Yes, the kitsch in Afghanistan puts Hungary's to shame. Commanders, or warlords if you prefer, put statues of roaring lions on top of their poppy palaces while the holiest site in the city, the blue mosque, final resting place of Imam Ali, has a bright red billboard announcing its name defiantly positioned on top of the already notable bright aquamarine dome--already the highest point in the city. At nighttime the mosque gets lit like Vegas with flashing lights competing with flocks of white pigeons.
The white pigeons--known as "doves" when they don't come by the ten thousand, are a famous story to themselves. Any pigeon that makes its way to the shrine will turn white within three days. There's not a single dark colored pigeon on the grounds--the very few that have occasionally dark feathers simply haven't been here for three days yet. The magic doesn't extend to the ducks though, which are dark gray.
It's been a long week now because Mazar sits at the shoulder of the Hindu Kush, with the flat Uzbek plain stretching from here to the north pole. Winter weather sweeps in unabated and runs headlong into the mountains, sitting and dumping rain for days on end while it decides what to do. At least there's no snow, which would be stunningly beautiful, but which would also render the rutted mud 'roads' useless to wheeled travel. And I don't have a donkey.
The real lockdown has come from snow in Kabul--no flights have landed in the last several days, and it's supposed to snow at least through tomorrow. Leaves more time to enjoy the relative freedom of movement, the ability to actually walk to dinner once in a while.