 2500 Years of History

The 2500 years of history, Istaravshan Tajikistan has to dig up very deep into its glorious past to emphasize its identity. Tajikistan had to leave behind its historical luggages, as the Persian Tajik civilization centres, Samarkand and Bukhara, were handed to Uzbekistan by the Soviet government. Among what was left now, it was Istaravshan to testify to glory of this tiny country’s past. Istaravshan is located about 280 km north of Dushanbe, after passing two high passes of Anzob and Ainy (Shakhristan), both are higher than 3700 m. The passes are covered by snow in winter, making it’s impossible during the period to travel overland from Dushanbe to Khojand – the second city of the country. The only possible transport by that time is by flying. Along the way there were many Chinese workers on road and tunnel construction projects. They navigated the tractors, measured the parameters, and broke the stones. I did really wonder why it was so necessary to have all Chinese workers to [read more]

October 14, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Lost Money (Again, Again, Again… Aaaargh…)

The beautiful Tajik money, Somoni, with picture of a Persian Sufi poet, Mir Said Ali Hamadani These last few days, I stayed in a hotel named Vakhsh Hotel. It is the cheapest choice I can find in the town, and it cost 10 $ per night in a room with four beds. Of course with such high price, I expected that the room was exclusively for me alone. I always locked the door and kept the key for myself. After staying a night in Bakhriddin’s dormitory, I went to my room in Vakhsh. I was surprised to see that there was a young man sleeping on one of the beds. I just put my small bag in the room, went shower, and then Internet to check the news from my embassy concerning my Kyrgyz visa application. I didn’t come back until evening, when I saw another man taking another bed. I just realized that this is a shared room, and I just left my luggage unattended for the whole day. I saw my small bag, and just at glance I knew someone had opened it. I suddenly realized what can be stolen: my money [read more]

October 10, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – A Night in Student Dormitory

Rainbow in Tajikistan I went early to the Kyrgyz embassy just to find that the embassy only opened one day in a week, that is on Tuesdays. The embassy itself is well hidden in the alley, long way from the city center. It is next to a medicalcampus of the university Teby. When I was asking direction here and there, I met this boy. His name is Alyourov Bakhriddin. He is a medical student in the second year. He is an Uzbek boy from the northern town of Istaravshan, about 200 km away from Dushanbe. Bakhriddin has a Russified Islamic name. The names of Uzbek and Tajik were following the same pattern as those of the same ethnics in Afghanistan, but since the Russian occupation, the names of the people also consist of 3 parts: imya (name), otchestva (fatherly name) and familia (family name). The father’s name (otchestva) has ending –ovich for males and –ovicha for females, and the family name or grandfatherly name has ending –ov for men and –ova for women. Thus the Tajik president, [read more]

October 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Tajikistan, First Impression

Just across the river border, even the grilled meat looks very different, despite of the same name, kabab. Oh, it also gets a Russian name here, sashlik. Before actually physically stepped on the country, I had heard, and seen Tajikistan when I was still in Afghanistan. It is the country idolized by many people in the Badakhshan province. It is the country of freedom, flourished by goods, electricity, and public services. It is the country where women can walk on the streets freely without fear of not covering properly. Now, I am in Tajikistan, seeing and experiencing what man of the northern rural Afghans dreaming about. But for me, Tajikistan is not about dream. According to a reference, the average salary of the people in the country was only 61.81 Somoni (US$ 19.93/month, 2005) and average pension was as low as 16.92 Somoni (US$ 5.23/month, 2005). Life cost is not cheap at all, at least in Dushanbe, compared to the low income statistics. Long distance transport was incredibly [read more]

October 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul – The First Day of Ramazan

Fantastic breakfast: big bread and bean soup Yesterday people were not sure yet whether the fasting month of Ramazan would start today or the day after. “We are waiting for the announcement,” said Abdullah, a driver from Bamiyan. But today, it was clear that the Ramazan started officially. It is one day earlier than in Indonesia, as Afghanistan was following the trend in the Middle East. For travellers, fasting is not obligatory. Kebab restaurants still prepared their meat and actually you still can eat anything as usual, just not in open way. The restaurant owner made the kebab indoor so that the smell would not invite people who were fasting. The Hazaras are Shiite. Abdullah said that for Shiite it was OK not to fast when travelling, but the Sunni Afghans were very strict about religion and still maintained fasting even when travelling long distance. As Ramazan started, suddenly the number of travellers dropped dramatically. Usually it was easy to collect passengers to go to [read more]

