Page 88. " the king of all bicycles "
Schwinn Stingray
Creative Commons AttributionSchwinn Stingray - Credit: Robert Stapleton
For anyone interested, an extract from a book on these classic bikes is available online.

Vintage Schwinn Stingrays

Page 96. " thumbed prayer beads with his free hand "

Misbaha
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMisbaha - Credit: Mohammad Rehan
Muslims use prayer beads, like the Roman Catholic rosary, to keep count of repetitive utterances (such as "Alhamdulillah") during prayers.

The beads are called Misbaha in Arabic.

Page 97. " a high summit with a precipitous drop "
Kabul-Jalalabad Road
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeKabul-Jalalabad Road - Credit: Sven Dirks

The hydro-electric plant at Mahipar is one of the main sources of electricity for Kabul.  It has fallen into disrepair in recent years, but is being repaired by western engineering firms.

 

   

Page 98. " found his body on the side of the road "
Approaching the Salang Pass
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeApproaching the Salang Pass - Credit: Michal Vogt
Ahmad Zahir died on 14 June 1979, supposedly in a car crash on the Salang Pass road.  The cause of death was never fully established, although it was claimed the autopsy had revealed he had been shot in the head.  If so, it is likely he was murdered on the orders of the communist government that he so publicly opposed.
Page 98. " in the dungeons of Poleh-charkhi "

Pul-e-Charki Prison
Creative Commons AttributionPul-e-Charki Prison - Credit: Jason Boylan
 Pul-e-Charkhi Prison lies 6km west of Kabul.  It was commissioned by President Mohammed Daoud Khan but completed by the Soviet-controlled communist government.  It became a notorious centre of torture and execution.  A mass grave containing 2,000 bodies was recently discovered nearby.

The prison is still in use, and the US has transferred more than 250 detainees there from Guantanamo.