In fact, the entire seventeenth-century poem
is not reprinted in the novel, since Babi can only remember two lines: “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, / Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” The poem is an ode to Kabul, and Babi first recites it just before his death, when he is preparing to leave the city. The second time we hear it is when Laila recalls these lines as she is moving back to Kabul from Murree, Pakistan at the end of the novel. The poem represents the powerful allure of Kabul, which is Laila’s home and becomes a home for Mariam, especially once she befriends Laila. Its description of Kabul’s beauty can be seen as achingly ironic, since for much of the novel Kabul is hardly splendid but instead a bombed-out bloody shell; but the poem also evokes the “real” Kabul that remains beneath the destruction. Finally, the poem underlines the importance Babi places on literary and cultural heritage, and the necessity for Laila—as for women in general—to be educated and to be able to transmit this heritage.