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Archive for June, 2007

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48 hours in Kabul

7:00 ET, Fri 15 Jun 2007

KABUL (Reuters Life!) – Once a thriving crossroads, Afghanistan is definitely off the beaten tourist track as Western and Afghan military forces try to quell a Taliban insurgency.

But for adventurous travelers who find themselves in the war-scarred capital Kabul, Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short stay.

If you don’t have your own transportation and don’t speak the local Dari or Pashtu languages, make sure you find an English-speaking taxi driver.

Most importantly, make sure you seek out local knowledge about security before venturing out. Kabul has seen occasional kidnappings and suicide bombings, although the raids have been almost exclusively directed at military targets.

Women need to wear a headscarf and should try for a low profile and to remain inconspicuous.

THURSDAY

4 p.m. – Thursday afternoons and Fridays are Afghanistan’s weekend, and offer good opportunities to see the sights while there are fewer cars and smaller crowds in the streets.

Take a trip to the bombed-out but hauntingly evocative Dar-ul Aman Palace near Afghanistan’s National Museum about 16 km (10 miles) from the centre of Kabul. The palace was built as part of a 1920s modernization drive by King Amanullah Khan. It was badly damaged in a coup after the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan and was rebuilt, to be ruined again during the civil war.

The drive out there is stunning, taking you past scores of ruins in one of the most battle-scarred areas of the city.

5 p.m. – Another must-see is Babur’s Garden, the burial site of the 16th century founder of the Mughal dynasty whose empire stretched from Samarkand to central India. It has been renovated and a short drive from the place.

7 p.m. – Dinner at L’ Atmosphere, a French restaurant in Qalaye Fathullah that has its own swimming pool, extensive gardens for relaxing in in summer and cosy enclosed, wood-fired lounges in winter. It is the favorite hangout for NGO types and the local French community and there really are lots of rabbits and kittens in the garden, so no, you’re not hallucinating. Email: latmospherekabul@yahoo.fr

FRIDAY

8 a.m. – Start the day with a drive to the top of Television Mountain for a clear view of most of the city. It’s impressive, but don’t wander on the mountainside as it was only recently demined and is not considered completely safe. The drive is spectacular, but not for the faint-hearted, with steep drops on the side and no room for passing traffic at times.

9 a.m. – Breakfast and coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel. Perched on a hill, the hotel has the most famous bookshop in Kabul, and sells dried fruits and locally made handicrafts such as jewellery and carpets.

10 a.m. – Drive to Qargha Lake or Paghman, both picnic resorts some 30 minutes from the city, to relax and swim.

Take a walk around the Bala Hissar, an ancient fortress built around the 5th century. It saw some of the worst fighting between Afghan forces and the invading British during the two Anglo-Afghan wars in the 19th century, and remnants of heavy weapons can be see in the remains.

From here, go up to the Zanborak Shah Mountain to see the massive mud walls built by the former Hindu rulers of Kabul to block the advances of Muslim conquerors.

2 p.m. – Spozhmai restaurant at Qargha has a great view and good local food. It is an ideal spot to relax after sight-seeing.

4 p.m. – Head back to town to the hill where Afghans fly kites on the weekend. It is the scene of the bestseller and soon-to-be-movie “The Kite Runner” and is a colourful sight.

7 p.m. – Pre-dinner drinks at Gandamack Lodge, a guesthouse run by former BBC cameraman and Afghan expert Peter Jouvenal. A Kabul institution, Gandamack offers not only pleasant rooms and meals, but a comfortable bar frequented by resident expats and visiting and locally based journalists. Vintage swords and firearms are also on sale.

8 p.m. – Red Hot Sizzlin’ steak house, near the Kabul River and the road to Jalalabad, is a red meat lover’s heaven. Run by an Australian, its at the bottom of the hill you visited earlier to watch the kites.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. – Breakfast with a view at the Safi Landmark Hotel or the Golden Star hotel in Shar-e-naw, the de facto city center.

10 a.m. – If you’re after handmade carpets, jewellery, handicrafts and antiques, head to the Chicken Street market. Be prepared to bargain hard.

11 a.m. – A visit to the National Art Gallery and the private Sultani museum is worthwhile. They share a charming old building near Joye Sheer in the heart of the city and the staff are friendly and always keen for a chat. The gallery still holds thousands of scraps of paintings destroyed by the Taliban, and they are on display.

12 p.m. – Round up your artistic morning with a visit to the National Museum, which recently reacquired hundreds of items from exile. It’s a short drive away from the city centre.

2 p.m. – Lunch at Delhi Darbar in Shar-e-Naw, which serves authentic Indian food indoors and outdoors. Its South Indian dishes are excellent; try the uttapam.

3 p.m. – Wrap up your trip to Kabul by visiting Istalif, an hour’s drive to the north of Kabul. A picturesque picnic spot, the village was badly damaged in fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. But a small group of potters are creating jugs, teacups and other ceramics to sell to visitors.
© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.

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Written by WSN Bureau
Thursday, June 14, 2007
ImageQueens, New York: The recent incident pertaining to the Sikh boy’s hair being forcibly cut by a fellow-student, at Newton High Schoool, Elmhurst, Queens, NY, came as a shock to the Sikh community. To express dismay and to convey concern to appropriate quarters, United Sikhs, in collaboration with The Interfaith Center of New York, organized a Multi-faith Solidarity Press Conference on June 6, 2007, in Richmond Hill, New York. More than 30 organizations from various faiths, advocacy group/networks, got together in the wake of this event, to show their support condemning the incident. They asked the Department of Education to investigate, and asked the District Attorney’s office to take appropriate steps bringing the victims to justice. The emphasis: “No faith allows religion to be used as a tool to attack other people; any such attacks should be condemned, and must not be condoned”.

