The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #109


A reader writes:

My first thought was California, a military or student housing facility within view of the scrubby hillsides. The signage at the end of the of the long low-slung buildings indicates an institution, and the skimpy back "patios" indicate a temporary workmanlike housing situation. There also appears to be nobody but young men in the picture.

But the lawns are too well-kempt for students, and image searches of military housing (even temporary) seems to be multi-story and somewhat more tacked on to the scenery. I'm looking half-assedly at military bases and other candidate locations in Colorado, Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico, Hawaii (for some reason), Nevada and not finding any other clues. I'm hesitant to even peek into the rabbit holes of lands abroad – Israel? Spain? The colorful building in the background isn't turning up in any image searches, either, so I'm pretty low on clues.

I throw up my hands! Based solely on the fact that the hill in the background looks kind of like a hill in an Albuquerque real estate photo that popped up in my search, I'm gonna go with the Duke City on this one.

Another writes:

The low-slung hills and hazy sky suggest Korea in late Spring or early Summer, just before the rainy season.  The buildings in the background also look like the kind of architecture that proliferated in the country during the rebuilding phase following the Korean War.  The buildings in the foreground look like barracks, but I don't believe that it could be a base belonging to the Korean military, as Korean bases are typically treeless expanses of dirt and the space in the photo has clearly been heavily landscaped.  As such, I'm going to guess that this is an American base in the Republic of Korea, though never having had base access during my time in the country, I couldn't say which base in particular. I'm going to guess Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi-do, ROK. Am I close?

Closer than Albuquerque. Another:

This is a bit of a guess, but I’m going to take a stab at Isfahan in Iran. First, he mountains around the city look a lot like those around Palm Springs, in fact there are more than a few similarities between the two places. Secondly, that structure top right could be one of the many bridges across the river, maybe Allahverdi Khan bridge. Thirdly, there looks to be a blue dome, top left in the distance, there are bunch of these all over the city, as you can see from the picture below also. In addition, the radiotower is consistent (although not exclusive to Iran), the only people to be seen are dressed in trousers and shirts as opposed to shorts and t-shirts (again consistent but not exclusive) and appear to be dark haired men. Not sure what the building is, maybe a school or some kind of dormitory.

Getting warm. Another from Iran:

At first glance I thought this would be an easy one, but upon closer look it's one of the toughest yet!  My guess is Tehran.  The mountains look similar, it may be some type of boarding school or a residential part of a military base.  What throws me off is whatever is on the distant mountain on the left – I thought it was some type of oil field but it almost looks like a windfarm up there with a bunch of towers, so I think it could just as easily see it be in the American West or Mexico.  I'm just hoping all my Google searches for "oil field installations on a mountain near Tehran" didn't put me on the No-Fly list!


Islamabad, Pakistan?


It is testament to the Dish’s diverse readership that you can find someone to give us a view of what might be a minimum security prison in the Americas.  Or is this a university on the outskirts of a formerly troubled district in the Middle East?   How about a hotel complex in Morocco?  That’s how befuddled I am this week.  I like when a View initially appears as if it could be on any of three or more continents.  I hate it when I can’t narrow it down – even 20  minutes into sleuthing around.  I’m going with Iraqi Kurdistan because it’s a place with increasing press about new development, the colorful modern buildings in the background fits a little, and the sparsely forested foothills topography could work.  But I’d only give myself a 10% chance of being within 1,000 miles of the actual location.  Looking forward to the reveal.     

It's right after the jump:

That's Kabul, Afghanistan. Judging by the two mountains, I would say it is SW Kabul, off Darulaman Blvd.

Another gets the right part of town:

Buildings of the American University of Afghanistan, formerly the American International School of Kabul (K thru 12). Looking NNW towards the city center. I went to school there 1969 to 1973.

