Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pictures from Swat: a typical Pukhtun home

Dear readers,
This post on the typical Pukhtun house has been transferred to the new blog. You can access it here.

Swat Visit 2011 – a typical Pukhtun village home

Thank you!

~ orbala


  1. cool! I love these traditional kinda houses. Reflects culture. If I ever live in a villa enshallah, Id wanna have the combination of traditional & modern. Hopefully some day ill get to experience the Pashtun hospitality? :)

  2. loved the post and the pics, so apt so beautiful

  3. Glad y'all like them, girls! :D

    HF: I'd prefer a mixture of the traditional and modern as well. That last house in the post is like that. But God, they're so expensive :| And you could live me to experience Pukhtun hospitality, kana :D Yyyyeahh!

    SEPO: Thanks, jaan! :D Aren't they!

  4. live with* me, I meant, of course, not "live me"!

  5. Great pictures. Just curious, how did you feel wearing the burqa?

  6. Omgosshhhh - Dr. H!! Welllllcommmmme :)

    The burqa I wore is the shuttlecock burqa, not common in Swat. This is what women and girls had to wear during the Taliban era between 2005/2006 and late 2009--and the color they mandated was also black. I wore one of my cousins' leftover ones. How did I feel in it? I felt suffocated, since you only have a few holes through which to breathe and see things. It did feel good, however, to be able to see everything outside and to not let anything and anyone else see you ;) But I wore it for only 3 minutes, if not less, so I would have to get used to it to appreciate it, I'm sure.

    Nowadays, there's something called "fashionwaala" (fashionable) burqas that young girls wear. Something similar to what you see in this link ( but not exactly it. I'll look through my catalog of pictures and see if I can find one.

    Traditional body covering that Pukhtun women wear, however, is called paruney. I'll show pictures of that in another blog post (or I can tag you in one on my FB pictures so you can see).

    But, yeah, to answer your question, I didn't feel good in it at all - most prolly because I'm not used to them. But no other girl wore them either. Only a few elderly women wear them. If you wonder how I felt in the paruney, I actually enjoyed it for the most part :D I'll discuss my take on this in detail in another post, and I'll let you know when I do that.

    Thank you so much for your comments, guys! Glad you found them cool, Faizan! :D

  7. Ra ya daigi ma khpal wran kalli koorona
    za kho da baiwan musafaroo khwralai yama

  8. Pa khair, Elyas!
    Aaahhh! Before I went, I couldn't wait to go and see these houses again. I wouldn't trade them for the world :) They're beautiful. They're rich. They're serene.

  9. Although I have seen a few women wearing burqas, I have never seen a woman I know personally wearing one. I'm still trying to figure out the right words to describe my initial response when I saw the picture of you. It was hard for me to look at but I kept coming back to it to try and understand what I was feeling. You have such a lively and kind spirit and so much of that is expressed through your eyes and smile. It really makes me feel sad for those women that have been forced to wear burqas. If it is a choice, I can respect that decision but I struggle to understand it. I think I would have felt the way you did, suffocated and oppressed.

    I'm enjoying reading your blog. :)

  10. Oh, yes, it was definitely very oppressive. And I can tell you with full certainty that no one wears it there out of choice; it's required of them. Not necessarily this kind of niqab - this is just the one that the Taliban imposed and some of my cousins still had theirs; but the face-covering in general. I just tagged you in a "paruney" picture of me on FB, so you can see that that's the normal requirement of women. The one I'm wearing in that picture is too short and thin, according to some women, but they themselves would tell me things like, "C'mon, Shanu, you're American - why are you covering your face? If you don't cover it, we won't either." I'd laugh. Sometimes I wouldn't cover it if they didn't. But I didn't like their terming me "American" because that typically implies ignorance and naive of the culture. And I am anything but ignorant/native about it, so I'd remind them that I'm Pukhtun before anything else and that I'm not here to tell them what they can and can't wear in their own comfort zones. But it was very obvious--sometimes too obvious--that the women, at least those on my mom's side, did not want to cover their faces. They expressed their frustrations about it any time they got a chance; some, especially the young girls, even refused to leave their houses because they felt too frustrated to have to get their paruney! lol. Lazines? Bitterness? Anger? Not sure what it was. But this was more with the younger girls, those who were around a year old when I first saw them back 12 years ago!

