Before sunrise, Abdul wakes up, refreshes his Chilam (Chillum) and Gata (joined water pipe and smoke pipe with a piece of linen, and cleans the sharkhanehs (bowl). The morning smoke will come soon.
The clay dome room with the gate to the North is Abdul’s workshop and chilamsharkhaneh’s house. At the end of the room, there are cannabis pods spread for drying, and on the right-hand side of the window, several cannabis sieves are placed next to it.
Abdul says welcome to us and puts his hand into the pocket of his old vest coat, which was torn in several places, and takes out a large piece of Bhang/Hashish. When it is brought to the light, it takes on a red crystal color, as if a precious gem has come out of an old treasure. We know that this bhang is one year old, and every morning, it draws us unconsciously. We drive 20 kilometers by car before sunrise to do a Nari (Idiom of early morning smoking) with Abdul. We open the eyes of the morning with these precious gems of hashish.
The peasants of the village are kind people; they offer everything they have to their guests. They do not withhold anything; they generously offer the best of what they have. They live with faded clothes but happy hearts. They remember their sense of humor and sense of joy always. They are honest and romantic in how they live. They live in gratitude and happiness and protect the genetics, the plants, and Mother Earth.
Abdul separates the big piece from the tale (a piece of hashish the size of a hand palm )
and fills the the green color sarkhana which is in the shape of a Zoroastrian fireplace. He skillfully arranges the hashish/bhang and prepares the komur (special charcoal for hashish smoking).
The charcoal is made from dried one-year-old almond wood so as not to spoil the taste of hashish/bhang. He pours it on the top of the hashish and starts the chilam himself.
After a few moments, everyone is lost in the smoke of the chilam, and the room becomes fragrant with the fragrance of rose and hashish. The flame of the Sarkhaba shines like a comet in a galaxy of smoke, and everyone coughs in every direction.
One of the boys who is standing on top of the Chilam recites a poem loudly and then we smoke another.
He puts his mouth on the pipe of the chilam and takes a deep draw, and a big flame of fire rises from the Sarkhana where the bhang is full, he starts coughing and goes to the corner of the room while another person comes on top of the chilam and takes his Para (Idiom for a turn of smoking) in the Chilam.
Uncle Abdul’s Cannabis Dera (idiom for Chilam house and chilam circle) is one of the most famous Dera and the hangout of Balkh’s Cannabis farmers and hashish consumers. At the beginning of every cannabis harvesting season, the farmers collect and sift their cannabis harvest and then gather together. Everyone takes out their new sift hashish/bhang from their pocket and puts it near the fire to show the bubbling and aroma of their hashish to others.
In Afghanistan, among the experts, good hashish/bhang must have five characteristics: purity, bubbling, aroma, taste, and bite (When the smoke enters the mouth, it buzzes and shakes the whole body like a scorpion sting).
Abdul is one of the bhang refining experts in the region. He refines the best and purest Balkh Hashish with very simple and efficient equipment and uses flour sieves to get the purest trichomes.
Abdul’s eyes are seasoned to recognize trichomes; he has been doing this job with enthusiasm for many years, and the young people of the village who want to learn this industry go to Abdul.
Abdul’s Chilam Dera is one thousand steps away from the historical Chilam Dera of Baaba Qo.
Baaba Qo is a mythological character of cannabis in Balkh, whom the Bangi people remember with respect at the beginning of each Chilam. According to the stories, when Baaba Qo was smoking the Chilam, the smoke covered the whole city of Balkh like a cloud.
The culture of using cannabis as a psychedelic has a very ancient history in the geographical area called Balkh. If you research history books, they reach back three thousand years to the time of Zoroaster, the philosopher and prophet who appeared in Balkh and started his religious calling. He drank a potion of wine and cannabis and went into a spiritual trance for seven days. That bhang was called Bhang Gstasp.
It is said that the Zoroastrians made their temples fragrant by smoking fragrant plants inside the fireplace, one of which was bhang.
