While skimming BoingBoing today, I glanced over an image that looked very much like rural New Mexico. Here's the image:

Where was the picture taken? Afghanistan, it turns out. Here's the original post, complete with at least a half dozen pictures that look plucked from our backyard. The similarities are astounding.

Views: 27

Comment by slamwagon on October 2, 2008 at 12:16pm
Great Post!

My wife and I were having this same conversation a week or so ago.
Comment by Kelsey D. Atherton on October 2, 2008 at 1:09pm
@Doug R

Part of that probably has to do with different social norms about bathing - if a culture develops in an arid area, the culture probably won't place a high value on bathing every day. And living in that culture, it probably wouldn't be unusual or even unpleasant. In fact, seeing as how we've taken our culture into an arid area with incredibly scarce water resources, perhaps some social norms need to be rethought in order to better exist in our environment.
And air quality is an iffy thing - Albuquerque has way more dense automobile traffic than I imagine any part of Afghanistan having, and so we get that air pollution instead.
Comment by slamwagon on October 2, 2008 at 2:23pm
I would end the comparison at scenery.
Comment by Dianne P. on October 2, 2008 at 2:57pm
there's no satellite dishes on anyone's roofs, or cars on cinderblocks in the yards. dead giveaways.
Comment by Lee on October 2, 2008 at 4:32pm
Spent time in Pakistan next door a few years ago, and quite near the Afghan border. One of the things I learned about the smell... was in Pakistan at least they used to dry camel dung on the outside of their (adobe) houses and then burned the dry dung for heat... as anyone who has sat around a fire burning cedar knows.. you soon smell like cedar... substitute dried camel dung for cedar.. and.. yeah.. well you get the idea.
the only real remedy is to sit around the same fire... problem solved
Comment by Barelas Babe on October 2, 2008 at 4:37pm
Great topic! I think there are a several places around the world that could double as rural NM, such as some of the farmland/small towns just outside the other Madrid. I've been told this also holds for parts of the Bekaa valley in Lebanon.

More than a lack of satellite dishes, the tipoff for me would be the lack of ristras...
Comment by Duane W Bargar on October 2, 2008 at 5:25pm
Here is a great photo from the late 1800s from Northern Afghanistan, I've regularly shown people this as it is so striking the similarities that are present. Many folks that I know from Afghanistan and Iran are amazed to see pictures of NM - they're often surprised by how similar some of the architecture and landscape are.

Comment by Kelsey D. Atherton on October 2, 2008 at 5:28pm
@Duane - Great pic!

As I study the middle east, I often wonder how much that was brought by the Caliphate to Spain ended up in New Mexico. It seems an odd similarity, but the more I look the more similarities I see.
Comment by Bluegoo on October 2, 2008 at 8:00pm
The climate has alot to do with the look. Flat roofs and made of mud/earth work well in deserts. The other choice is build down but many humans are fearful of underground places.
Comment by Duane W Bargar on October 2, 2008 at 9:44pm
I would have to agree that the climate has a huge amount to do with it, no doubt about it that anywhere the climate is suitable, adobes (though that term is Arabic derived) are used. And in terms of architecture I think that both regions have long enough independent established traditions that would be contrary to the idea of heavy Islamic-Iberian influence on architecture here (i.e. Pueblo architecture predates Spanish influence.)
That being said, I think that there is a vast pool of arts etc. that are directly influenced by the Islamic period of Iberian history. The easiest to look at is ceramics, if you trace ceramic designs from Central Asia - and East Asia (China specifically) across the Middle East- through North Africa, to Spain - then on to Mexico and the Southwest, it is very clear that there is continuity of design and tradition (the same holds true with metal work and many other arts.)
I think that this is one of the joys of human history - that there is so much transmission of ideas, designs, tastes, etc. across vast territories over centuries and longer, and not just transmission but blending and evolution in different directions depending on the cultures that have been in contact. That this transmission often defies cultural or ethnic conflicts is amazing.


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