1960’s Afghanistan Was Very Different Before The Taliban

When you think of Afghanistan, you probably don’t think of short skirts, nice cars and liberal lifestyles, but just as Iran looked very different in the 1970s, these fascinating pictures show that Afghanistan in the 1960s was a very different country than the one that exists today.

The pictures were taken by American university professor Dr. Bill Podlich, who in 1967 took a two-year leave of absence to work for UNESCO in Afghanistan. He served as the Expert of Principles of Education at the Higher Teachers College in Kabul, and during this time he took many photographs of life as it was back then. The Soviets invaded only a decade later and Afghanistan was pulled into war, and following Taliban rule and the US invasion in 2001, the country now bears little resemblance to the peaceful and prosperous nation that you can see in these pictures below.

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01. Young Photographer At Paghman Gardens

Fun in the sun: Jan (left) and Peg (right) Podlich at Paghman Gardens, which was destroyed during the years of war before the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-01© Dr. Bill Podlich


02. Students At The Higher Teachers College Of Kabul

Hard at work: Students at the Higher Teachers College of Kabul where Dr. Podlich, the photographer, worked and taught for two years with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-02© Dr. Bill Podlich

03. Co-education

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-03© Dr. Bill Podlich

04. Education Under The Trees

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-04© Dr. Bill Podlich

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-04-1© Dr. Bill Podlich

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-04-2© Dr. Bill Podlich

05. Afghan High School Girls

Friends: Pictured are Afghan girls coming home from school. The girls, as well as boys, were educated up to the high-school level, and although both sexes wore uniforms, the girls were not allowed to wear a chadri on their way to secondary school. Able young women attended college, as did the men

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-05© Dr. Bill Podlich


06. Kindergarten Dance

Play time: Young students in blue uniforms can be seen dancing to music in a school playground

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-06© Dr. Bill Podlich

07. Bus Trip

Journeying: Peg Podlich, in the sunglasses, taking a family trip on a bus from Kabul to Peshawar in Pakistan

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-07© Dr. Bill Podlich

08. Big Sister

Family bond: Two colourful sisters, hand in hand, pose for a photograph in Kabul, surrounded by trading locals

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-08© Dr. Bill Podlich

09. Decorating Cakes

Tasty feast: A smiling Afghan boy is pictured decorating mounds of different cakes piled high on plates

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-09© Dr. Bill Podlich

10. Rush Hour

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-10© Dr. Bill Podlich

11. Afghan Hound

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-11© Dr. Bill Podlich

12. Sharing Tea & Music

Picnic In Afghanistan shows a group of young Afghans sharing tea and music in their free-time

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-12© Dr. Bill Podlich

While he was teaching, Podlich’s daughters attended classes at the American International School of Kabul, which had a number of American and foreign students with parents who lived and worked in the country.

Dr Podlich’s daughter Peg states these images are incredibly important in her eyes.

‘When I look at my dad’s photos, I remember Afghanistan as a country with thousands of years of history and culture,’ Peg Podlich told the Denver Post.

‘It has been a gut-wrenching experience to watch and hear about the profound suffering which has occurred in Afghanistan during the battles of war for nearly 40 years. Fierce and proud yet fun loving people have been beaten down by terrible forces.’

The incredible collection is now managed by Peg’s husband Clayton Esterson, who immediately recognised the historical significance of the pictures.

‘Many Afghans have written comments [on the website] showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war,’ he said.

13. Blonde & Afghans

Taking in the view: A blonde Peg Podlich pictured in Kabul, shortly after arriving, as locals walk past

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-13© Dr. Bill Podlich

Timeline of Events in Afghanistan

1996: Taliban seize control of Kabul prohibiting women from work, and introducing Islamic punishments such as stoning to death and amputations.

1997: Taliban recognised as legitimate rulers by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They now control about two-thirds of country.

Oct 7, 2001: President George W. Bush announces that U.S. and British troops have begun striking Afghanistan for harbouring the al-Qaeda terrorists blamed for the September 11 attacks.

