On the day the Islamic State seized control of the 2,000-year-old oasis city of Palmyra, Kathmandu reminds us that while sites of heritage may crumble, deep-rooted cultural spirit remains firm.
Guided by the cooling Himalayan breeze, a spicy chai aroma wafts through the brimming November rooftops of Thamel district – the backpacker abode of Kathmandu. Below, in the dusty labyrinthine metropolis, men squat eagerly around an intense chess game as a rickshaw-laden chaos ensues behind them. The peaceful zip of rotating prayer wheels turns to the effervescent chatter of youth, as the soothing scents of Asan Tole’s spice market gives way to the clamor of Newar style bazaars. The pendulum rhythm of life is entrenched in the capital’s fabric. It is how the Nepalese derive their energy.
As April’s earthquake devastated the Kathmandu valley, local volunteers, young and old, have mobilized quickly to provide relief supplies and aid to impacted villages. Accounts of resourceful living, makeshift employment and the reopening of certain heritage sites are intermeshed with the wider humanitarian struggles. For the national and international response, transmuting the resilience of the Nepalese people to the country’s state and infrastructure is the future. To rebuild and emerge stronger from the rubble is to harness the soul of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu, as it was, November 2013:
Saris for sale: A woman crouches beside her vibrant fabrics
(L to R) Clamoring bazaar: Stall owners soak up the chaos on Siddhidas Marg, The Urban Jungle: Intertwined chaos
Soothing scents: The spice market on approach to Asan Tole
Faith: A family worship to the God Mahakaala
Checking the accounts: A suave boy runs through the days earnings
(L to R) The universally embracing Jana Baha temple: A father and son emerge from prayer, Entrepreneurs: Creative teens meld together sale items from scrap metal
(L to R) Silhouettes in the alley to Kathesimbu Stupa, Beard shaver and financial advisor: A man offers his services on Thamel Marg
A peaceful escape: A dog finds dinner off the chaotic Chokchya Galli
Gridlock: En route to Durbar Square
Towering temples: Peering out from a once heaving Durbar Square
The Monkey Temple: Worshippers encircle the now damaged Swayambhunath Stupa
Kathmandu from above: Prayer flags blow over the ancient city