Afghan Amulet: Travels from the Hindu Kush to Razgad

Overview

In 1990, armed with five kilos of luggage, a camera, and a liter of vodka, Sheila Paine set off for the high valleys of the Hindu Kush in northern Pakistan, looking for an interesting amuletic pattern relevant to her work as a textile expert. It remained elusive, always to be found "in the next valley." Undeterred, she followed traces of it on tribal costumes and in fabric amulets into increasingly dangerous and remote territories. Over two years, her quest took her into Makran, an area split by the Pakistan/Iran...
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Overview

In 1990, armed with five kilos of luggage, a camera, and a liter of vodka, Sheila Paine set off for the high valleys of the Hindu Kush in northern Pakistan, looking for an interesting amuletic pattern relevant to her work as a textile expert. It remained elusive, always to be found "in the next valley." Undeterred, she followed traces of it on tribal costumes and in fabric amulets into increasingly dangerous and remote territories. Over two years, her quest took her into Makran, an area split by the Pakistan/Iran border and totally closed to outsiders, then into Iran itself, once she was able to escape the watchful eye of a suspicious government official. She was smuggled into Afghanistan and continued her journey through Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan before reaching the Black Sea and the last link in the chain, the small town of Razgrad in eastern Bulgaria.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An elaborately embroidered tribal dress and an amulet seen in a London shop set Paine off on a two-year hunt through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Kohistan, Makran, Turkey, Indus and Bulgaria to find their origin. This 62-year-old British embroidery expert slips across closed borders, navigates through tribal warfare, sleeps on dirt floors, drinks tea brewed from muddy waters and protects herself against the kidnapping, stoning and rape that lone women risk in some Muslim countries by covering herself in native dress. Everywhere she goes, she is warned of danger; everywhere people identify the source of her stitchings as somewhere over the next mountain. Undeterred, Paine follows each clue until, in Bulgaria, she finds the answer to her search. The impoverished conditions, the superstitions that have endured for thousands of years-epitomized by the embroidered symbols that she is tracking-and the tribal and intranational fighting draw such a horrendous picture that the reader marvels at and admires Paine's derring-do. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This travel narrative has a unique inspiration-the source of a folk embroidery pattern. It takes the author to remote and troubled areas of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan (entered without authorization while the country was still in a state of internal war), Kurdish areas of Turkey and Northern Iraq, and, finally, Bulgaria. What makes these journeys particularly remarkable is that the author is an Englishwoman in her early sixties traveling unaccompanied. Neither a complainer nor a braggart, she writes a wonderfully crisp account that is a delight to read regardless of one's passion for embroidery. The publisher should have provided better maps for these areas because they are not well known. Otherwise, a fine book for travel collections.-Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
Alice Joyce
Anyone half Paine's age--she happens to be a grandmother--would be sorely pressed to equal the spirit of this remarkably fearless traveler. Paine is not only a scholar with a commanding knowledge of tribal and peasant embroidery, but also an eminently refined writer, telling of four separate journeys in pursuit of the origins of embroidery motifs found on a garment and an attached amulet purchased in London. Her expertise contributes a fascinating element to a daring quest through the most remote towns and villages imaginable. With unabashed zeal Paine entered areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and other regions of Central Asia and Eastern Europe that were strictly forbidden to outsiders. Her journal chronicles a dogged course as Paine attempts to trace the movements of those peoples responsible for the puzzling embroidered patterns. This is travel writing of the highest caliber, with incisive descriptions and admirably spare prose.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312112363
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. ed
  • Pages: 304

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