I was born and raised in Tehran. In my young ages I traveled around the country. At the age of twenty everything is novel and inspiring. The trips I made around Iran were just beautiful places that I had read in history books; the moving minarets of Isfahan. That little cool green village called Ghamsar with the largest roses in the middle of the hottest desert of the world. The resort areas near the Caspian Sea, and the mountains of Azerbaijan, the land of my ancestors were "just a Sweet dream". What makes the Middle East such an intriguing place is its population distribution. In the US one can fly for five hours and land on a similar place with minimal differences. While in Iran, if you travel for five hours in the car you will enter a place with a different language, religion, culture, and history. The diversity of the climate is so obvious that if you were in the hot deserts of Ahwaz you could travel one hundred miles, and you could get to the mountains of Lorestan and throw a few snow balls.
I was happy being a hippie (I still do not know what a real hippie represents). My father was angry at my long hair (God help me, my Son is turning into a Woman). I took a trip to Afghanistan with a few German and American hippies. The trip was a real trip. Those poor foreigners had never seen a real drug store. There were not that many drug stores in Heart, but there were enough. The drug stores had only a few medicines, hashish, opium, Shireh, and heroin. The price was right. You could get hashish as big as your hand for 75 cents. They would give you a big chunk to try, and see if you liked it or not. Opium was so abundant it was cheaper than buying Tylenol. The king of all drugs, "heroin", was as available as Pepsi. The American friends had to be reminded again and again if they overdosed they were gone. The damn thing was 95% pure. If you wanted higher quantity they would hand deliver a 50 pound bag at your door steps. For hippies who wanted to be happy, it was just heaven on earth. The bazaar and food were like third grade cities of Iran, but business was thriving. After all if you're so sexed up that you can fly over the clouds, what the hell do you care what you eat? The drugstores had other commodities which were not available on the New York stock exchange. They had guns and ammo, as much as you wanted. In Iran guns and ammo belong to the government, no exceptions. The Afghan drug stores sold every kind of gun from a Dillinger to a fifty caliber machine gun, anything and everything imaginable.
I used to think that Iran was a land of diversity, until I saw Afghanistan. Every 100 kilometers, you have a different group of people whom you had read about in the books of 1000 years ago. Some of the Afghans of Herat are from Jewish descent. They keep kosher and pray on the Sabbath.
The problem with Afghanistan was poverty. Imagine a Middle Eastern country without oil. The glorious cities that we had read about in the books had turned to useless ruins. What were in abundance were superstitions. The quality of life was not much better than that of a caveman. It looked like someone had forgotten to remind everyone that it was not the 14th century anymore. The government structure at that time was monarchy, but the king was chosen by the British just to be a buffer for the road to India. Throughout history many people would pass through Afghanistan. In a lawless land, society builds its security through the family. A strong family is one which has a lot of sons. If there is a fight, these sons are the ones who protect the family. Then comes the tribe; the more guns, and the more men, the stronger the tribe. Since the country is poor, whoever pays you, owns you for that day.
Many years after my trip to Afghanistan the country was invaded by Russians. They took advantage of the American preoccupation with the hostages in Iran and poured in. It has been Russia's goal to get to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. They want to be able to cut off the Straight of Hormoz and cut the jugular vein of the west. They fought hard to hold on to Afghanistan, but they could not. A bunch of Muslims are not going to tolerate godless communists. The cause of the Russian loss has been reported by many authors. There is an element which has not been widely reported, which has a lot to do with the Russian loss, and will be a headache for Americans.
Ghanat is a magnificent irrigation system which takes the water from hundreds of miles away and brings it to you. Ghanat consists of hundreds of wells, all dug in a systematic fashion. They are all connected in the bottom with a scientifically measured slope. The bottom waterway is covered with pre-made pieces of clay preserving the water through the channel, and preventing a collapse of the waterway. When the Ghanat surfaces on land, the water is cool and tasty; no water on the land tastes as nice to the men of the desert.
Ghanat as a defense:
In old times when there were no methods of communication, Ghanat was a real life saver. Imagine you would go to sleep at night and wake up with Mr. Change's khan at your door steps. Against such a murderer, there was only one way out; quickly get in the Ghanat and go as fast as you can. Sometimes, there were deliberate detours made for such occasions. The current city of Tehran was built on a large hill full of these caves and waterways (100BC); that hill is totally gone now. But I went through one of these caves in a city called Mahalat in Iran. You would get in a well which would drop to a room with three wells in it; you would take another well, which would lead to another room. Before you know it, you are lost in the mazes. Without tracks and ropes it would have been impossible for a person to find his way back. Those Ghanats and the newly dogged caves and wells are the best hide outs for friends of Ben Laden and the Taliban. Russians used the napalm to flush them out , but it did not work. The little robots are not advanced enough to get the job done. There is a need for new technology.
The plight of invaders of Afghanistan:
Throughout history, parts or all of Afghanistan were under Iranian domination; however not that many people can claim that they were the kings of Afghanistan. The capital city was Ghandehar, and even if one would conquer the country, nobody had the manpower to have a garrison in every city. Therefore, the King was more of a figurehead that the other warlords would accept, and pay taxes and put his name on their coin.