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The Places in Between Study Guide

The Places in Between Study Guide

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Published by Cullen Lilley
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Published by: Cullen Lilley on May 06, 2011
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 The Places in Between- Rory Stewart o Major Characters:  Rory Stewart- Major character who walked across Afghanistan

. He walked across India, and Nepal, then Iran. He wanted to fill in the places in between.  Abdul Haq- One of the men that protected Rory until Chaghcharan  Qasim- A seyyed that accompanied Rory to Chaghcharan  Aziz- Qasim¶s brother that accompanied them after Qasim invited him  Babur (king)- the 1st emperor of the Mughal Empire, and the parallel to Rory¶s journey. Traveled from Herat to Kabul  Babur (dog)- the dog that Rory is given by Hussein in Dahan-e-Rezak (dies)  Yuzifi- Good friend of Rory and am Afghan government worker o His Goal:  Prove that Afghanistan is not as hostile as people say  Show the compassionate and hospitable side on the Afghans  Fill in the places in between his other travels, ³Afghanistan was the missing section of my walk, the place in between the desserts and the Himalayas, between Persian, hellinic, and Hindu culture, between Islam and Buddhism, between mystical and militant islam. I wanted to see where these two culture merged in one´ (Stewart 25)  Follow the route of Babur from Herat to Kabul o His Travel:  In most cities he stayed in mosques if he was not welcome, or he stayed in a wealthier person¶s house if he had a letter of introduction.  Major Cities- Herat, Chaghcharan, Bamiyan, Maidan Shahr, and Kabul 

All Cities Herat  Herat Sha¶ede  Turon  Buriabaf  Dideros  Rakwaje  Chist-e-Sarif  Shir Haj  Dahan-e-Rezak  Kamenj  Garmao  Jam  Ghar  Chesme Sakina  Barra Khana  Chaghcharan  Badgah  Daulatyar  Sang-i-zara  Katish  Qala-e-Nau  Siar Chisme  Yakawalang  Band-e-Amir  Ghorak  Shaidan  Bamiyan  Kalu  Dahan-e-Shahr  Maidan Shahr  Kabul

o Provinces and Ethnicities:  Herat- Tajik  Ghor- Himark  Bamiyan- Hazara  Wardak- Pastan

o Vocab:  Dang- staff/ walking stick  Qasim- the divider  Babur- tiger  Brahma- pale green flowers  Hari-Rud- a river that flows through the center of Afghanistan (Rory¶s route)  Nan- Bread  Caravanserai- way stations for merchants along the silk route  Meman- guest  Mostafer- traveler  Madress- School building  Kursi- Table  Kalashnikov- weapon designed by Russians, made by Iranians, and used by Afghans on the US side.  Amniat- Security  Taliban- a strict Islamic group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001  Mujahadin- holy worriors  Shaitan- devils  Aaabag- cry for dogs  Farsang- a day¶s walk  Jhorid- a descendent of the rulers of the province of Ghorid  Walaya- spiritual authority of the profit  Welaya- divine love 

Chistiyah- music (famous in Chist)  Sama- people who bring along ecstasy by music and dance  Esewi- a Christian  Jahdui- a jew  Firuzkuhi- aimaq of the Turquoise mountains  Hafiz- memorized the whole Koran  Commandant- millitary commander  Khan- family had been one of the two largest land owners  Yazidas- syncretic faith combining Islam, Zoastrianism, and Christianity.  Chinooks- giant helicopters  Sag-e-Aimaq- an aimaq dog  Imams- leaders  Begs- Turkic word for leaders  Ibex- a very large mountain goat  Koz- two miles  Mir Bacheha- children of the mir  Al-Qaeda- an international Islamic fundamentalist organization associated with several terrorist incidents, including the attack on the World Trade Center, New York (2001). Al-Qaeda was established by Osama bin Laden in 1989 and was based in Afghanistan until driven out by U.S. and coalition forces in 2001.  Shalwar- trousers/ pants/ pajama pants  Basraq- tiny, sweet, curled pastries  Haju- tiny, sweet, curled pastries 