The use of bhang in Zoroastrian religion includes good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
One of the old methods of hashish refining is the dry sieve, which can be used to obtain the purest trichomes with the most basic equipment. This old refining method is still widely used on the slopes of the Handkash mountains and in the old city of Balkh.
This industry and these methods have been inherited by farmers since ancient times. After drying the plants, they separate the trichomes from other parts of the stalk with a special skill so that the trichomes are not damaged. This method is done in three to four steps to get clean trichomes. Then they boil it by bringing it close to the fire, which in Afghans is called Chars Joshi (Bubbling Hashish), and the first Grade is spoony, which is the pure resin of cannabis.
Of course, there are other ways of refining cannabis in Afghanistan, but since the sieve with soft cloths does not damage the trichrome and does not reduce the life of the trichrome in the process of storage, the dry sieve can be stored for years without losing its quality.
Ibrahim, who during the hippies’ time in the ’60s, was busy working with Cannabis and collected high-quality hashish from Balkh and sold it to the hippies, says that when sieveing Bhang, the sky should be clear and the climate should be freezing, and the smallest hint of clouds should not be visible in the sky because bhang’s property is that it absorbs moisture by itself if there is a cloud in the sky the quality of Hashish will deteriorate.
At the time of the hippies, Sherak Mazar (Famous hashish from the hippie’s time) and Balkh Hashish enjoyed great fame, and there were many people who were engaged in the business of cannabis. They took hashish from Balkh to Kabul and the south and sold even the extracted marijuana oil in the form of RSO to the hippies. Ibrahim, who did the hashish and hashish oil business during the hippie era, is one of the most experienced in knowing the quality of hashish. He says that during the time of the hippies, there was a woman living in Balkh whose dry sift hashish was three times more expensive than others.
Legal and religious obstacles have never been able to stop this culture, and in every corner of Balkh Province, you can find Chilam Dera and Cannabis retail shops.
Chilam and Bhang have special literature and terminology in Afghans, and sometimes Persian-speaking poets such as Rumi, who was born in Balkh, have addressed it.
Baba Rahim Mashrab, also known by the name Shahi Mashrab (King Mashrab), was a Sufi poet living between 1657 and 1711. He wrote poems about descriptions of cannabis and wine. He was against extremist ideology, and because of his liberal thoughts, he was executed in 1711 by a religious king. His grave in Balkh was later moved by his followers to Takhar province, where every year at the start of the Spring, cannabis consumers around Afghanistan hold a cannabis event by his grave, smoking Chilam and singing his poems. One of his famous poems is about the description of cannabis and about religious people who are against cannabis use.
دود بنگم صحن مسجد را زمرد ریز کرد
رفت در قعر جهنم هر که از او پرهیز کرد .
The smoke of my cannabis
made the courtyard of the mosque emerald.
Whoever avoids my smoke
will go to the depths of hell.
The day passes very quickly in Abdul’s dome. He explains to us the techniques of bubbling cannabis, and we sieve some of the dried plants.
And when the sun sets, he puts his chilam outside the dome and fills another Sarkhana with hashish. Before we leave Abdul’s house, he tells us to come and have Sham Maynaye (smoking Chilam with singing birds at sunset.)
There are special names for smoking cannabis times in Afghanistan, Nahari is smoking early in the morning, before breakfast, which they smoke with the slogan of “There is no pain or illness in the morning for those who consume cannabis.”
Chasht Sultani is the term used for smoking during lunch. (The Bangis believed that the Kings used to smoke cannabis during lunch time )
Sham Minaye is the term used for smoking during the night. (smoking at the time of sunset and the beginning of birds singing)
And lastly, Khoftan Barqarar, which is smoking at Midnight (smoking before going to bed).
Abdul installs Sarkhaneh on top of the Chilam and lights the Chilam as he sings this poem:
Chilam on fire in my heart,
where are you, my flower friends?
Photos: Courtesy of Baaba Qo selections