Context & Culture

Afghanistan Bird Watch 2: Birds on the Wire

Earlier this afternoon shortly before grey clouds rising over Paghman let the sun disappear and brought a short drizzle, three bottle-green parakeets darted across the airspace over our AAN garden, between the high pine trees, the grapevines (that did not carry this year) and the neighbouring house’s wall on which his pigeons gather. This reminded […]

Talking Pashto 2: 40 countries, two options

We continue our series of mini Pashto lessons, not with a poem or a proverb this time, but with a short and striking sentence I heard from a campaigner for one of the woman candidates in Paktia yesterday. ‘Da de tsalwexht pe sha-o-khwa hewaduna dwa lare lari: De edari fasad per zed mubareza – ya […]

Losing people in Afghanistan

Living in Afghanistan means losing people. It’s a steady trickle. Usually not close enough to uproot your life, but there are all these people whom you have gotten to know over the years, whom you have become fond of, who you have to admire for how they managed to preserve sanity and dignity and humour, […]

Talking Dari (1): The Road to Turkestan

Today, we continue our little series with important Afghan-language expressions that are useful to describe political situations in striking accuracy. This time we turn to one of the most famous Iranian poets – so actually we also could say ‘Talking Farsi’ here. But let’s not be too nitty-gritty. ترسم نرسی به کعبه ای اعرابی کین ره […]

Kabul’s kitschy wedding cake architecture

Kabul is a city of dramatic contrasts. In the streets, shiny black-windowed limousines drive immediately alongside scruffy pushcarts with wobbly wheels. On the sidewalks, one-legged beggars hold out hands to well-dressed business men in sharp, knitted suits and gleaming shoes. In the built environment, too, these contrasts seem nearly infinite writes our guest blogger Anne […]

Talking Pashto (1): One-Liner of the Week

Today, we start a little series with important Pashto expressions for field use. It is meant to complement the electronic translation computers handed out to the international forces which – reportedly – contain useful phrases like: “Lasuna porta!” (Hands up!), “Mulla Omar cheri dey?” (Where is Mulla Omar?) and “Hawayi maidan kum taraf dey?” (Which […]

Talking Haqqani

‘Totally baseless, a lie and no truth in it’. This is what an Afghan presidential spokesman said after a not-too-unimportant TV station reported contacts between Kabul and the Haqqani network, the most ruthless outfit of the Afghan insurgency. Is there no fire at all for all the smoke? asks Thomas Ruttig. It all started with […]

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