September 23, 2006 // 0 Comments

Band-e-Amir – A Pilgrimage

The cliff near the magical lake of Band-e-Haibat, one of the crystal blue Band-e-Amir lakes. “Bacha bazi, Khuda razi,” – a Hazara restaurant boy. Band-e-Amir is always a highlight of any visits to Afghanistan. The crystal blue lakes are simply miracle among the barren hills. The locals also believe it as a miracle. Legend says that Hazrat Ali, or Caliph Ali bin Abi Thalib, came to Bamiyan, killed a dragon and created the 6 lakes of Band-e-Amir with his magical power. Considering that the Hazara people are Shiite, the Imam Ali (or Hazrat Ali) was always the reason of all miracles. I argued with a man from Chekhcheran, that it was doubted that Hazrat Ali even had come to Bamiyan. Hazrat Ali died after some years being the fouth Caliph in Iraq, and he spent most of his time in the Middle East. The Chekhcheran man said that according to a travel writing of a Chinese adventurer (possibly a Buddhist monk) visiting Bamiyan 2000 years ago, the dragon of Bamiyan was still alive. The [read more]

September 21, 2006 // 0 Comments

Lal o Sar Jangal – Coach Day

They promised to take me along with their trucks Cheragh was his nickname, literally means ‘lamp’. I don’t really know why he was called like that. He was a fat Hazara truck driver whom I talked with yesterday. He was agree to give me a lift up till Panjao, in Bamiyan province. Cheragh had interesting history. He spent 2 weeks in an island near Jakarta, of which he ever didn’t know the name. North of Jakarta, there are hundreds of small islands which are called as ‘thousand islands’. He, together with other 400 Afghans, was in a ship to Australia from Malaysia, their adventure for getting a better life, a dream from their warring country, 6 years ago. “The Indonesian government didn’t give us permission. Australia also didn’t give us permission,” They failed to get refugee visas even from Indonesia, and the archipelago government just allowed them to stay in an isolated island for two months. The government provided them food anyway, and the [read more]

September 18, 2006 // 0 Comments

Chekhcheran – The Capital of Ghor Province

A boy from Chekhcheran selling bushes for fire. “We are the center of Afghanistan. But why we are so poor?” – a villager from Chekhcheran The capital of Ghor province was a famous arena in Afghan history pages. It was mentioned many times by Babur, the great Moghul emperor. It was also expecting to prosper much further in 1970’s when there was a plan to build road through the Central Route of Afghanistan, thus connecting the Europe as far as to New Delhi. But Chekhcheran today was an isolated town, far from both Herat and Kabul, suffering Taliban attacks in few years back, and now was desperate for further development. The road in the whole province was unpaved, and it was not lit by electricity at all. The whole province had to rely on private generators to produce local electricity to watch TV (no radio signal in the whole province), light the rooms, listen to Indian songs, and run businesses. At night, it was a complete dark. “We are the center of [read more]

September 17, 2006 // 0 Comments

Herat – Massoud Day

Everybody is talking about Massoud “Massoud is our hero. He is, of course, Musliman!” – a Herati man Five years ago, just two days before the September 11 incident, the Afghan great leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was murdered. It was suicide bombers posing as a journalist and a photographer pretended to interview Massoud and then blasted themselves. Since then, the security officers in Afghanistan became very touchy with cameras. All TV stations in Afghanistan during these days played documentaries about Massoud, mostly made by French filmmakers. It was interesting to see how the image of Massoud among Afghan different ethnics. Massoud was a Tajik, and for the Tajiks he was a great hero. The Uzbeks in a Maimana restaurant in Herat were also enthusiastic when follwing documentary programs about life of the great hero in TV. Some of them even cried exactly on the part when Massoud was murdered and Massoud’s brother was recounting the tragedy. For the Pashtuns, some of them liked [read more]

