"Given the images people see on TV, many conclude Afghanistan never made it out of the Middle Ages," writes Mohammad Qayoumi at Retronaut. "But that is not the Afghanistan I remember. I grew up in Kabul in the 1950s and '60s. Stirred by the fact that news portrayals of the country's history didn't mesh with my own memories, I wanted to discover the truth."
Qayoumi's gallery of what the Graveyard of Empires looked like before it was brought into contemporary civilization by the Hippie Trail, Soviet modernization, Taliban discipline and American nation-building is at once endearing, heartbreaking and disturbing. Because it turns out pre-modern Afghanistan looked pretty, well, modern.
There are Afghans of the Mad Men era going to the movies:
…taking kids to the playground:
…shopping for decadent clothing:
…getting around town using state-of-the-art transit systems:
…and even attending college classes in sensible skirts:
The degrading of fashion is bad, but it's not the worst thing. (Even in America, where mayors can't even be bothered to wear neckties when greeting schoolchildren, people think nothing of dressing like slobs for every occasion.) What's disturbing is that actual civilzational retrograde is so rare in the modern world that you can almost believe it never happens. Even a few years after World War II, most Western Europeans had a higher standard of living than they had had before the war. Yet here you have a country that was apparently not in the dark ages, but got there as fast as it could.