Another zooms in further:

The answer is Kabul, Afghanistan.  34°28'30.71"N   69° 7'32.07"E  Looking more or less north from the third floor center window of the building located over the entryway. To the East is Darulaman Road. If you traveled southwest on Darulaman Road you would arrive at the dilapidated palaces. If you traveled Northeast it would take you to the center of Kabul. This image from Google Earth and shows where the picture was taken from:



This photo is without a doubt taken from the admin building of the American University of Kabul (probably the second or third floor), looking down on campus. That building straight ahead is the cafeteria. I taught legal-English to employees of Afghanistan's justice ministry in the building on the right (that third set of windows from the front door was my classroom). Students would often play cricket on the larger green space.

My students were legal professionals, both men and women. The other students were basically rich kids, the children of powerful men, usually close to the Karzai government or military. I was living there as a journalist. It was one of the best times of my life.


First, this is the second time I've guessed and the first time I am sure that I am 100% right about this.  The reason? I work for the government and just saw a presentation from one of our special agents in the Inspector General who spent a year in AUAF_VFYWAfghanistan. One of the stories he presented included an arrest he made on the steps of the building that photo is taken from (the view is from a window just over the gable I circled in the attached photo).

He walked in to arrest a suspect in an investigation, and the reason I recognized it is this hilarious series of photos in which the translator, his one method of communicating with the local law enforcement, is progressively moving toward the steps under this view, to stay in the shade. Needless to say, they made the arrest and the suspect was prosecuted for defrauding the government.

Anyways, I know I'm a long shot, and having been one of the reader photos featured in Why You're Different, two lucky moments with the Dish in one week would be pretty rare.

And it's not the reader photo you would probably guess of the three. Another:

I was born in Kabul and lived there as a child, and the mountains in the View instantly brought me back. You're going to have a lot of US servicemen writing in on this one.

The grounds in view reminded me of the American International School of Kabul, which I attended as a kid in the 1970s. (Go Scorpions!) They also reminded me of the Kabul University campus, where my father taught. But they are neither of these.

Knowing that there is an American University of Afghanistan, I surmised that this might be the View; a feeling reinforced by the guard towers surrounding the campus (what other sort of school campus needs such protection? A look at Google Maps' satellite view, which shows buildings and paths laid out as in the View confirms that this is the place.  We can see the building at the origin of the View on this blog, from a librarian who works there. It must be the AUAF main building. The grass on the campus is greener now, the trees have grown, the benches have been repainted, since that photo was taken in 2010. I'm guessing the View is from the top floor of the AUAF main building, slightly off center. My guess for the exact window is marked in red on the left:

AUAf - Kabul 2010-01-30 22.33.13

I'm probably no longer eligible for the Contest, as a past winner, but I could not resist submitting for my home town.

The reader follows up:

Correction! My father informs me that the AUAF is located on the former campus of AISK, my old school. So no wonder I recognized it.

Another former local:

2nd floor of the main building, directly over the entrance. I immediately recognized the hill in the distance – TV Hill – from my time in Afghanistan years ago. The hill is where all of the radio and TV antenna are, and is inconveniently placed in the middle of the city. I have many memories of being stuck in traffic trying to get around the damned thing. After recognizing that, it was just a matter of searching for greenery to the south of the city – there isn't too much to find.

Our winner this week was the most accurate and thorough of the bunch:

I look at your contest photo every week and generally have not the slightest clue as to where to begin.  I am a reasonably well-travelled person so I have always been able to comfort myself by telling myself that one day, there will be a start point that I recognize.  Today, it finally happened.

The hill in the left background is the giveaway.  Colloquially know as TV Hill, it is located in the middle of Kabul, Afghanistan.  I am a member of the Canadian Forces and for seven months in 2007, while I was deployed there, the view from my window was of the other side of TV Hill. 

The photo is taken from the third floor of the Saleha Bayat Building at the American University of Afghanistan, which is located in District 6, south of the central core of the city, just off Darulaman Road and just to the north of the King's Palace which, at least when I visited it, remained a ruin.  