September 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Mazhar e Sharif – The Holy City

The holy shrine The skyline is dominated by the blue domes of fantasy-like architecture of the mausoleum, along with hundreds of white pigeons flying around to seek fortune. Mazhar e Sharif, once a small village overshadowed by the nearby Balkh, now is the biggest city in northern Afghanistan. Mazhar-e-Sharif, literally means Tomb of the Exalted, had passed different path of history Kabul had experienced. It was Russian stronghold area and it was under the occupation of communist general Rashed Dostum, an uneducated warlord who once the big ruler of Northern Afghanistan. Dostum had published his own money, what was known as Junbeshi money (Peace money), and he had his own airlines. Taliban failed to conquer Mazhar at its first attack, but succeeded in 1992 when Mazhar turned to be a city of blood. The Hazara ethnic were slaughtered. The fantasyish holy building is believed to be site where the body of Ali bin Abi Thalib lies Huge poster of the national hero, a Tajik man by ethnicity, [read more]

August 12, 2006 // 1 Comment

Balkh – The Passed Past

The ancient civilization of Balkh “I am not a communist. I am a Muslim” – Khan Agha Arvin The present day tiny town of Balkh, 30 minutes away from Mazhar e Sharif connected by high speed highway, was before a glorious capital of the Bactrian empire. Today, for the locals, the name Balkh maybe more better translated as pilgrimage sites, where hundreds of holy saints’ mausoleums are located and pilgrims came for blessing and prayers everyday. One among the pilgrims was Khan Agha Arvin, currently worked as vice director of one of Afghanistan’s most famous high schools, Lycee Istiqlal in Kabul. I met him accidentally in the pilgrimage site of Rabia Balkhi, a great Persian woman poet who died in name of love. Arvin, now 47, offered me to go with him and his colleagues around the old town. Offering prayers in holy sites which populate the whole city of Balkh The city walls of Balkh, once walls which protected the great capital of the great empire, now was rubble of history. [read more]

August 11, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Understanding Islam from the Eyes of a Pashtun

With enveloping burqa, a woman sees the world through the little holes in front of her eyes “In Islam there is a circle. And we cannot get out the circle” — Amin It was not easy to meet and interview people who praised a lot the Taliban regime in recent day Kabul, at least in my one month here, it was the first time I got the chance. The discussion was not political, instead it was more cultural and religious. Amin, a man of 33 years old from Pashtun ethnic, had spent his 29 years of life in Pakistan. He was a refugee. He speaks very good English, and he expressed his idea very well in the language. He used to live in a tribal area in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) of Pakistan, the area that the Afghans preferred to refer as Pashtunistan. The tribal areas are the areas of the Pashtuns which are not under the Pakistani law. The tribal area where he lived was Mohmand Agency. His ancestors came from a village called Kandari, both existed in Pakistan and [read more]

July 18, 2006 // 2 Comments

Ghazni – From the Glorious Past

The glorious past has gone, forever The glorious past has gone Ghazni is the capital of province of the same name, located north of Zabul province on the Kabul – Kandahar highway. The altitude of slightly more than 2000 m guarantees the temperature in Ghazni is cool. At this moment, Ghazni is among the riskiest provinces in Afghanistan, where Taliban attacks happen in regular basis in the districts of the province. But as everybody tried to convince, the city is a safe place. Shehr Ahmad Haider is a Pajhwok journalist covering the news of the area. His office is a tiny office in a hotel near the bus station to Kandahar. There are two computers in his 3 x 5 m room, and his main weapons of getting news are: two sets of mobile phones and a desktop phone. He never meets Taliban, despite that most of his news dealing with Taliban. Interviews are done through phones. But he is not idle. In fact, to get at least five news per day he has to make many telephone calls and some visits to the [read more]