    I'll be writing on my experience of wearing a paruney in another blog post, so I shouldn't talk too much for now :p

  11. P.S. For those who can't see that photo of mine yet (which I'll post on this blog some time in the near future), a paruney is a long piece of cloth, preferably white, that covers you from head to toe. You cover your face with it when you're out on the streets, but when you're around male relatives and other women (whether relatives or not), you can show your face. Its length keep shrinking and shrinking, from what I was told and from what I saw and experienced there (mine was short according to some), but some women told me that even if it's really short, you can still pull it off if you wear it correctly. My aunts taught me how to do this with my one :p They're also becoming thinner and thinner, I was told (and I saw myself), but women more than men are likely to condemn you for it, interestingly.

    Also, I saw that women cover their faces only in places where they, often through their kids, are likely to be recognized by men who might know their husbands, fathers, brothers, grandfathers, etc. One of my cousins didn't mind my sitting in the passenger's seat with him in his car and show my face while filming every now and then, but he'd kindly request (almost beg! lol) me to cover my face when we'd reach an area where someone could recognize him, even if it was far, far from his village. So I'd cover it then. And the reason they care so much if men recognize them is ... well, then these men go home to tell their wives and other women and men that they say so-and-so's wife/daughter/etc. showing her face, talking in the street, and so on, and that she had no shame doing so. Of course, it gets exaggerated over time, and God knows what you're accused of having done by the time the news reach your husband/father/grandfather/brother. Sometimes you don't do this out of respect for the male patriarchs of the family; other times, it's out of fear.

  12. Loveeeee these pictures!! Reminds me of home!! :'(

  13. Hi.
    You mention gujar, saying the word refers to the lowly social status of the people in question.

    Could you elaborate please?
    What is the definition of the word and is it similar to the Indian caste system? i.e. would someone of your ilk not be permitted to marry one of these socially inferior gujars?


  14. Hello, anonymous!
    Thanks for your question.

    I'm not sure how it's defined. I will write about whether/how/why it may be considered a class system (because we do have different "classes" of people, and it appears to be only in Swat). As far as marrying people outside of our "ilks," all Pashtuns, like many other ethnic groups around the world, try very hard to stick to marrying people within their own regions/villages/classes. So, yes, it's unlikely (though not impossible) that a marriage between two people from different classes will take place. When I was in Swat, one of my cousins was getting a rishta from a different class, and her family rejected it solely because the guy was "below" our class. Of course, we're always happy to give daughters in marriage to families higher than us on the social/economic ladder ;) And for our sons, too, we want girls either above or on our level.

    But to answer your question, no, most Swatis wouldn't marry into Gujars. Also, most Pashtuns claim (I don't know how true this is) that the Gujars aren't actually ethnically Pashtuns, that they're a different ethnicity and come to Swat for jobs or whatever.

  15. Me again, sorry for the late reply.

    Yeah, I didn't think that this 'class system' would be widespread amongst Pashtuns. I know that they tend to stick to their tribe or village but never knew of any class stipulations.

    Would you be able to name the various classes in Swat?


  16. There are too many to name, but I can list a few of the ones I know.

    Khanan, Myagaan (aka, the Syeds), Pukhtaana (believe it - Pukhtaana are a separate class, too, not just an ethnic group), Mulagaan, Jolagaan, etc. Then there are those classes that are named after their occupations (this is universally common), so you'll have, say, Chamyaraan (shoemakers?), Zargaraan (jewelers), Parachkaan (those who keep animals like donkeys and horses for service to others), or Damaan (the actors/entertainers/musicians/etc.). The Damaan have their own class although more Pukhtuns from other classes are entering what's called "Damtob" (entertainment?), and the term dam/damaan, I am hopeful, will eventually include various classes... if it doesn't already. And, yes, Damaan come from both inside and outside of Swat.

    By the way, tribe is almost insignificant in Swat. Heck, most Swatis don't know anything about their tribe and don't care for it. Class matters more. And, na, not all Swatis belong to the same tribe (predominantly Yusufuzai).

