The road back to Kabul is a dark, bumpy haze; you can feel the dust enter your lungs as you breathe in. We jostle along, the constant jolt of stopping and going when you’re driving in lanes that aren’t really lanes and the only real rule of traffic is the fend for yourself. In the dark of the early evening cyclists and pedestrians come out of almost nowhere, lurching into the street at a moment’s notice. Our driver maneuvers around them as if it were second nature.
On a main road that’s graced with functioning streetlights, we pass a station wagon, the trunk door open, and a man piling in what looks to be sheepskins. They’re fresh. I catch a quick glance of the blood-tinged edges on the pile that lays on the ground.
It is the first day Eid al-Adha – the Feast of Sacrifice – a four-day Muslim holiday that traditionally involves the slaughter of a four legged animal (commemorating Prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael). The animal is then eaten and shared with family and the less fortunate; on Eid, no one is meant to go hungry. As our local fixer referred to it in English, it’s a holiday represented by “sheep charity.” The streets of Kabul have been filled with sheep herds, each animal marked with a pink streak on their back, all meant to be sold to families who can kick off the Eid celebration. They dodge traffic just like we do.
Eid is a happy time. A joyful time. You can feel it in the air. There is less tension. Children are given money and girls carry their heads in colorful scarves. There is a sense of abundance. A moment to seize and celebrate.
The everyday “salam alaikum” that we say in salutation, is now followed by “Eid Mubarak,” indicating good wishes for the holiday.
For this first day of Eid, we have the chance to be in a small rural village. With four women as part of our crew, we certainly stand out as we wait outside the Mosque during the call to prayer. As the men enter the mosque we are left standing alone, a few curious boys hanging around us and shying away when we offer up a “hello” or “how are you?” in Dari.
Later when the men return to the streets from the Mosque, I ask what the red stains on some of the men’s hand stand for. “Happiness,” our local fixer says simply. It’s the red stain of henna, often seen on women for marriage ceremonies. Today it signifies the celebration. Happiness is simple.
Maybe it’s Eid, maybe it’s the fact two western women have just ridden a rusty green bicycle down the dirt street, but today, in this small rural village, we find ourselves surrounded by laughter. Smiles. Warmth. As a group, we are reminded of the beauty of the soul of this country and its people. The happiness that can always be drawn out, no matter where you are.
In part amusement, part appreciation, the local crowd returns our individual wishes of “Eid Mubarak,” sometimes met with a handshake, sometimes with a palm planted on the chest in acknowledgment. As I turn to say another “Eid Mubarak” I am met with the shout of an overzealous teenage boy:, “Congratulations Eid!” – his English understanding of “happy” or “merry.” When there’s a language barrier, semantics aren’t so important; as long as you can get a feeling across, you have something to share. And today we are sharing, many moments of celebration, small and large.
Celebrating the culmination of a lot of powerful work on Shannon’s part, celebrating what’s to come and celebrating the humanity that can be found within anyone, be they across the room in a meeting or on the other side of the world in a small rural village, where smiles and shrugs are the language of choice and we are welcomed to take part, and even create, this special moment.
In 2008 Mountain2Mountain launched the Streets of Afghanistan project, facilitating a collaboration of Afghan and Western photographers to document Afghan life through the rarely seen Afghan lens, immersing the viewer in the landscapes and faces of Afghanistan, transporting them directly into the culture and mindset of the country’s people. After touring the U.S. the exhibit of 29, 10×17 photographs now returns to the Afghan people. Follow along as we bring the exhibition back to Afghanistan.
Images: Anna Brones, Anna Brones, Anna Brones, Di Zinno, Di Zinno