At the dawn of a freezing but very bright day, we arrive at the Afghan border in our irreplaceable “Volkswagen Beetle”. We enter legendary Aghanistan after having crossed Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran. October 1970. That was the start of our endless voyage towards the discovery of the East. We reach the city of Kandahar, the cultural capital of the Pashtun ethnic group. And that is where the idea arose in my wife and me to buy silver jewellery and ethnic clothing to begin our future business. Kandahar, our company, was officially founded in 1973, with the importation of ethnic jewellery and clothing from Afghanistan and India. In those days, things were transported using old trucks that travelled backwards and forwards between Italy and the East. Then, it could be done! Later, we specialised in importing Oriental antiques. We personally select objects, furniture accessories, furnishings, architectural elements, tribal art, kilims and fabrics during our frequent trips to Pakistan, India, Indonesia, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Turkey and Morocco.

Autumn 1970
We’re off! We easily cross Yugoslavia and pass through Bulgaria, stopping over for a few hours in cold and unfriendly Sophia. Then, finally Istanbul: muezzins, the smell of spices, Topkapi, St. Sophia. For everyone travelling towards the East, the meeting place was in Sultanhamet and, more precisely, at the “Pudding Shop”. A little restaurant opened in the ‘60’s that then became the reference point for eastward-bound hitchhikers hoping for a lift. We stay in old Constantinople for a couple of days and then a boat ferries us over the Bosphorus. In Asia, finally! The Anatolian plateau, dirt roads, herds, Armenia and Mount Ararat.

Now the Iran of Reza Pahlavi awaits us. A modern country, lights, wealth, queues of trucks loaded with all kinds of goods. In 1935 the Shah had definitively handed over the ancient name of Persia to history and imposed the name of Iran on the world, thus initiating a pro-Western policy. We tour Teheran, the capital, moving on to Mashad, the city of the Persian turquoise. Leaving the city, our Volkswagen Beetle ran into a furious sandstorm.

Then, one morning, we cross the border and finally enter medieval Afghanistan. The scent of hashish and kebabs. In those years, Afghanistan was a peaceful, tolerant country. A king by the name of Zahir Shah ruled. Under his reign, the country experienced one of the longest periods of stability. And again desert and immense spaces, the Hindu-Kush and Paropàmiso mountain range. We rest a few days in Herat, the city founded by Alexander the Great. A multitude of races, Pashtun, Tagiki, Hazara, Uzbeki, Turkmeni.

And thus, after travelling for 20 days, we enter the city of Kandahar, our destination and our beginning.

Andrea Gracis
(owner of Kandahar) 

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