Travel Journal Overview: After visiting the Khyber Pass, we were now in search of the Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar. Some were deserted, some full of life.
I was at first disappointed. The area had indeed once been a refugees camp. Mud houses lined a roadside area and fell back my half a mile. But they were all abandoned. As the war was ending in Afghanistan, or rather becoming less violent, the Pakistan government were packing off the refugees back home. This camp was closed. The refugees had taken with them everything, the tin roofs, doors. Indeed there was nothing left aside from mud bricks and a plastic refuge area that contained the only design of life. A rough solitary figure prodded at the field of plastic rubbish with a long wooden stick. In his hand he had a near empty rice sack filled with salvaged and possible resealable containers.
We left. I was sure there had to be more than one camp. Ifzal said he knew of one other, but it was quite far out of town and he wasn’t sure if it was still occupied. He asked the driver and he nodded.
The camp was occupied. We pulled over and I was off like a shot. Her the mud houses still had their tin roofs, bore holes still dripped water and there were people on the dirt pathways between the houses. Ifzal caught up just as faces started to appear from doorways. Young men started to walkout, emotionless faces looking me up and down, waiting. I smiled and greeted in Farsi. Their faces broke into wide toothy grins and soon I was being invited in for a game of pool in one of the house. Somehow they had managed to obtain a pool table from somewhere, and even with heavy duct tape was proving to be a main source of entertainment. That alongside a TV blasting out pop songs from Asian MTV.
We walked around the camp greeting people as they walked by. It was getting late in the afternoon and the sun was turning to a wonderful gold hue. A group of young Afghan girls waved at us from further up the street. I started taking photos to their, and my, delight. One particular girl caught my attention. She was about 10, wearing a bright blue dress, and her hair was dyed slightly with the reddish tinge of Henna. Her eyes were amazing, full of the fire of a torn childhood. She was streetwise and camera shy, but behind those eyes she was taking it all in. Learning. Learning what this strange man and his camera were doing. A future reference. Others appeared. But I focused on the girls. The boys looked no different to street boys anywhere in the world. They wore modern day t shirts while the girls wore more traditional dresses.
The girls were also working it seemed, while the boys played cricket in the field and kicked makeshift footballs around. Indeed it wasn’t long before the blue dresses girl was off wringing a chickens neck. Up ahead a group of children had gathered on a dirt mound of rubbish and were waving at me,. I gave them a big wave back and received a huge thumbs up from them. This made my day.
As the little yellow taxi pulled up the children swarmed the car. They were not looking for money, nor sweets not anything other than a break from their monotonous day to day life in the refugee camp.
Some related links from this website that you might like: (including a lot more photographs from Pakistan)
Stories: The Pakistani Truck Painters
Stories: The Last Khyber Pass Journey
Resources: How to Guide – Iran to Pakistan overland
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