July 16, 2006 // 1 Comment

Kabul – The Woman Movements

Being invisible very often is necessary in a warzone “They feel save being invisible” ——— Lam Li The image of Afghan women which laid the strongest impression among Indonesians, and maybe also other nations in the world, is women hiding in blue burqa, the veil covering the whole head, including hairs, necks, face, and even eyes, makes the body under it completely anonymous. A friend of mine described burqa / burka as invisible blanket, just like the fantasies in those Japanese animations. Whoever wears this blanket will be invisible. Nobody will recognize. No recognition, no attention. “They feel save being invisible,” said Lam Li. Lam Li made her impression after staying quite a while in Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly Peshawar and Kandahar, among the most conservative places of the two countries. In previous occassion I met her in Peshawar, she describes her inability to understand why the woman always lived under fear, hiding under [read more]

July 12, 2006 // 0 Comments

Islamabad – Mahfil-e-Naat

June 3, 2006 Hysteric sea of audience in the party of Naat Syed Abid Gilani and Syed Rashid Kazmi, both I knew from the NGO working in Kashmir earthquake, were two among the people who organized a Naat concert, or Mahfil-e-Naat in Rawal Town, an area between Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Naat is an Islamic tradition here, to chant teachings about the religion in melidious way. It’s comparable to Nashid music in Malay tradition, minus the musical instruments. So a Naat singer (actually the people dont like to say Naat as song/gana, as Naat is from Quran and even it’s melodious we should avoid calling Naat as song) will chant the religious melody, and someone might accompany him with beating background vocal and it somehow turned to be like Acapella music. The background vocal sounds like Kalimah (the holy sentence) to be pronounced over and over with a certain beat. Today, the Naat star tonight is Syed Awais Qadri. My friend said that he was the Michael Jackson of Naat. No [read more]

June 3, 2006 // 1 Comment

Islamabad – Friday Prayers

June 2, 2006 Most mosques are not for women I am staying in a friend’s house, whose father is quite a renowned religious leader in the country. Syed Asmat Gilani had been in Danmark and other parts of Europe in last few years, and his modern teaching of the religion had converted thousands of people to grab Islam. Today is Friday, the most important day in the week for the Muslims. Mr Asmat was invited to give speech in a mosque nearby, and he also invited me to attend the prayers. The speech was delivered in Urdu. Even not all parts of the speech that I understood, I could grab little bit of the teaching. The speech was about the soul of religion (mazhab ki ruh), that is feeling the existance of God in your heart. Religion should be from the heart. There are three phases of the religion, that are shariat (religion), tarekat (spiritual), and hakikat (truth). Somehow the teaching resembles what we learnt in Taoism, that the Truth, what they call here as Hakikat, is to be found in [read more]

June 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Umerkot – A Failed Nation?

May 15, 2006 Giving understanding to the people and the leaders is a main task for the development programs here Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat is a small NGO in Umerkot dealing with the welfare of the people in the rural areas of Umerkot, bordering with the vast Tharpakar connecting this interior Sindh with Rajasthan and Gujarat in India side. This part of Pakistan had quite a substantial amount of Hindu people, and especially in deep desert, the rural villagers were mostly Hindus from the lowest caste. Umerkot itself had a glorious history as the birthplace of a Mughal king, Akbar. The town had a very ancient fort, but not much was left from the ruins. Parkash, a friend of mine, was working in this NGO with a teamwork which consist of people from the two religions: Muslims and Hindus. They work together without any problem. Religions had never been problem here, as people from both religions respect each other and live harmoniously. Beef was even not served in restaurants here, as about [read more]

May 15, 2006 // 0 Comments

Uch Sharif – The Saint City

May 5, 2006 Half Left Bahawalpur is the gate to the saint city of Uch Sharif, where some of the most holy men of Islam and Sufi were putting their roots here. Uch Sharif is said to had the second oldest university, after Rome. Where in Rome, the universities were already left their medieval time, replaced by cableless internet connection equipped classrooms, the religious schools in Uch Sharif were still looked wrapped by the time of their heydays. Uch Sharrif is about 100 kms away from Bahawalpur. The bus had to change in a nearby city, Ahmedpur, which was 20 kms away from Uch. The bus conductors, as in other places in Pakistan, would admit everybody even when they were sure that the bus wouldnt take the passenger to the destination. I departed early to avoid the summer heat (reach almost 45 now), but still I spent too much time on road because the bus going to other direction insisted to take me anyway. And as result of this friendly and helpful ticket seller, I was lost in the [read more]