Plot summary/ Review by Rosmary Colt: If you¶re looking for adventure travel from the safety of an armchair, Stewart is your man. This captivating book recounts a walk across Afghanistan in the winter of 2002, hardly a time when tourists were flocking there. A Scotsman, Stewart was educated at Oxford and is a former fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government. He also served in the British diplomatic service in Iraq, which he has written about in The Prince of Marshes, a book that preceded this one. Why Afghanistan? As Stewart puts it, ³I had just spent sixteen months walking twenty to twenty-two miles a day across Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. I had wanted to walk every step of the way and I had intended to cross Afghanistan a year earlier.´ Then the Iranians took his visa away, the Taliban refused him entry into Afghanistan and Pakistan barred him from Baluchistan. Eager to complete the journey, when he heard of the Taliban¶s fall Stewart returned to Afghanistan to begin walking from Herat to Kabul ³in a straight line through the central mountains. The normal dogleg through Kandahar was flatter and easier, and free of snow. But it was also longer and controlled in parts by the Taliban.´ When Stewart told the Afghan Security Service his plans, he was warned that he was ³the first tourist in Afganistan. It is midwinter . . . there are wolves, and this is a war. You will die, I can guarantee.´ Afghanistan was, after all, a country that ³had been at war for twentyfive years; the new government had been in place for only two weeks; there was no electricity between Heart and Kabul, no television and no T-shirts. . . . In many houses the only piece of foreign technology was a Kalashnikov, and the only global brand was Islam.´ None of this deterred the intrepid Stewart, a traveler in the tradition of his countryman Richard Burton. When the authorities finally decided to let him proceed, they insisted that he take along for part of the journey two escorts singularly ill-equipped for the trek. But then so was Stewart, at least by travel catalogue standards. Wearing Afghan clothes and carrying a crude homemade walking stick, he toted a backpack covered with a ³plastic rice bag to make it look more like something a villager would carry.´ His few supplies included a towel and a toothbrush, some antibiotics and a little morphine. He had a sleeping bag, some warm clothes and an MRE ration pack picked up in the Kabul bazaar in case he got stuck in the snow, and that was it. He was, however, fluent in many of the local dialects and conversant with the local customs, baggage essential to the success of his venture. Still, still, most readers will be thinking, this was a very risky undertaking, further complicated from a practical perspective by Stewart¶s acquisition of a dog he named Babur, an old mastiff the size of a small pony who had ³never seen a motorized vehicle, electricity, or a village of more than six houses´ and for whom Stewart develops a lasting affection. Later, Afghans were . . . to describe Babur as big, strong, ferocious, useless, tired or decrepit. I called him beautiful, wise, and friendly.´ Babur, the first Emperor of Mughal India, also walked across Afghanistan, and Stewart¶s route is roughly the same. He has along with him Babur¶s diary, from which he occasionally quotes. The description of its author¶s narrative technique is revealing: ³What he did was very dangerous, but he never draws attention to

this. Instead, he focuses on the people he meets and uses portraits of individuals to suggest a whole society. . . . Unlike most travel writers, he is honest.´ The same is true of Stewart¶s straightforward prose and for his unwavering concentration on the countryside and its inhabitants. And a colorful lot they were. Stewart and Babur spent most nights with the village headmen, many of whom had been leaders in the war against the Russians and who served on various sides during the Taliban period. Stewart¶s photographs offer graphic proof of the humble nature of the accommodations. He found the nights difficult; other guests and residents slept little, instead smoking and playing cards and there was always someone coughing. Before long, Stewart was battling a case of diarrhea and some legs. But he and Babur soldiered on, and there were rewards, as when Stewart stumbled upon the Tower of Jam, perhaps a pre-Moslem victory tower built by a lost tribe ³to mark the conversion of a lonely and sacred pagan spot to Islam.´ There had been no report on the tower for months, and given that much of Afghanistan¶s cultural heritage was destroyed or damaged, his was a significant find. But if finding the tower was a thrill, the value of his trip for Stewart and was his exposure to life in the villages of a war-torn country, so much of which he passes along to his readers. The descriptions of the Afghan people and the cultural mores of their remote villages suggest the difficulty of helping Afghanistan build a future, and perhaps the impossibility because of the complexity of shifting loyalties. For example, on his last afternoon in Herat Stewart visited Ismail Khan, the ³most powerful man in western Afghanistan.´ Khan, who had recently captured Herat from the Taliban, had fought with the Russians at the beginning of that conflict. He had been fighting for twenty-two years and now the Americans had taken him up. ³He seemed,´ says Stewart, ³to impress those he met.´ When Stewart asked him to support his proposed journey, Khan replied ³this journey is not possible in the winter. I know this. I have fought in the region at this season.´ When the journey ends, and Stewart is back in Scotland, he thinks back to how uncomfortable he was ³in villages because of the filthy, crowded rooms, the illiterate men, the limited conversation.´ Yet he also recalls savoring ³the hot rice, the firm floor, the shelter from the wind, and the companionship. I had felt how proud the men were of what they could provide and how lucky I was to share their space. They treated me as though I belonged and I had felt that I did.´ It¶s a tribute to Stewart¶s skills as an observer that he takes us along with him through Afghanistan from the safety of our armchairs.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Rosemary Colt, 2006

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