The 20 minute walk to the Gawharshad Musalla Complex nearly killed us off in the heat. We stopped off to visit the 8th century tombs of the princes Shahzada Abdullah and Qasim, tucked away from the road, behind some rickety construction work. The stunning red and blue medieval tiles and peaceful atmosphere held our attention for some time, and we sat and contemplated the beautiful architecture.
By the time we finally got to the Gawharshad Musalla Complex we were all too tired to explore it fully. It used to have 20 minarets but now only 5 are left, too badly broken to be secure, so they have to be held up by wires. I really can’t see them lasting much longer as the vibrations from the main road must cause immense damage.
The surrounding gardens were delightful (with a wonderful hyena type dog who was very friendly but we couldn’t take the risk of touching him because rabies is a big problem here).
The 15th century Timurid Mausoleum of Gowhar Shad has been recently fully restored and is used as a study centre and bookshop. The young attendant took pity on us and sent out for chai. A group of female high school pupils were studying in the bookshop and S & A joined them to chat. They plan to become pharmacists, maths teachers and lawyers.
After a taxi back to our hotel and a brief rest we set out for dinner at a local restaurant with a garden courtyard for families in the back. We ate lamb chops, rice and soup in the traditional way, lounging back on cushions, surrounded by young men smoking shisha pipes. The Lonely Planet guide describes this as place for families but only men were present and all the waiters were very, very effeminate – my guess is it’s a gay meeting place.
After dinner my partner went to speak to G about our concerns regarding passage north on the Maimana Road as we weren’t confident that we could pull this off safely. G was ahead of us and had already planned to alter the itinerary and fly us to Mazar. It means that we’ll miss the dramatic scenery and the famous carpet bazaar but better that than dead or wounded.