May 5, 2006 // 1 Comment

Multan – The Mausoleums of Multan

May 2, 2006 Bahauddin Zakariya Mausoleum in Multan The old city of Multan was among the first places in Pakistan to be converted to Islam by Mohammad bin Qasim. At that time Multan was a center of a Brahmin kingdom, led by a Brahmin king of Darra. Nothing left in Multan of its pre-Islamic history. The city had became a major pilgrimage for the Muslims all around the country as many of the mausoleums of the holy men of the religion are located here. The most famous mausoleum of Multan might be the Mazhar of Sheikh Rukn-i-Alam. The building of the mausoleum was fantastic, reminded me to the Moghul mosques and mausoleums of Uzbekistan (they were all Moghuls anyway). Rukn-i-Alam means pillars of the world. A large number of pilgrims come here everyday, to pray around the tomb inside the mausoleum building. Rukn-i-Alam is a leader of the Suhrawardiya Sufi sect, so both of Sunni and Shiah pilgrims come here. To come to the mausoleum, one should leave the shoes and sandals outside. There was [read more]

May 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Lahore – Badshahi Masjid

April 27, 2006 Badshahi Mosque Lahore is burning. It was 42 yesterday, and again, 42 degree Celcius today. Walking on the street just resembled being boiled by microwave open, with the invisible waves from any directions. I got emotional. But I was not alone. I am sure that the heat makes impact to everybody’s head. I got irritate easily, and I am sure other people were also. These days were the first time I felt annoyed in Lahore. When I walked on the steet on that Sunday, when all of the shops were closed, there were a bunch of boys playing cricket on the street, seeing me, and yelled “Chinni chinni” resembled a chorus. That day I still had quite a sense of humour, that I replied, “main chini mini nahi hu, main namak hu” (“I am not sugar and stuff, I am salt!”). In Urdu, the word “chini” means “Chinese” and “sugar”. But now, with this heat and harassment, I didnt quite have sense of making fun. Because I [read more]

April 27, 2006 // 0 Comments

Peshawar – Travelling Alone as a Woman, Travel Experience of Lam Li

April 17, 2006 Purdah “Kenapa mereka selalu hidup dalam ketakutan? Kenapa? Kenapa?” Ini adalah pengalaman dari seorang sahabat lama seorang Malaysia, Lam Li, yang sedang melakukan perjalanan melintasi Asia dan ‘mau tak mau’ singgah di Pakistan. Sebelum masuk Pakistan dia sudah dipenuhi oleh ketakutan tentang betapa ‘seramnya’ laki-laki Paksitan terhadap perempuan. Namun Pakistan memang bukan seperti yang iya bayangkan. Pakistan bukanlah India. Orang-orang Paksitan lebih ramah dan jujur. Dia suka Pakistan, itu tak dapat ia pungkiri. Keramahtamahan Pakistan yang dimulai dari Lahore di mana dia diundang menginap oleh seorang lelaki yang baru saja dia temui di jalan, adalah sebuah sambutan yang ramah dari Pakistan. Dalam waktu lima hari tinggal bersama keluarga Lahore itulah yang mengawali penglihatannya tentang Pakistan. Sebagai perempuan, dia mempunyai akses ke sudut-sudut rumah yang tak bisa saya rengkuh dengan identitas saya sebagai laki-laki. [read more]

