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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 354, October 7, 2001

Radio Backgrounds in Afghanistan - Part 1

Recent events in the United States, and for that matter, in several other countries as well, have gripped the attention of the news media throughout the world. In view of these dramatic events, we interrupt our regular scheduling here in Wavescan and we begin a new series of topics in which we feature the radio scene in several of these countries. Just as soon as we can assemble the information, we also plan to present a topic on the radio scene in New York on that eventful day, Tuesday, September 11. However, in this edition of Wavescan we think of western Asia and we present "Radio Backgrounds in Afghanistan."

The country of Afghanistan, with its quarter million square miles, is sandwiched in between Pakistan and Iran. The 25 million inhabitants are made up of 20 diverse ethnic groups, each with its own culture and language, though Dari and Pushto are the twin official languages.

Back more than 30 years ago, we as a family were transferred from Perth in Western Australia on a five year assignment to Lahore in Pakistan. During this era, I made many visits into Afghanistan, sometimes by car or bus, and sometimes by plane.

The drive through the famed Khyber Pass is most dramatic, with high barren cliffs, wide colorful vistas, and dramatic, deep gorges. In this area, the Kabul River is very steep, and the water runs at an amazing 35 miles per hour.

At the top of the Kabul Gorge, the landscape levels out at a mile high, and it is here that a high powered mediumwave transmitter was established in 1964 under the supervision of Deutsche Welle in Germany. This unit was located in a country area at Pole-i-Tcharche, just a mile off the main highway.

In addition to the 100 kw. Siemens transmitter on 1280 kHz. at this location, there was a large MAN diesel engine which supplied electric power for the entire facility. Programming was fed from the main studios in the city by two different telephone circuits as well as by a backup FM link.

Some reports indicate that this showplace radio station was damaged, or perhaps even destroyed, during the uprisings that began in the year 1981. In more recent times, it is reported, a new 100 kw. mediumwave transmitter was installed at a new location considerably closer to Kabul, though I have never heard it, even when visiting in nearby areas.

The main two-story studio building at Answari Wat, located on the edge of the main highway running out to the airport, was also constructed in 1964 under German supervision. For a short period of time an experimental 10 watt FM transmitter, made by Rhode & Schwartz, was on the air at the studio location on 96.1 MHz. The AWR Historic Collection contains the only QSL card ever issued for this low powered relay unit.

In the entry way of the studio building was a large wall map of the world, and on this map were hundreds of marker pins showing the location of listeners who had sent reception reports to the station. Back in this era, one of the studio technicians also served as the official monitor, and at specified times during the day he would tune an old Telefunken receiver for the broadcasts coming from Deutsche Welle, ORF-Austria, and several other international shortwave stations.

It is understood that this studio facility was largely destroyed some 20 years ago during the era of fighting, though apparently it has been restored subsequently, and it is again serving as the main studio location.  

On one occasion, the Seventh-day Adventist church staged an international temperance convention in the five story Hotel InterContinental in Kabul. This convention attracted 140 delegates from 40 countries, and late one night there was a fire that burned out the entire top floor of the hotel. Fortunately there were no injuries nor fatalities.
It was around this era that small FM transmitters and receivers were introduced into the world market so that people attending large conventions could hear the proceedings in their own language. At this convention in Kabul, translation was available through four of these little transmitters in four languages. Just one QSL-card was issued for these limited broadcasts, for the transmitter on 102.8 MHz, and this card is also in the AWR collection in Indianapolis.

Next week, as our opening feature in Wavescan, we plan to present the next episode in this sequence of topics on "Radio Backgrounds in Afghanistan."