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.

“When I look at my dad’s photos, I remember Afghanistan as a country with thousands of years of history and culture,” Dr. Podlich’s daughter Peg, who attended the American International School of Kabul, 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.” Now, the happier times live on in photos.

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
Peaceful: Men relax in the shade overlooking Istalif, a centuries-old centre for pottery, located northwest of Kabul
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
Hanging out: Hoards of happy citizens gather on large trucks, which served as portable grandstands
Family bond: Two colourful sisters, hand in hand, pose for a photograph in Kabul, surrounded by trading locals


Shopping trip: One of Dr Podlich’s daughters, Jan, smiles during a trip to Istalif, a village 18 miles northwest of Kabul
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
Picnic In Afghanistan shows a group of young Afghans sharing tea and music in their free-time

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

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
All lined up: An Afghan military band stands wearing matching brown uniforms, surrounded by coloured flags
An Afghan Army parade through Kabul with spectators lining the streets and waving flags at the procession
Play time: Young students in blue uniforms can be seen dancing to music in a school playground

Splashing around: Men and boys playing, washing and swimming in the waters of the Kabul river
Picturesque: Pictured is Masjid Shah-e-do Shamsheera in Kabul, which is a yellow two-story mosque in the centre of the city
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
Time to study: A chemistry lesson in full flow in a mud-walled classroom, with a small board covered in equations
Tasty feast: A smiling Afghan boy is pictured decorating mounds of different cakes piled high on plates
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
Taking in the view: A blonde Peg Podlich pictured in Kabul, shortly after arriving, as locals walk past
Pictured is an Afghan teacher. The Higher Teachers’ College was a two-year institution for training college-level teachers
Journeying: Peg Podlich, in the sunglasses, taking a family trip on a bus from Kabul to Peshawar in Pakistan
The idyllic images were captured in 1967, when the teacher (pictured) teemed up with Unesco to work in the Higher Teachers College of Kabul
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
Cooking: A smiling man is pictured frying Jilabee, a sweet dessert, on an outdoor fire, with children gathered around
Stunning setting: A captivating residential hillside in Kabul is adorned by brightly coloured trees and foliage
Not a bad commute: Young Afghans walking home with spectacular scenery visible in the distance
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