  17. Admittedly, marriage among, say, the Mulagaan and the Myagaan is not uncommon. It's not preferred, but it occurs. It all depends on the reputation of the family and their land/wealth, etc. But those in upper classes will seldom (if ever at all) marry someone from a lower class. It's about wealth/land.

    When I was in Swat this summer, an aunt explained to me why we don't marry outside of our own class: the men and in-laws in each class have certain qualities, both negative and positive ones, attributed to them. For example, the men in Mulagaan are considered to be very abusive, whereas those from the Syeds are rather friendly to their wives. (She gave me examples of relatives to prove her point. It was true.) She also said, I think, that the girl's class matters more than the boy's ... but I'd have to think about this more to be able to explain it here. And, so, families take those perceived qualities into consideration especially when a girl is being given to another class in marriage.

    As I may have mentioned before, I actually believe (rather, know for a fact) that these classes exist among all Pashtuns, but most of us would rather not admit that or acknowledge it. And we also prefer to believe that virtually most of those in the lower class (e.g., the Gujars) are not real Pashtuns, that they're merely immigrants or invaders.

    I understand I'm prolly making it sound like a very simple matter. Class systems everywhere are always too intricate to discuss in a simple comment box. I'm sure you're reasonable enough to know that there are tons of books/articles on the class system in Swat (or in other Pashtun societies) and would much rather rely on them than on a Swatai... though I have nothing to be ashamed, despite the many things stemming out of the Pukhtun cultures that I don't express pride in.

  18. Hi again, I think i'll introduce myself now. I'm Haris from Wardak and a moderator of one of those 'online Pashtun communities'. I'm having a break from that specific community too, not because I had any disagreements with anyone or anything, I just simply have alot of work at the moment and should be concentrating on that (you can see just how effective I am in that regard with me posting comments on your blog! haha) and may return there in a few months.

    Anyway back to the topic,
    Interesting. Thanks for the replies.
    Well I have to say, from where I am at least (Rural, Central Afghanistan), there is no class structure like you mentioned (and i'm not saying this because I don't want to admit/acknowledge such a thing - I do not care so much for protecting or projecting a certain image, [although not in all cases] I like to think of myself as more rationalistic than that).

    Almost everyone is on the same social footing because almost everyone has the same job (i.e. just a general farm worker with a cow or two and some chickens or a donkey) although there is some variation; you can have tailors, ironsmiths, mullahs, shopkeepers etc but in almost all cases this has no bearing on who one would socialise with or marry.
    The exception to this I would say is the barber (known as a 'daam') and the 'Kabulis'.
    The barber has an important function in the village and that's not just cutting people's hair (but not like 'damaan' you would see everywehere else, i.e. the mast entertainers, singers etc). He is not really looked down upon but has his place in the community. He is NOT like a muzdoor (or servant) and would be offended if you called him as such but he does have a range of responsibilites.
    One example of these responsibilities would be when the inhabitants of our village moved to Kabul to escape the increased fighting as the Americans built a combat outpost next to the village, the 'daam' stays behind as guardian of the collective property.
    I must stress that you cannot be born into a 'daam' family and then be a daam for the rest of your life like most class/caste systems. You become a daam through your social circumstances, i.e. if you are jobless without much of an education.

    The Kabulyaan Wardags are seen as more educated (most of the females in the villages are illiterate), snobby and 'loose'. They may prefer to marry with other educated Wardag families but marrying into the rural families (even if they are not so educated) is actually very common because most Kabuli Wardags (especially in recent times with the increase in IDPs entering the city) are still draana & klak (i.e. traditional and not yet 'kabulified' lol) rural Pashtuns. Rural Wardags have reason to marry with Urban Wardags and reason to not marry with them (and vice versa) so it is more a case of the choice of the induvidual family rather than being a general theme. But again they are still the same Wardags, still the same class/'caste', just living in different places.
    You also have the Kuchis in the province. But I would not desribe them as a seperate class. They do tend to stick with themselves but they are a seperate group (even though they are Pashtuns). They are not looked up to or looked down upon in the social scheme of things.

  19. I think perhaps it may be due to the fact that the villages in Wardak are very small (the majority of villages in the province have less than 200 families) and literally over 99% of the population is rural. Therefore the communities would be more close-knit and class structures would not be able to evolve.
    Also the inhabitants of the Pashtun areas are all Wardags (mixing from different sub-tribes of the Wardag tribe is very common and again not a factor) and are all Sunni Muslims so they have much in common.
    It is for that reason that marriage among Wardags is mainly dependant on the village (most marry within their own village or nearby villages) rather than other circumstances.
    Also Wardags do tend to marry only Wardags.

