THE ORANGE ORCHARDS OF JALALABAD
The province of Nangarhar is situated in the east of Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. The majority of the people speak Pashto, a Persian dialect that is, next to Farsi, one of the main languages of Afghanistan. Jalalabad is the capital of the province, and due to its tropical climate, Jalalabad is home to many Afghan orange plantations.
In the spring, when the temperature is agreeable, and the trees are in full bloom, the annual orange feasts take place. An exhilarating scent of orange blossom fills the air, and the blossoming trees are a spectacular view. Poets and writers come to the town to recite their poems or tell stories. There is even a poem competition, where the candidates have to follow up on each other using the last letter of their predecessor’s poem.
In the spring of 1967, I was nine years old; my grandparents who owned a little holiday cottage in Jalalabad, took me to the “orange-blossom feast”. We did not need to travel far to get there but the trip over mountains, through tunnels and over poorly maintained roads, took us quite some time. At sundown, we arrived in Jalalabad, and I was so tired from the rough bus trip that I went straight to bed. The next morning, I was awoken by a ray of sunlight that fell warmly on my face. I opened the window and noticed that our orange trees were in full bloom, and the scent was overwhelming.
I knew that my granddad had planted them a few years back, but I hadn’t expected them to have grown so big already.
My grandparents and I went to town to join the festivities. In the town park, we took our place amongst the people watching the poets and writers. My grandfather and his friends were fully absorbed in the competition. My grandmother and I left and went for a stroll through the park, where we witnessed women selling jewellery and men making traditional dishes like Pakawra (see page 74 in the book) and Chabli Kabab (see page 76 in the book).