Take a look at these amazing photos of Afghanistan before the wars

The INSIDER Summary:

• A collection of photos taken by Dr. William Podlich in the 1960s in Afghanistan has been discovered and restored.
• These photos show Afghanistan as a very different country than it is today, and they shed light on what life was like in the area nearly 80 years ago.

The modern West is familiar with Afghanistan as a country that is ravaged by war. But before the US invasion, before the Russian war, and before the country’s Marxist experiment, Afghanistan used to be a far different place.

In the 1960s, Afghanistan was actively undergoing a process of modernisation and Westernization. People began dressing in western attire, men and women alike attended western-style universities, and cars crowded newly-paved roads. At the same time, Afghanistanis preserved much of traditional Afghanistani culture.

An astonishing collection of photos from the 1960s captures life in Afghanistan during this unique time.

In the ’60s, amateur photographer and college professor Dr. William Podlich took a leave of absence from his job at Arizona State University to work with UNESCO in the Afghan capital of Kabul, bringing his wife and daughters with him. His son-in-law Clayton Esterson found the late doctor’s photos in 2013 and put them on the web. The response was amazing.

Esterson told the Denver Post: “Many Afghans have written comments [on our website] showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war. This makes the effort to digitize and restore these photographs worthwhile.”

An earlier version of this story appeared on Business Insider.

In the 60s, this blonde attracted looks in a still very conservative Afghanistan.

But many people also wore nice western clothes in the 60s, too.

Afghanistan had a modern military thanks to reforms by King Amanullah Khan in the 1920s.

A new car drives through a freshly-built mountain tunnel ...

... and another stops at a gas station.

Girls and boys in western-style universities and schools were encouraged to talk to each other freely.

Newly-paved streets were flooded with new cars.

There was also a Girl and Boy Scouts of Afghanistan.

The country was undergoing a process of modernisation ...

... but much of Afghan culture retained its traditional dress and style. Even in Kabul, the bazaars remained the same as they had in earlier decades.

Here's a more traditional stall ...

... and a typical street scene.

Following World War II -- which Afghanistan managed to stay out of -- the Soviets and Americans competed for rights to build Afghan roadways.

Unlike today, roads in 1960s Afghanistan were well-kept and generally free of wear and tear.

Kids grew up in a safe environment, free of extremist influence, compared to today.

The villages didn't look too much different back then ...

... although new construction was everywhere.

Signs of prosperity dotted the urban landscape, showing off the country's upper class.

The group of American schools in Afghanistan shows just how stable the country was once considered.

An official vehicle plies the streets.

Fruit markets stayed largely the same and became a staple of Afghan culture.

... as did fabric markets ...

... and glassware.

Kabul's classic architecture was maintained, giving the city a firm aesthetic and sense of identity.

Here's another example of the city's distinctive style.

Even so, there was much western influence in the newer homes and businesses.

Crowded lorries and trucks are still a common scene in the country.

A view of the mountains outside of Kabul in winter.

Women weren't required to wear burqas -- Afghanistan wasn't quite as conservative back then. But some would still cover up by choice.

A traditional-style archway.

Elementary education, even out in the rural areas, was standard.

There was a widespread sense that opportunities hinged on education.

Children would learn in outside classrooms if they had to.

... although new buildings were always under construction.

Nationalism grew, as people identified with Afghanistan rather than with tribes.

There were movie theatres, libraries, chemistry labs, and on the outskirts of Kabul, large factories churning out a variety products.

Some historical buildings were in an excellent state of preservation.

People gathered in the streets for religious or cultural events without fear.

But while urban Afghanistan became modern, rural Afghanistan was still much as it had been decades before.

Afghanistan had a national identity, and a distinct national style, despite all the newfangled 'western' influence.

Tradition still reigned.

Yes, both rural and urban, western and south asian, it seemed all of Afghanistan ...

... was on the road to prosperity.

The wars were in the future -- but they weren't very far off. When the Soviets invaded less than two decades later, it would hasten Afghanistan's path towards becoming a very different country.

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