    I think that in less homogenous communities and provinces, like Laghman, this would be different as the factors there differ (you have Syeds, Tajiks, Nuristanis etc, not to mention the sub-tribes involved and the income disparities etc etc).

    So in conclusion I do not think that one could reasonably say that such a system is present with all Pashtuns. It definetly varies and one must look at induvidual provinces and communities because although we are all Pashtuns, we do have many distinguishing cultural features about us.
    Also, your home looks very similar to the home we have in Kabul and other such homes i've seen in urban areas. Do you live (or should I say, is that house) in a heavily populated area?
    Most rural houses that i've seen throughout Afghanistan are mudbrick houses that do not look so uniform as that one shown above. They look very different and each has its nice own character.
    Infact, you can see my own house & neighbouring houses back in our village in Wardag if you go on the thread titled 'Wardag' in the 'travel' section of that specific Pashtun community. There are some nice images of the neighbourhood too a few posts in and the houses there are all made of the same materials (because everyone is as I said on the same social/economic footing). There's also a few images of our Kabul house towards the end of the thread and I think they looks similar to the images you posted above. Please tell me what you think.

    I'd never even heard of gujars prior to this article (hence my original post) :)

    But it was certainly an interesting read.

    Of course you have nothing to be ashamed of and really I do value your experience as a Swatai, especially when most of the books written on Pashtuns (whether its about their history or their culture) are by orientalists/outsiders.

    P.S. I apologise in advance for the great length of this post :p

  20. Thanks for introducing yourself, Haris, and welcome back! No need to apologize for the length! haaa haaa, in case it's not already obvious, I loooooove long comments! :) So, thanks!

    Very interesting information about Wardaks! Thanks for sharing it all! I believe Wardak is a tribe (as opposed to, say, a class or a sub-tribe), right? No, I don't believe *all* Pashtuns have a class system (there's always exceptions). But I do believe that all Pashtuns, like *all* societies worldwide, have a similar system as I described above with us Swatis. Believe it or not, many Swatis won't even classify this as a "class system."

    Interesting how it works, eh.

  21. Thank you :) & no problem.

    Yup, Wardag is a fully fledged Pashtun tribe. The province in which they reside is also called Wardag (which I just love since I can say 'i'm a Wardag from Wardag' haha). It has 3 sub-tribes (Noori, Mayar & Mirkhel) and is Karlanri in origin (if you believe in that Qais Abdur Rashid theory).

    Right, I certainly agree with you, all societies around the world naturally have some form of social structure and there will always be prejudices/preferences involved. It is human nature. Those preferences may come in a variety of forms whether it one's tribe, one's geographical location, one's occupation, ethnicity or political/religous views or even a mixture of all of these. Pashtun society is certainly not unique in that regard :)

  22. exactly pushtuns hav a mind of r own

  23. LOL.
    Hi, Anonymous! Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Yes, Pashtuns have a mind of their own - just like all other groups of people around the world :)

  24. Beautiful pictures indeed. Keep sharing stuff from Swat!

  25. That's truly an exact picture of typical pashtun houses....I am really impressed the way you have written the interesting post along with pictures..

    What a wonderful photo session...its mind blowing in such traditional rural area of Pashtuns....i have had worked with few community project in the area...a couple of them with UNICEF child protection...but could never manage to take photographs this way...You must be thinking am getting bit more excited :) its a fact... i am really excited to be here in your blog....
    I would love to read every bit of your blog.

    I wish you all the best for your studies and all the future endeavors.

    1. Thanks, Kiran!
      Na, na, I love it that you're excited, too; it means the post succeeded in reaching the audience the way I hoped it would! So thanks!

      Yeah, I had so many other photos of every single thing I came across (they thought I was crazy for taking so many photos of such random and "insignificant" things lol), but unfortunately, they were deleted from the camera and my comp got a virus so I lost them all #SADface. Sama khapa yam pasey!

      Thanks for the well wishes :) I wish the same for you!


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