I have done some additional work in attempting to narrow down the precise location from which the photograph was taken.  I attached a Powerpoint presentation that summarizes my efforts and provides a few extras.  (I apologize for the size of the file, but think that it is smaller than if I had embedded all of the graphics in the e-mail text.) A few brief explanations of the slides:

Slide 1.  Your photo.

Slide 2.  A very similar photo from the University's website.

Slide 3.  A screen capture from Google Earth, showing the relative positions of the King's Palace (yellow circle) and the AUAF compound (red circle) with the distinctive layout of the paths and buildings shown in your photo.

Slide 4.  An additional capture, zoomed in, with the Saleha Bayat building identified by the red circle.  As an interesting extra, note the aircraft in the top left corner of the screen.  It must have been passing over at the time the Google Earth image was being taken.  I have not had a chance to do any additional research into the origin of the aircraft but it looks like a 747 to me, possibly from Lufthansa.  I have flown Frankfurt-Delhi and return a couple of times now and on both occasions have flown over Kabul (that said, all of my flights passed over the area during hours of darkness).

Slide 5.  A further zoom of the Bayat building, along with a crude attempt to triangulate the precise location of the window at the apex of the angle formed by the two paths.

Slide 6.  A photo of the front of the building, courtesy of the USAID Flickr stream, with a red circle depicting my guess as to the window from which the photograph was taken).  Third floor, the second window to the left of the centre-line (looking outward):

Screen shot 2012-07-03 at 1.09.25 PM

And some extras, in the form of photos taken by me:

Slide 7.  The view from my window (actually the door to my office at Camp Eggers), 5 November 2007.

Slide 8.  The view in the direction opposite to your photo.  Taken from the top of TV Hill, showing the length of Darulaman Road, heading south.  My guess is that the AUAF compound is slightly to the south of the location of the smoke that is crossing the road (and, obviously, on the other side of the road from the source of the smoke).

Slide 9.  A photo of the King's Palace taken while approaching it from the north along Darulaman Road (taken the same day as the photo from the top of TV Hill).  I think that this would have been taken while passing just about abeam the AUAF compound:

Screen shot 2012-07-03 at 1.11.36 PM

Congratulations on the continued relevance and success of the site and thank you for the chance to reminisce a bit.

Congratulations on the new book. The submitter comments on his photo:

I think its an interesting juxtaposition to what one typically thinks of when they hear the words Kabul or Afghanistan.

One more excellent email:

I got a real kick out of seeing this photo! As I former US Peace Corp volunteer (1970-73) I happily recognize the mountains and area. I walked all over. The view is from the north looking southward towards the older parts of Kabul. The mountain to the left begins at the ancient fortress of Bala Hissar (possibly mentioned in ancient Hindu scripture, Rig Veda as the Emerald Isle) There is a wall built on the crest to defend the then-Hindu city from Muslim attacks. The ruthless king-builder had slow workers killed and their bodies added to the wall (bones are visible). It was a woman who led the people to revolt. The old city, mostly wiped out by Hitmatyar's bombardments in the 1990s, is at its base. The Tourquise Foundation and the Agha Khan Trust have restored some buildings there.

The mountain to the right separates Kabul into two parts. In the foreground is Share Nau and more modern neighborhood additions such as Akbar Khan etc. On the other side is Carte Char and other sections. The University is just over the saddle. Poor people live in the mountain sides and the views are spectacular. The rich live in the flats. The wealthiest areas are near where this photo was taken.

The US embassy and other embassies are traditionally located right in the area of the foreground. Further, behind the photographer is the airport. Perhaps surprisingly to many of your readers, most of my fellow PCVs and I had a very rewarding, educational, and wonderful experience working with our Afghan colleagues then. Kabul then was much smaller and full of the diversity of Afghanistan , 30-40 ethnic groups, etc, many foreigners passing through, called WTs (World Travelers) all headed to Hind, and the foreigners who worked there. It was also a very active center for espionage, a vital listening post to the then USSR and China!

Thank you for posting this, I hope a human reads this and enjoys the comments.

No androids here at the Dish – not yet at least.