April 17, 2006 // 0 Comments

Islamabad – Theft

April 11, 2006 Sebuah keluarga terpandang dan religius Saya tinggal di sebuah keluarga di Islamabad. Keluarga ini cukup terpandang dan mempunyai bisnis keluarga yang cukup besar. Secara religius pun sangat dihormati, karena mempunyai nama keluarga Syed, yang berarti keturunan langsung dari Nabi Muhammad. Keluarga Syed Ijaz tinggal di sebuah real estate besar di kawasan orang kaya Islamabad. Islamabad memang dipenuhi oleh orang-orang kaya dengan rumah-rumah raksasa macam istana, macam kompleks Galaxy atau Dharmo di Surabaya. Walaupun modern dan kaya, keluarga Ijaz amatlah sangat religius. Dalam keluarganya, ruang tamu dipisahkan sehelai kelambu, sehingga tamu laki-laki tak bisa melihat penghuni rumah yang perempuan. Hingga beberapa hari tinggal di rumah ini, aku pun tak pernah tahu ada siapa saja perempuan di sana. Yang jelas banyak sekali, namun selain anak-anak dan bari amma, tak satu pun yang pernah aku lihat secara langsung. Aku merasa aman tinggal di rumah ini. Aku disediakan [read more]

April 11, 2006 // 0 Comments

Islamabad – Wedding in the Capital (2)

April 9, 2006 Membaca Qur’an di rumah dulha Hari ini hari ketiga pernikahan, setelah mehndi kemarin. Acaranya, yang semula kata Ijaz dimulai pukul 12, ternyata terlambat lagi (seperti biasa di Pakistan) hingga pukul 2. Ijaz, sebagai teman terdekat mempelai pria, mengiringi mempelai pria dalam mobilnya. Arak-arakan mobil panjang berjalan dari Islamabad menuju Rawalpindi. Di dalam mobil ada yang bertanya tentang asalku. Aku jawab Pakistani. Mereka manggut-manggut, “Gilgit ya…”, dengan sok tahunya menambahkan, “memang orang Gilgit wajahnya mirip orang Cina ya…” Sebagaimana acara pernikahan lainnya di Pakistan, di sini juga acara mempelai pria menjemput mempelai wanita, istilahnya dulha menjemput dulen. Namun karena ini di kota, acara bukan lagi di rumah masing-masing mempelai, melainkan di sebuah Wedding Hall di pusat kota Rawalpindi, tepatnya di Liaquat Chowk. Wedding hall, bukanlah seperti halnya gedung pernikahan di Indonesia di mana piring-piring [read more]

April 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Islamabad – A Wedding in the Capital

Dancing to celebrate April 8, 2006 Today was supposed to be my last day in Kashmir. Syed Ijaz Gillani offered me to go together to Islamabad where I could stay in his family house. He said that there would be a wedding ceremony that I probably interested to attend. He said that he would pick me very early in that morning, at 8, to go together to Islamabad. But not until 1 pm that he came. This kind of little bit delay of appointment is quite common in Pakistan. Some of my friends in Muzaffarabad would like to meet me for the last time. They came at 8 in the morning. Ali insisted to take me to his house to have breakfast. I refused as I was worrying Ijaz would came early. Ali, the 16 year old boy, said that he knew his countrymen much better than me. And he was right. Waiting, waiting, and waiting. They look so bored The morning was full of waiting. Those little boys of 16-20 years old were also enjoying the sexy gabshab (conversation). One scene I was so surprised to spot, that one [read more]

April 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – The End of Mourning Days

Mahfil, another party to commemmorate the 40th day after the death of Mister Hajji April 2, 2006 The time passed very fast. When I came to Noraseri for the first time, the ground was dry and the hills were yellow. But spring had touched Kashmir, that the flowers had blossomed and the hills were carpeted by green rugs. It had been at least forty days since my first coming here. And the project of Danish Muslim Aid NGO had almost finished. The neighboring families had a queue to invite the personnel of the NGO to their house to have dinner or lunch. Three days ago it was Uncle Bashir’s family, then Doctor Shahab, then we had breakfast in Afaq’s house, and yesterday it was the turn of Farman Shah. The work had almost been completed. The dispensary was just some wood sticks, but now it had been walled and roofed by CGI sheets. Two days ago I came back from Muzaffarabad to make documentation of the NGO works in Pattika and yesterday it was the day of Harama and Noraseri. Most [read more]

April 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Where is the Bride?

