Here they are, all folded up and for sale at some NGO event; they come in alllll types of colors:
And here is a flick of what I am guessing are some northern fighters, you see how they wear them on their heads, although they often just wear them around their necks:
Usually you see the street peddlers selling them all the time, pretty much everywhere so they are very easy to get, but at night, those guys go home to rest. As we were driving, it had to already by 1930, Ehsan said, “Why did you wait this long? It would have been so easy to find in the day, but in any case we will try.” Ehsan is the best, always optimistic, even after everything he has experienced as an Afghan. We drove around all over Kabul, at night, looking. He got out at every tailor shop that was still open to ask. Ehsan is really the best! He even use to take me on Friday afternoons and let me drive the UN cars, so that if there was ever an emergency I would be able to drive an stick-shift armored B6 land cruiser without stalling.
For about an hour we drove and looked and found nothing. But then something caught my eye as we past the late night fruit sellers. It wasn’t just any fruit, but pomegranates, or anaar as I have grown up calling it in Farsi. In the last few years the health benefits of this fruit have made it an antioxidant super power celebrity, and pomegranate products have become super trendy and chic in the western world, but I grew up on it. As an Iranian, we have them in our country too, and they are loved by all, and have been part of the regional culture forever. They also grow in Cali, and I remember in kindergarten I had this really cool hippy teacher and she had a rule that on our birthdays we weren’t allowed to bring sweets like brownies and cake, only healthy treats. So far my b-day my mom brought a huge bowl of pomegranates. I don’t think any of the kids had ANY idea what it was…And in Afghanistan, OH.MY.GOD, for everything that this country lacks, it has the juiciest, sweetest and most massive anaar in the world. The best come from Kandahar in the south, and famously from the village of Tashgorgan in the north near the city of Mazaar Sharif. They are an autumn fruit so it was the perfect time.
"Ehsanullah, can we stop here? They look so good” So we did, and he got out to make sure we got a good price
But the scene was just so beautiful I got out too and took some flicks:
We both got two kilos:
And then it dawned on me. “Ehsanullah, I'll just go home. These anaar are so amazing, I’ll give them as gifts.” “Really?” he asked, “you’re going to take them with you? Okay, then you take mine too.” I started to protests but he wouldn’t have it. One of the beautiful qualities about Afghan people, they will share anything with you if you are their guest, and they always want you to know and remember the best of their country.
So I took them to Europe (and got through the customs, haha!), gave them to the hommies in Paris and Amsterdam, and they were thoroughly enjoyed.
While writing this post, i remembered that the very first picture I took when I got to Afghanistan back in August 2007 was actually of an anaar tree:
Living here has been great for eating anaar. In my old house that I lived in for the last two years until last month, we had FOUR anaar trees (in addition to peach, pear, apple, mulberry and walnut trees…I miss that place). Here is a flick of one tree in August 2008 (noticed what else was growing below? And I didn’t plant it! Honestly!):
Here's a flick, taken with my mobile phone, of anaar I picked from my yard and cleaned myself in September 2009. They are not only tasty but have to be the most beautiful fruit, with their ruby like seeds, which you almost don’t want to eat, but just look at:
In Iran they have these shops in the cities that JUST sell anaar products, like juice and lavashak, or fruit leather. Here is one in Mashaad where I went in December 2007:
Here is lavashak for sale in a place in northern Tehran called Darband, where they sell it fresh (guess which one is the lavashak-e-anaar):
Again, they’ve always been around in ancient Persian culture as well as Greek, like the story of Persephone, and BTW, if you know the story, it's interesting to consider some scholar believe it was the pomegranate not an apple that was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Anaar is even mentioned in the Holy Qur’an (6-99 these are signs for people who believe; 6-141; 55-68). Pomegranates were also depicted in Egyptian tombs as old as 2500 BC. Here is a picture of Egyptian art, courtesy of Indiana University, from 5th century AD, of a "Dancer with Basket of Pomegranates"
So feminine...They have been depicted in famous European art, such as Maddonna della Melagrna, or Madonna of the Pomegranate, painted by the Italian Renaissance master Botticelli, circa 1487. By placing the fruit in her hand and in the baby's hand, I think he was drawing on the fruit as symbol of fertility:
The fruit is also used in dying yarn and silk to be used in carpets, as you can see in this flick I took in Kabul last summer of the early stages of a rug being made, the yarn in the middle (too much light, sorry!):
Or as in this completed carpet, from Azerbaijan:
Anyway, the season if pretty much over this year. But I have to say it has been pure joy the last three autumns to be living in a region where pomegranates are native and are mind blowing in flavor and size. Not only do I know I’m doing my body good, but I swear eating anaar eases my mind, and gives me a sense of comfort and sweetness, and closeness to my family, particularly my mom, who would often leave a nice cold bowl of seeds ready to go in our fridge.
I’ll close with this video about the anaar industry in Kandahar (it's actually a link, couldn't get it embeded). It’s in Pashtu without sub titles, but it’s basically talking about how they are trying to develop the industry for international export (my friend tio jorge actually worked on this project!) and really, it’s not the words that are important in this vid; the images are spectacular!