Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

Afghan New Year: Sal-e Naw Mubarak

Kate Clark 2 min

Three swallows were sighted in the skies over Kabul by members of the AAN team this week – a welcome harbinger of spring after this year’s long, cold winter. They disappeared again, as a dust storm racked Kabul on the last day of the Afghan year. Nawruz has now dawned, even with grey and gritty skies, and spring is officially with us and we would like to wish our readers a happy and peaceful 1391. Meanwhile, we are asking, did that firework display really happen at midnight?

Ghuchi, ghuchi! bahar shod,

Fasl-e gol-e anar shod.

Oh swallow, swallow! springtime has come,
The season of pomegranate blossom has come

This quatrain for primary school pupils was remembered by some of our Afghan friends and colleagues. The first few hirundo rustica arrived back from their winter stay in Africa on the Saturday before Nawruz, a balmy day. But as Aristotle said, one swallow doth not a summer make – or in the Dari version ‘ba yak gul, bahar namisha’ – one flower does not a spring make. The high winds and dust of yesterday have left a thin crunching of dust underfoot and the swallows have disappeared to who knows where. But they will be back and, luckily, there was barely a flower or blossom out in Kabul when the dust storm hit.

The snow has been melting fast in the capital and, after the final tranche of wet snow (tar barf) ten days ago, the mountains have been changing almost seamlessly from white to green. This has been a long, hard winter for anyone unable to afford the high cost of fuel, but farmers and the planners who worry about drinking water have been saying we have had the best snowfall for 20 or, some say, even 30 years. It should be enough, we hope, not only for beautiful pomegranate blossom and gul-e lala (wild tulips), but good harvests, as well.

Many Kabulis may be feeling a bit bleary this morning, after being woken up last night by a whole series of loud bangs and concerned phone calls from people wondering where the ‘rockets’ and ‘bombs’ were.  Not everyone in Kabul could see the source of the explosions, but from the AAN roof, it became clear all hell had not been let loose. It was midnight and there was a magnificent Nawruz firework display. (See a picture here)


Kabul Nawruz