March 26, 2006 A night before I started to suspect the so-called ‘sexy gabshab’, sexy conversations of the boys, which included physical jokes like touching, hugging, and kissing. Yesterday a boy successfully reached my bed and found his way to hide under my blanket, and gave me massage. I thought it was just a normal massage of friends. But his hand always tried to guerilla to ‘that’ place. I prevented him to. And accidentally touched ‘his’ and I was surprised that he was erected. I jumped. I cursed, “Harami!”. End of joke. It was raining the whole day yesterday. It was a sudden, like weathers in mountain areas, changed drastically in minute basis. It was terribly hot day the day before. But the radio forecast that the rain would be for three consecutive days. For sure the main road which connected the village and the outside world was blocked by the landslides. See my cupboard! For today, after doing a short time of documentation of [read more]

March 26, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Living on Faith

In deeply religious Pakistan, it is important to pay attention to their culture and religion so not to offend them March 25, 2006 Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country which was founded to house the Muslims of India and to establish a country following the way suggested by the religion, was among the most famous countries in Muslim world. From a discussion with a Pakistani scholar, it was stated that the founding of Pakistan was not only to guarantee the freedom of religion (as people were also free to pray in India), but also to guarantee the life in God’s preferred path. What was the meaning of the name of Pakistan? Formally, Pakistan means land of pure. Some other people claimed that the name of the country referred to the essence of Pakistan: Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, Sindhi, and Balluchistan (Bangladesh, the ex East Pakistan, didn’t find its place in the name of the country). Another man in Muzaffarabad told me that the meaning of Pakistan was Laillahaillallah, the [read more]

March 25, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – The Hajji Shahab Family

March 23, 2006 Tajjamal and his cousin The relation with Taj Mahal brought me back to the Hajji Shahab’s house. Hajji Shahab, an old man who died recently, whose funeral was photographed by me in my first day in Noraseri, was quite a reputable person in the village. And Tajjamal, or Taj Mahal, was his distant relative. Taj Mahal didn’t come to the funeral day, as he was in Muzaffarabad. This was the first time he came back to Noraseri so it was essential for him to visit the family again to deliver some prayers. A daughter of Mr. Hajji came late in the funeral day, so she didn’t have the chance to evidence her father’s face for the last time. Samera, the name of this daughter, asked me to show her the pictures of the face of the dead father. Samera was in Lahore, and due to road blocks (very common in these rainy days due to the landslides in Kashmir, and the day when Hajji Shahab passed away was also a rainy day) Samera came a day later. Due to my customs, I [read more]

March 23, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Majlis in Noraseri

March 22, 2006 Roof top gathering Yesterday was the Chehlum, the forty day of the mourning period of the death of Imam Hussain, the third Imam of Shia Muslim sect. Farman Shah telephoned to our office and invited me to join the majlis which would be held in his house. Farman Shah lived in Noraseri, not far from our camp in the village. Farman Shah and his family were all from Shia sect, the Aliwallahs. Majlis, the speech which was held everyday during the mourning period of Muharram until Chehlum, would deliver the story of the death of Imam Hussain. And more than often, the speech brought tears to all of the audience. The Chehlum majlis, as the Ashura majlis (the death day of the Imam) was among the biggest and the most important. I departed early in the morning from Muzaffarabad together with Tajjamal (I called him Taj Mahal), a guy from Noraseri who lived in Muzaffarabad. He came early in the morning, when I was not prepared yet and was still shocked by the whole day of Chehlum [read more]

March 22, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Funeral

Haji Shahab just passed away few hours earlier February 25, 2006 Here, 17 kms away from Muzaffarabad, is hilly areas surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. From here, the glorious snowy mountains of Nanga Parbat can be seen in clear days, flying in the blue sky, towering and dominating the atmosphere. Here is the mountain area of Noraseri, where the NGO I am working with has several projects of building permanent shelters for the earthquake victims. And my work is to take documentation pictures of the projects. But the rain has started since yesterday night, not so big, but continuosly. The weather in the morning was very cold, that everybody in the camp had to halt any works. The rain has made the trekking path in the villages dangerous. And indeed, this is the best weather to just stay lazy and sleep in the tents (not intending to be lazy though… but given chance by the weather ). Gool Muhammad, the cook, who has experience of working in Greece (Urdu: Yunan, Indonesian: Yunani) [read more]