December 2002: The U.S. ends the year with about 9,700 troops deployed, mostly going after Taliban insurgents.

May 2011: Bin Laden is found hiding in neighbouring Pakistan and killed in a U.S. special operations raid. There are still about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

June 2011: Saying the U.S. is meeting its goals in Afghanistan, Obama announces his withdrawal plan: Bring home 10,000 troops by the end of 2011.

May 2014: Obama announces his plan to pull virtually all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, when his second term in office will be drawing to a close.

October 15, 2015: In a reversal, Obama says the situation is too fragile for the American military to leave. He announces plans to keep the current force of about 9,800 in place through most of next year to continue counter-terrorism missions and advise Afghans battling a resurgent Taliban. The plan is for the number to decrease to about 5,500 troops in 2017.

14. Hanging Out At The American International School Of Kabul (aisk)

A class at the American International School of Kabul where Peg and Jan attended. After class the girls were supervised by Indian ladies wearing saris, and were driven with about 20 students back through Kabul

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-14© Dr. Bill Podlich

15. Shopping For Scarves

Shopping trip: One of Dr. Podlich’s daughters, Jan, smiles during a trip to Istalif, a village 18 miles northwest of Kabul

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-15© Dr. Bill Podlich

16. Frying Up Dessert

Cooking: A smiling man is pictured frying Jilabee, a sweet dessert, on an outdoor fire, with children gathered around

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-16© Dr. Bill Podlich

17. Aisk Parking Lot

A car park of the American International School of Kabul, which the Podlich girls attended. The school no longer exists, although alumni stay in touch through Facebook and hold reunions every few years at different cities around the U.S

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-17© Dr. Bill Podlich

18. Kabul Gorge

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-18© Dr. Bill Podlich

19. Bus Driver

As well as building a relationship with the Afghans he encountered, the amateur photographer set out to document their way of life.

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-19© Dr. Bill Podlich

20. Salang Pass Tunnel

The Salang Tunnel, located in Parwan province, is a link between northern and southern Afghanistan, crossing the Hindu Kush mountain range under the difficult Salang Pass. The Soviet-built tunnel opened in 1964.

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-20© Dr. Bill Podlich

21. Friendly Crowd

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-21© Dr. Bill Podlich

22. Art Show

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-22© Dr. Bill Podlich

23. Under The Trees

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-23© Dr. Bill Podlich

24. Bamiyan Valley

Using his Kodachrome film, his images show a peaceful Afghanistan making strides towards a more liberal and Westernised lifestyle – a stark contrast to harrowing sights seen during the Taliban regime.

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-24© Dr. Bill Podlich

25. Afternoon Prayers

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-25© Dr. Bill Podlich

26. Outdoor Class

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-26© Dr. Bill Podlich

27. Fruit & Veggies

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-27© Dr. Bill Podlich

28. Gas Station

Topping up: Men stand next to their parked vehicles in a petrol station, with the rolling landscape visible behind them in the distance

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-28© Dr. Bill Podlich

29. Afternoon Shade

Peaceful: Men relax in the shade overlooking Istalif, a centuries-old centre for pottery, located northwest of Kabul

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-29© Dr. Bill Podlich

30. Kabul

Stunning setting: A captivating residential hillside in Kabul is adorned by brightly coloured trees and foliage

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-30© Dr. Bill Podlich

31. Co-education

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-31© Dr. Bill Podlich

32. Balloon Boy

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-32© Dr. Bill Podlich

33. Annual Exhibition Of Student Art Work

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-33© Dr. Bill Podlich

34. Vip

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-34© Dr. Bill Podlich

35. Skinny Tie

Pictured is an Afghan teacher. The Higher Teachers’ College was a two-year institution for training college-level teachers

