HERAT’S MYTHOLOGY and sports stand out. Weekly Kushti and Buz Kashi matches draw large crowds. The ancient citadel has a rich history dating back to Alexander the Great. At the city’s sacred grounds, visitors pray to Allah to launch their bodies across the yard or for the strength to lift a watermelon-size stone with one hand.
The most interesting myth is one I didn’t catch on film. The one about a secret society of men who have visions. It goes like this: they occupy high positions in the province and practice a radical form of meditation wherein they reduce what they see in the meditative state to its primary colors and sounds. Blue jackets, silver lakes, emerald skies, a baby crying. They guide their lives by the meaning distilled from these visions as a group, and so they guide the province. The story is so widespread it colors the city. I can see why. Most of the Western Afghans I’ve talked with, over hash, sober, late at night at the Hotel Jaam, fit that mold. Low-brow sages. Searchers. High as hell, tripping over a repetitive memory that comes out in song or sketch on the table.