Afghanistan, 1973

In the summer of 1973, after graduating from college, I joined the Peace Corps. I was a trainee based in Kabul during the summer of that year when a coup ‘d etat took place. The country had been slowly improving its infrastructure, health care, education, and women’s rights—at least in the more urban areas. The Hotel Intercontinental had been recently constructed, and Pan American Airlines had helped establish Ariana Airlines, which offered jet service into Kabul.

Since at least the 1920’s slow improvement had been the rule, but too slow for General Daoud, who had been prime minister from 1953 to 1963 under his cousin, King Zahir Shah, and had sworn to overthrow the existing regime if conditions in the country did not improve to his liking. He had the loyalty of the most powerful men in the military, and on Daoud’s sixty-fourth birthday, the night of July 17/18, 1973, while the king was out of the country, he took over the government in an overnight coup.

We awoke the morning of July 18 to the sound of low-flying jets. There were tanks and soldiers in the streets, but I was too rattled to take any photos of those events!

My apartment was located above a small bazaar on the outskirts of town. We had running water (cold only), and electricity most of the time. This is the view from our front balcony.kabulaptview.jpg

The view looking down the same street in the opposite direction shows the naan (flatbread) bakery, or “tandoor” oven in the foreground. Every neighborhood had one of these. The naan was delicious fresh, and cost us seven cents a loaf, which was probably double what the Afghans paid.kabulnanoven.jpg

The backyard of this house is fairly typical of homes of the more well-off in this neighborhood. Note the well, the small vegetable garden, and the charpoy (bed) on the raised stone deck for sleeping outdoors in the summer months.kabulbackyard.jpg

A view of our neighborhood and the outskirts of Kabul from the hill behind our apartment.kabulfields1.jpg

The Pul-e Khishti or “Blue Mosque” in distance. Russian Compound in foreground.bluemosque.jpg

Me on the roof of my Kabul apartment, in the summer of 1973.mikekabul.jpg


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