Afghanistan 1976

For me, our collection of old coins is the highlight of the National Museum. My daily job is to guard the room where they are displayed. I love my job but it doesn’t earn me much money, so I have other sources of income too.

One day I arrived on duty at the same time as the bearded stranger, riding the no 1 bus from the centre of Kabul. After she had gone through the separate entrance for women, he met up again with his sister. I walked with them and pointed out the highlights for them as I went to my post in the coin room. 

The Aq Kopruk stone carvings are 22,000 years old. The material from Bagram shows how Afghanistan, at the centre of the Asian Continent, absorbed and influenced all cultures: there we find relics from Greece, Egypt, Rome, China and India. The highlights from Bagram are the famous ivories: those showing the busty women are the most popular for museum visitors. There’s lots of display items from the country’s Buddhist sites, as well as from early Islamic cities like Ghazni and Jam. The ancestral idols and carved chairs from pagan Nuristan attract much interest – but, as I said, I want everyone to enjoy the coin room.

There I gladly and enthusiastically show foreigners around, faithfully quoting the catalogue and pointing out items of special interest. Pre-Alexandrian Attic drachmas of the owl type; Bactrian tetradrachmas from the Kunduz hoard; Achaemenid silver found in Kabul; and the Greek world’s largest silver coins, the double decadrachmas of Amyntas. When they are tired of the exhibits, I take my own collection of coins from my pocket and I try to make a sale.