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-35© Dr. Bill Podlich

36. Detail On Arch

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-36© Dr. Bill Podlich

37. Hotel Inter-continental

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-37© Dr. Bill Podlich

38. Shave And A Haircut

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-38© Dr. Bill Podlich

39. Indoor Class

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-39© Dr. Bill Podlich

40. All Dressed Up

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-40© Dr. Bill Podlich

41. Walking Home

Not a bad commute: Young Afghans walking home with spectacular scenery visible in the distance

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-41© Dr. Bill Podlich

42. Sight Seeing

The idyllic images were captured in 1967, when the teacher (pictured) teemed up with Unesco to work in the Higher Teachers College of Kabul

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-42© Dr. Bill Podlich

43. Dr. Podlich & The Afghans

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-43© Dr. Bill Podlich

44. Kabul International

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-44© Dr. Bill Podlich

45. People & Ducks

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-45© Dr. Bill Podlich

46. Afghanistan

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-46© Dr. Bill Podlich

47. Military Band

All lined up: An Afghan military band stands wearing matching brown uniforms, surrounded by coloured flags

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-47© Dr. Bill Podlich

48. Bamiyan Buddha Statue

A Buddha statue in Bamiyan Valley- a Unesco World Heritage Site. The two largest statues (not pictured here) were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-48© Dr. Bill Podlich

49. Fully Loaded

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-49© Dr. Bill Podlich

50. Shopping For Canned Goods

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-50© Dr. Bill Podlich

51. The Dance

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-51© Dr. Bill Podlich

52. Masked Parade

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-52© Dr. Bill Podlich

53. Main Street

Picturesque: Pictured is Masjid Shah-e-do Shamsheera in Kabul, which is a yellow two-story mosque in the centre of the city

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-53© Dr. Bill Podlich

54. Swimming In The Kabul River

Splashing around: Men and boys playing, washing and swimming in the waters of the Kabul river

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-54© Dr. Bill Podlich

55. Algebra & Mud

Time to study: A chemistry lesson in full flow in a mud-walled classroom, with a small board covered in equations

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-55© Dr. Bill Podlich

56. Portable Grand Stand

Hanging out: Hoards of happy citizens gather on large trucks, which served as portable grandstands

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-56© Dr. Bill Podlich

57. Apartments & Stores

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-57© Dr. Bill Podlich

58. School’s Out

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-58© Dr. Bill Podlich

59. Marching

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-59© Dr. Bill Podlich

60. Guard Duty

Unlike current roads in Afghanistan, roads in the 60s were well kept and generally free of wear and tear.

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-60© Dr. Bill Podlich

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-60-1© Dr. Bill Podlich

61. Monument

Striking: One of the places that the family saw during their two-year stay was King’s Hill in Paghman Garden, pictured here in the sunshine

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-61© Dr. Bill Podlich

62. Road Work

Working hard: Afghan workers make a street repair in Kabul, but still had time to smile for the camera

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-62© Dr. Bill Podlich

63. Cookin’ Kababs

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-63© Dr. Bill Podlich

64. New Years Celebration

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-64© Dr. Bill Podlich

65. The Demonstration

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-65© Dr. Bill Podlich

66. Afghan Army

An Afghan Army parade through Kabul with spectators lining the streets and waving flags at the procession

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-66© Dr. Bill Podlich

67. Mosque (Masjid) In The Center Of Kabul

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-67© Dr. Bill Podlich

68. Deh Mazang Square – Kabul

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-68© Dr. Bill Podlich

69. While Urban Afghanistan Became Modern, Rural Afghanistan Contained These Quaint Scenes.

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70. Following World War II, Which Afghanistan Stayed Out Of, The Soviets And Americans Competed For Rights To Build Afghan Roadways.

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-70© Dr. Bill Podlich

… was on the road to prosperity … until the wars began …

AD-Afghanistan-1960-Bill-Podlich-Photography-70-1© Dr. Bill Podlich

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Author: MMK

Architecture & Design was started by an Afghan entrepreneur, he believes that wellbeing is affected by the spaces we spend our time in and that their design is an important notion to consider with regards to our personal comfort and happiness – whether we are at home, at work or at play.

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