February 25, 2006 // 0 Comments

Rawalpindi – Dannish Cartoon

A demonstration day, a hartal day, means all shop and businesses and schools have to be closed February 22, 2006 Still stucked in Rawalpindi, waiting the departure with an NGO (Dannish Muslim Aid) to go to Muzaffarabad. The NGO itself bearing the name of Danmark, the most unfavorable country name in Muslim countries nowadays. The situation in Pakistan, in many parts of the country, is in unrest condition. After the huge disorder in Lahore, the bigger destruction happened in Peshawar – understandably with more traditional society. In the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, many of educational institutions are closed until the 23rd. Last Monday, 19th, was the biggest day in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Most shops were closed, hartal. The main roads connecting the twin cities were blocked by police. There was call for demonstration, and the police worked hard to prevent the demonstrators to reach the capital, where the government institutions and embassies are located. Still, the [read more]

February 22, 2006 // 2 Comments

Rawalpindi – Do Nambar

Women are rare on Pakistan streets. But when they are, mostly they are totally covered February 21, 2006 I have written many stories of examples of male to male sexual harrassments in Pakistan (personal experiences) and it’s unfair if I dont write the sexual harassments that happen to women, which are far more common. I was in a crowded bus today, heading to Islamabad. When I entered the bus, the seats next to the drivers (supposed to be seats for ladies, and it is really pronounced as LADIES instead of ‘aurat’ in Urdu) was occupied by some men also. The ticket men allowed me to sit in front seat also, maybe because I was foreigner. Then there were about five seats left for the ‘ladies’. But as there was only one woman passengers, the seats were again occupied by male passengers. Then everytime coming a female passenger, those male passengers have to move away and give the seats to the women so that no women will sit next to unrelative males. Something [read more]

February 21, 2006 // 0 Comments

Lahore – Not an Ordinary Valentine’s Day (Riots in LAHORE)

Anger in the name of God The day started very quietly in Lahore, Pakistan, today. The restaurant at the basement of my hotel didnt do their business. I asked why, they said hartal (strike). Tried to find internet, but everything is closed in my area. Went to Regale Inn where most of foreign backpackers stay, and I was sure I could get internet connection. I asked the Pakistani guy working there what special day today was, as most of the shops were closed. He said that today was Valentine’s Day, and it was day of love in Pakistan, and it was national day nationwide. :question: He even asked me to go to park where I could see couples showing love each other. I thought there should be a little bit mistakes in his information. Later on I found on newspaper that today is strike day, the whole city is recommended to stop their business. Yes, indeed today is ‘hartal’ day, to protest the Dannish blasphemical cartoon, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I just questioned [read more]

February 14, 2006 // 6 Comments

Lahore – Ya Hussain

Darah terciprat dalam prosesi zanjirzani. February 9, 2006 Artikel ini ditulis dengan segala keterbatasan pengetahuan saya tentang sejarah Islam. Masukan, koreksi, dan kritik sangat diharapkan. Muharram, adalah bulan yang penuh dengan kemuraman, di Pakistan. Pada bulan ini semuanya seakan dibawa ke dalam suasana perkabungan, mengenang kembali kematian keluarga Khalifah dalam perang di Karbala, lebih dari 1400 tahun yang lalu. Bahkan warung internet yang selalu memasang musik keras-keras, tiba-tiba saja menjadi sunyi. Musik tidak dimainkan sama sekali dalam bulan ini. Para periang pernikahan, penabuh genderang yang biasa menanti rejeki di persimpangan jalan di Rawalpindi tiba-tiba hilang. Tidak ada pernikahan sama sekali selama bulan ini. Dan pesta seks yang berlangsung di kalangan atas remaja Lahore dihentikan sementara selama bulan Muharam. Bulan perkabungan, bagi seluruh umat muslim dunia, mengenang kembali penderitaan dan pembantaian keluarga Nabi ribuan tahun yang lalu. Terlebih [read more]

February 9, 2006 // 3 Comments

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