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Afghanistan: Gardens of Babur

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Gardens of Babur | Afghanistan | Asia

[Visited: October 2017]

After a failed attempt to visit the Kabul Museum in between domestic flights because we try to visit on a national holiday, we decide to go to Babur Gardens instead. Over the entrance gate, a reassuring sign says that this is a weapon-free area. We first enter a square caravanserai, with shops in its arched rooms, buy a Dari phrasebook, and have a photo session with Afghani girls who beg us not to put those pictures on social media, but who are at the same time curious to see the results of the photos. We start walking up the long sloping gardens. There is a white marble water-channel running straight down the hill, but it is dry. We first make a stop at one of the stalls in the park: we have only eaten a snack on our flight to Kabul early that morning. The park is full of youngsters, and we soon draw an audience.

Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): White marble mosque, commissioned by Shah Jahan

We continue our walk up the park. A little higher, we find the white, Mughal style mosque that was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who would later build the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife Mumtaz. Looking at the marble mosque, which had to be restored after being damaged during the civil war in 1993, the similar style to contemporary Mughal buildings is obvious. We are now pretty high up, and when we look back, can see the Gardens of Babur stretching out below us - a haven of tranquillity in an otherwise chaotic and noisy city. Still higher, we come to a basin where the water to feed the marble watercourse should originate, but this basin is empty, too. A guard waves at us, and gestures that we should follow him.

Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): The tombstone of Babur, the first Mughal emperor

On a higher level, we find a square space, surrounded by a wall, with a closed door. The guard takes a key out of his pocket, opens the door, and inside we find what we are looking for. Surrounded by a marble screen lies the tomb of Babur, the first Mughal emperor, who wanted to be buried under the open sky. The descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan, he was the founder of the Mughal Empire, and designed these gardens himself. Several relatives lie with him, and against the outer wall, we see several broken tombstones. Just outside, we see the surrounding slums of Kabul. Walking the gardens again, we spot an area where women eat, and we are invited to join the girls we had seen before, who offer us to taste their lunch. By now, it is clear that we have been constantly followed by a security guard, who frowns upon me sitting with twelve Afghani ladies, and who follows us on our way down, all the way to the caravanserai.

Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): Higher level of the Gardens of Babur
Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): Marble watercourse and the Gardens of Babur
Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): One of the relatives of Babur, entombed next to the Mughal emperor
Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): Trees and flowers in the Gardens of Babur
Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): Picnic in the Gardens of Babur
Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): Flowers in the Gardens of Babur
Picture of Gardens of Babur (Afghanistan): Circular space in the Gardens of Babur

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