The city officials who addressed the gathering included Hon’ble Helen Marshall (Queens Borough President) and David Weprin (NYC Councilman) both gracing the occasion to add to the vociferous of concern of the Sikh community, and to enhance the solidarity within the community.

Tejinder Singh, Legal Advisor of United Sikhs, said: “The District Attorney has charged Umair Ahmed with a felony and are prosecuting vigorously, the case has been adjourned for pre-trial on 2nd of July. United Sikhs is advising the family and closely following the case. We want to ensure that strong measures are under-taken by the Department of Education for the safety of our kids in schools. Schools need a systematic overhaul of the way it handles bias . ”

Matt Weiner (Executive Director of Operations, The Intefaith Center of New York) said : “Tolerance is something that is taught by all religions and helps foster an understanding and respect among all different groups of New York City”.
All speakers emphasized upon the serious nature of the incident, and also stressed upon the urgent need to maintain peace and harmony in the community. Other prominent community-voices heard were those of Ms Diane Barrett (Chief-of-Staff in the office of Assemblyman Rory Lancman) Ms Rosemarie (Advisor to Queens Borough President) Bob Kaplan (Director, Cause-NY, a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Mr George Gibson (Pres., Corona-Elmhurst Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP) Jennifer Rapoport (Assistant Director for Anti Defamation League -ADL) Aliya Latif (Civil Rights Coordinator for Council of American Islamic Relations-CAIR), Ms. Kathleen Stone (Chaplain at The Tillman Chapel Church Center for the United Nations).

Sr. Malika Rushdan (Director of Youth and Community Development, Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA (ICNA Relief USA), said: “The incident at Elmhurst High School is not an isolated incident, immigrant minority students face harassment and bias attacks on a daily basis. The Muslim community stands side by side with the Sikh community, sharing a common goal of keeping all children safe from harm. The Holy Qur’ân is very particular about freedom of conscience as it teaches respect for everyone regardless of any differences and that is the key to pluralism”
Dr Arthur Flug (Executive Director, Kupferberg Holocaust Resource and Archive Center) said: “I have seen a photo in which Nazi guards were cutting the hair of the Hassidic Jews and this incident reminded me of that picture. I am shocked that this has happened, today, here in New York”.

Mohinder Singh (American Sikh Consultative Forum, a network of 18 Sikh organizations, within the Tri-State region) said: “We stand in solidarity with the boy and will support him in whatever way possible”.

Satkirin Kaur Khalsa, Sikh Chaplain at UN rep of 3HO.org Imam Ashraf-uz-Zaman Khan, President. Al-Hera Islamic Institute,NY Rev Kathleen Stone, UN Church Center

Sardarni Satkirin Kaur Khalsa (Sikh Chaplain at UN, and rep. of 3HO.org ) said: “My appearance initially was viewed very differently but as people became familiar with Sikh faith, their thoughts towards my faith changed”.

Sikh members of the Queens Democratic Council, who participated and spoke were Mohinder Singh, Harjinder Singh Duggal, and Gurmej Singh briefly addressed the gathering, as did Kulraj Singh (Sikh Afghan Association.), Harpreet Singh Toor (Sikh Education Foundation), Prof. Indrajit Singh Saluja (Chief-Editor, The Indian Panorama).

Others present at the solidarity event were from the Muslim Consultative Network and Turning Point for Women & Families, David Holloway (Police Sergeant), community leader Jagir Singh, Attorney Kuljit Singh Ahluwalia, and Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba (Chief Editor, ‘Sant-Sipahi’ Amritsar, India) and Ms. Pennie Yogiraj (Jus Punjabi TV), Guru Gobind Study Circle-NY chapter, Director, Sarabjit Singh, and Karamvir Dahiya (Attorney). Chan Jamoona represented Hindu Cultural Council, Rev. N. J. L’Heureux, Jr. (Executive Director, Queens Federation of Churches), Monsignor. John H. O’Brien (Pastor, St. Benedict Joseph Labre), Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop D’Marzio (Pastor, St. Benedicts Joseph labre, and Rector of Bishops’ Diocese of Brooklyn) and Imam Ashraf-uz-Zaman Khan, President. Al-Hera Islamic Institute,NY.

Diane Barrett, Chief of Staff Assemblyman Roray Lancman, 25th district Queens; Jennifer Rapoport, Assistant Director ADL Mohinder Singh, Gurcharanjit Singh,(Editor Sant Sipahi), Prof. Indrajit Singh Saluja (Chief-Editor, The Indian Panorama)

Messages of solidarity received from Congressman Joseph Crowley, Rev. Bud Heckman (Chief Development Officer, Hartford Seminary, Hartford CT and Formerly, Director at Religions For Peace), Ms. Rori C. Picker (Acting Executive Director, Religions for Peace-USA, NY), and Darshan Singh Bajwa (Pres., Guru Nanak Durbar, CT), were read.
The United Sikhs team of volunteers and members constituted of Mankanwal Singh, Sukhpreet Singh, Arvind Kaur, Jaskaran Singh and Amarjit Singh.

Last Updated on September 25, 2007

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