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Posts Tagged ‘TV Hill’

Zooming from TV Hill

The Gardens of Babur

Mount Asma-i, known by Afghans and Coalition members alike as TV Hill, is a high mountain in the middle of Kabul.  On a clear day, the view from TV Hill reaches across not just miles, but centuries…

Raju Gopalakrishnan writes about one of the views: The Bagh-e Babur, or Gardens of Babur.

The empire of Babur, the 16th century founder of the Mughal dynasty, stretched from Samarkand to central India, but he died pining for Kabul and insisting on being buried in the place he called paradise on earth.

His open-air tomb on a hillside in what is now the capital of Afghanistan is set in an oasis of greenery. With the snow-fringed Hindu Kush ranges providing a majestic backdrop, the tomb is set amidst a garden of walnut, mulberry, apple and pomegranate trees as well as a small marble mosque, fountains and water channels.

But the views below are far from paradise. These days the tomb overlooks a war-ravaged city of about four million people, dusty and choked with garbage.

Bottom line:  The inscription on Babur’s tomb reads,

If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this!

Frankly, it’s been a LONG time since anyone described Kabul as paradise.  And that won’t change soon.  But maybe someday…

Want more info?  Try the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage or the American International School of Kabul.

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View from TV Hill, with zoom

Zooming from TV Hill

Kabul wall

The old city wall

There’s a wall running along Sher Darwaza Mountain that’s hard to miss from almost anywhere in Kabul.  It appears big from a distance, but I understand it’s HUGE close-up…something like 7m high and 4m thick.  It was built by Zanbilak Shah, the last King of Kabul-Shahan , as protection from invaders during one of the innumerable wars that swept Afghanistan during the 5th century (as I’ve mentioned before, Afghanistan is timeless…and not necessarily in a good way).

Zanbilak had all the men of the city working on the wall 24/7, almost as slaves, and the project was utterly grinding the people into the ground.  Legend has it that one day a couple was married in Kabul, but Zanbilak wouldn’t allow them their wedding night because the husband had to work on the wall.  Well the new bride, mightily ticked off, went up to the wall to confront Zanbilak.  In her anger, she ended up throwing a rock at him, knocking him down.  All the men were shamed–if a woman would dare to take on the king, there was no way they were going to put up with the oppression.  So they rioted.  And then, after the riot, they built one last bit of wall.

Zanbilak remains buried under that section today.

Bottom line:  Not sure Zanbilak’s Wall would work as a bedtime story in America.  But it does in Afghanistan.

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TV Hill

TV Hill, seen from the Ministry of Defense Headquarters

Water run

Afghan boy, going on a water run. TV Hill housing in the back

Mount Asma-i, known by Afghans and Coalition members alike as  TV Hill, is a high mountain in the middle of Kabul.   For two reasons, it’s covered with a prickly blanket of antenna towers, supporting both commercial and governmental communications.  First, TV Hill has a commanding view of the city, which allows a clear line-of-sight between an antenna on the mountain and a receiver almost anywhere in Kabul.  Second, it has relatively easy ridge line access, which means the people and equipment needed to construct and maintain the towers, antennas, communications gear, and–most importantly–electrical equipment, can actually get there.

We’ve been working with the Ministry of the Interior for months now to bring a new UHF radio capability on line for Kabul, beating down one or two technical issues (e.g., transmission cable quality), and a horde of policy and process issues (e.g., power, frequency approval, siting, US export policies, encryption capability).  In the process, we’ve had a few opportunities to travel to the transmission site on TV Hill.  It’s an exciting drive…not because of the insurgent threat, but because of gravity.  From the bottom, it’s hard to appreciate how narrow and winding the road is, how steep the drop-offs are, and how many pedestrians share the road.  It’s DEFINITELY a slow and careful convoy.

Afghans live almost all the way to the top…anywhere it’s flat enough to build.  And they live there without easy access to water.  That’s not a problem for most of Kabul, where public hand-pumps are common.  But hauling water from the city pumps at the bottom of the hill, all the way up?  Now THAT’S an afternoon chore!

Bottom line:  In a previous post, I pointed out that towers matter.  Well, towers on the high ground REALLY matter.

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