Field trip to Kuh-e Asmayi

19 April 2007 / 30 Hamal 1386

On the way to the university campus I noticed these men rebuilding a street drain. There have been several rainstorms this week, and some of the ungraded roads have turned into swamps. Meanwhile, many drains are being rebuilt. I asked them if this was a Municipality project, but they said they were hired by the homeowner, just to rebuild the drain in front of his house.

Drainage trench Trenchers

Excellent street-drain construction. The workers explained that they were hired by the homeowner, not the city.

Today we (the 5th-year class and I) went to the top of Kuh-e Asmayi, which is situated in the middle of Kabul much as Twin Peaks is located in San Francisco. For this we had to rent a minivan, a.k.a. “Tunis.” Samir went to the bus stop and negotiated with a driver, who was a little alarmed when he came down to the University gate and saw that there were eleven of us. Grudgingly he agreed to go, and we piled in. Farah, the only female student, got the passenger seat, to her relief. I guess that normally the teacher gets the comfy chair, so I had to be explicit in saying that she got to sit there. Then it became a disadvantage for her because I turned the van into a mobile classroom when we got stuck in traffic.
Many of the students started grumbling about the gridlock, and asked if we had similar traffic in California. I said yes, then asked what potential solutions there were to this problem. Responses were diverse and became increasingly systematic, until Mujib said, “We should design a set of proposals, publicize them, have a public discussion, and then decide and act.” Without prompting, several others chimed in and said “We should study alternatives and choose the best.” So I then described the steps in the Rational Planning Model, described its role in planning, and then pointed out that Mujib had gone a step further by proposing public debate to decide which policy to pursue.
Then several students raised the concern that a large part of the Afghan public is uneducated; most have had only a few years of school and can’t read. The students expressed reservations about having an uninformed public as the arbiter of policy. They thought that in the US, where the population is educated, there would be no problem having the public decide. I pointed out that in the US, people may be literate, but that does not mean that everyone is a competent traffic engineer (I did not explain that in my opinion most Afghans have a world-renowned PhD in the School of Life). I said that the tension between experts and the public on policy development continues is an important ongoing issue among planners today. ‘Twas a good entree into planning theory! By then we had arrived at the high saddle on the mountain, and got out to look at the city.

Kuh-e Asmayi

P.A. speakers-on-sticks are the new minarets for neighborhood mosques.

Kuh-e Asmayi

Hillside neighborhood overlooking Shahr-e Naw, part of the ‘formal’ city.

We got a great view to the north. However, we had to hike almost twenty minutes to the top of the ridge so that we could see over the other side to the south. We got to about 40 meters from the ridgetop when we were stopped by a guard who said there are military installations to the north and south, so we did not have permission to go any further without a letter from the Ministry of Interior.

Vista with water-tanks
Walking back to the ‘tunis’ (minivan) we saw water-tanks which supply the houses below. Private water-trucks make regular runs up here.

5th-year Arch students
Looking west toward Kuh-e Ali Abad.


Orientation at AREU library regarding online catalog.


Lunch with the students after the field trip.

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