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Tag: Afghanistan

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April 3, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

New Releases from My Backlist

TS ebook series backlist

I’m very pleased to share with you the release of my travel backlist as ebooks. Each book has been updated with a new introduction, with the exception of Travels With Myself, my 2011 release. Trail of Feathers will also be available very soon.

Get your copy now: Read more

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Q&A with Tahir Shah

Tahir_bio_pic 2013bI just did a Q&A with myself, based on some of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WRITING FICTION AND NON-FICTION?

There are both huge differences and huge similarities. For me, book writing (any writing for that matter) is about storytelling. Tell the story in the right way and the reader will do a kind of dance through your work. The most important thing for me is that my reader has the right experience, and that’s achieved by giving a great deal of thought to the way a passage will be read. I devote time to thinking about the reader whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction.

Naturally, though, with fiction you can let yourself loose a whole lot more. But, having said that, I think there’s enormous scope for non-fiction writers (especially travel writers) in observing what they think they know and understand, in new ways. It’s a great challenge, but one that pays great dividends when you get it right.

HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH IDEAS FOR NOVELS? Read more

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June 9, 2012 Posted by tahir in Travel

Kabul airport, Afghanistan

Daydreams and nightmares are the currency of Kabul airport, a realm awash with raw adrenaline, lost hope and off-the-scale corruption. For those flying out, the Afghan capital’s airport has a warm hazy aura. Get to the ramshackle departure lounge and you’ve run a terrifying gauntlet. By the time you reach the broken plastic chairs on the upper level, and the stall selling Marlboros, flat Perrier and stale Pringles, you’ve most likely been threatened and patted down hard. A stream of crooked officials are on standby, eager to coax stray weaponry from your underwear. And they’ll gladly extract a few last dollars too (no worn bills, please) for the privilege of a boarding card.

For those landing at Kabul airport, entering the squalid belly of the terminal building is like stepping into a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie: guns, guns, and more guns – most of them strapped to towering mercenary types with blonde ponytails and cast-iron jaws. The last time I flew out of Kabul, my film crew and I were relieved of all our Super 16 exposed film – a month’s work. The reason? We didn’t have $20,000 in cash for a last-minute bribe.

From The Guardian article ‘Travel writers’ favourite tiny and unusual airports

What’s your favourite tiny and unusual airport? Have you been to any of the airports on this list?

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July 22, 2010 Posted by tahir in Travel

Five Years On

Five years ago at this moment I was crouched in the corner of a solitary confinement cell at a torture jail in northern Pakistan. My Swedish film crew from Caravan Film and I were arrested a week after the London bombings of July 2005, and held without charge for sixteen days, and nights. In the half-decade that has elapsed since our release, I have found myself turning the experience over and over, looking at it in varying ways, and drawing a myriad of conclusions. It was clear that the system had seized us without quite knowing why and that once they had us, they didn’t know how get rid of us. The most obvious thing –just open the cell doors and let us walk out — never appeared to have occurred to them. My conclusions these days revolve less about our actual experience, and more about what it says in terms of the situation that people like me (one foot in the East and the other in the West) now find themselves in the Post 9/11 world. We can’t help but be affected, and be regarded with suspicion — by both sides. It’s a ridiculous position, and one which I might find myself drawing amusement from were the stakes not so high. The thing which still astonishes me is the apparent lack of cultural understanding between the Occidental governments and those of countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Certainly, they may have a linguistic commonality, but they both appear (to me, anyway) to have almost no intellectual connection. My experience of this has been first hand, most shockingly when interrogated blindfold and manacled night after night in a Pakistani torture room… and then when received at Heathrow by the British secret services. I’m not trying to make a big point here other than to say that we would all do better to learn much more of each other’s culture. Reading each other’s literature, study each other’s histories, understanding dissimilar etiquettes and so on. Beyond that, I write this in anniversary of those terrifying nights, waiting for the jangling of the keys and for the blindfolds, the signal that I was about to be led back down the long corridor to the torture room.



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June 15, 2010 Posted by tahir in Travel

Riches in Afghanistan

Four years ago I travelled back and forth to Afghanistan on my quest to search for the hidden treasure of Ahmed Shah Durani. The great golden hoard, that originated in Mughal India, is valued today at about $500 billion. The thought of the treasure kept me going through days and nights of considerable hardship, and during the sixteen days I spent along with my film crew in a Pakistani torture jail. I would find myself thinking how a treasure such as this, an absolutely immense sum, could help rebuild Afghanistan. Never could I imagine that the shattered country of my ancestors might be given another opportunity to realise extraordinary wealth. But, it seems that it is… The New York Times reported June 13th, of colossal mineral reserves in Afghanistan, worth as much as $1 trillion. That makes the treasure of Ahmed Shah pale in comparison. The question, of course, is where any of it will ever be mined and if any other funds will reach those who need help.

The NYT article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/world/asia/14minerals.html?emc=eta1


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April 23, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

How to Stick Needles in an Inflated balloon

You will need: One balloon, some needles or pins, a roll of scotch tape


I once met a Godman in Calcutta who was using a book of children’s conjuring and illusion to create miracles. The book he had in his possession was printed in 1931, and I’m not sure if this miracle was in there, but it might well have been. It’s a schoolboy’s favourite.

You take the balloon, blow it up, and stick one-inch bits of scotch tape in various places. Then, when the audience have turned up, and mustering theatrical flair, you ease the needles into the places where you have put the tape. The tape seals and rubber, and the balloon doesn’t burst.




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April 9, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

The Book of the Book IX

Yasavi of  the Masters Transmits it

Ahmed Yasavi had a history of the content of the Book of the Book bound in a volume of over two hundred pages, on whose cover was written: “If the thickness of books determines the value of their content, this one should issue really be even thicker.”
Since Ahmed Yasavi, of the masters of Central Asia, this story has been transmitted for more than seven hundred years.
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April 8, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

The Book of the Book VIII

Yasavi Buys it for Twelve Gold Pieces


When Ahmed Yasavi was a student, he bought a copy of the Book from Mali, paying two gold pieces.
 The following day he returned, and gave only another ten pieces of gold, saying: “What I have learned from the Book is worth more than this. But since I have no more money I will give it all to you, in token of my valuing this lesson is equal to my entire possessions.”…



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April 7, 2009 Posted by tahir in Books

The Book of the Book VII

Mali Saves the Book


The Barbarian had the book had destroyed, but his interpreter, whose name was Mali, remembered its contents. It is through his work with its teaching was passed down.
Mali opened a shop.
He kept copies of the Book of the Book on view, for sale. Nobody was allowed to look inside until he had paid two gold pieces for a copy. Some learned the lesson of the book, and came back to study with Mali.  others wanted their money returned, but Mali always said:
“I cannot give back your money until you return me what you have learned from the transaction, as well as the book itself.”
Some who preferred mere appearance to inner content, called Mali a deceiver.
But Mali told them: “You were, all along, seeking deceivers so you will assume that you have found one in anyone.”…



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April 6, 2009 Posted by tahir in Books

The Book of the Book VI

The Guarding and Theft of the Book


The king was so impressed by the stranger’s story that he ordered the story to be inscribed and bound in a large book. This was placed in a niche in his Treasury and guarded by armed men, day and night. The aged king died and a barbarian conqueror devastated his realm.
Breaking into the Treasury, this man saw the book in its place of honour and said to himself: “This must be the source of the country’s happiness, wisdom and prosperity.” He said aloud: “Let the book be taken down and read out to me in our own language.”
But this conqueror, for all his physical power, was an ignoramus; he could make no sense of the words in the book…


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