Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

Kabul Diary (1): Glimpses of Kabul, Summer 2009

Thomas Ruttig 3 min

Blue sky over the Spinghar mountains through the airplane window. Small green fields along grey Kabul river. The tin roofs of Pul-e Charkhi reflecting the sun.

Keep away! - An American Humvee in Kabul. Photo: Thomas Ruttig

The first traffic jam at Indira Gandhi hospital.
A push-cart with eggfruit stuck amongst taxis and UN cars.
Bicycle riders head on in the traffic.
Landcruisers with tinted window and no number plate using the left side of the street.
The threatening red sign at the last Humvee of a US convoy: Keep away!

Zargai pharmacy.
Ghulam Nabi felez.
Suraya beauty salon.
Hashemi real estate consultant.
Hajizada restaurant.
Fat Man’s Forest.
Ghazanfar Bank.
Zirak ‘Plastics and Almonium’.
Kids playing cricket in the dust of UAE embassy compound to be built since 20 years.
The smell of fresh nan.

Kabul City Restaurant – with Original Kentucky Steak Bar, opening 9 July.
Iranian sweets in a pastry shop.
An ATM machine in Finest Supermarket.
A Hazara cart-pusher sleeping on his vehicle in the shade.

Sitting on a chahrpai in the garden at 9 in the evening.
The full moon behind the dark silhouette of a cedar tree.
Ramazan Quran reading via overamplified speakers.
Helicopters circling overhead.
Stray dogs barking all night against the sound of the airplanes.

Noises from the kitchen at 3 in the morning.
Doves at the windowsill with first light, picking the glass.
Parrots like green lightnings in the garden of Guesthouse 26.
Three men shoveling garbage on a lorry.
A police guard listening to his transistor radio.
A man in a gold-buttoned suit looking for a taxi.
Two women in long skirts crossing the road in slow motion.
Turbaned Pashtuns with black eyes bundling spring onions for sale.
A lone worker pouring concrete at the entrance of Gulbahar centre.
A taxi stopping in the middle of the road for chat with the policeman.
The pidgeons at Du Shamshira mosque.
The painted gym signs with their hypertrophic muscle men.
A Janet Jackson poster in the window of a barber shop (‘islahat-e mui’).
The boy in the red T-shirt with the large ghetto-blaster
The beggars at the speedbreakers hoping for alms.
The mayor’s office starting a campaign against begging in Ramazan.

Haji Abdurrahman Tyre-Furush mosque opening soon.
Freshly laid pavement stones.
(Almost) 24 h power supply – after seven years, and no one really noticing any more.

Kam Air announcing it accepts Visa and Masters.
A banner with a beautiful girl advertising Islamic banking.
Boys waving money for change and strips of phone cards.
Public phone booths in Taimani no one is using.
All kinds of melons from Mazar, Kunduz and Kandahar at the roadside.
A billboard saying ‘Poppy is poison’.
Another on Kulula Pushta announcing an election concert with Farhad Darya (that never happened?)

Wazir Akbar Khan with barriers at almost all crossroads.
Hesco containers growing like cancer.
The walls around houses getting higher and higher.
The guards with their body armour and AK 47 darting out the gate next door whenever I ring at my guesthouse.

The bookshops at Sedarat Chowk, gone.
The spare parts and tyre shops at ‘Generator Street’, gone.
Green Door Bazaar knocked down, replaced with Peshawari style plazas.
Kabul river, a dump of plastic bottles and junk again.

Sherpur with its horrendous villas and unpaved roads.
Barbed wire in front of cheap columns copied from White House.
Sham-e Paris Wedding Hall.
A blue-windowed monster growing near Microrayon.
Microrayon’s grenade hole-riddled balconies and water pressure for only half of the floors.
A white military Zeppelin on a leash hovering over the city.

Ariana Chowk blocked
Foreign Ministry Street blocked.
Loy Carenwali Street blocked
The street in front of the German embassy blocked; thick metal panes bolted in front of what were its windows.
Dahan-e Nal blocked.
‘No pictures of US Embassy’ from the Massud circle column.

Tunnel-like concrete walls along MoI Street.
Tunnel-like concrete walls between UNAMA B and Camp Eggers.
The relief when walking through Kabul University campus with girls in glittery black scarves and gel-ed boys in bleached blue jeans.
Student playing with kites or reading on the lawn.

The waste scavenger at night, with a torch-light in his mouth, reading a newspaper he found in the garbage.
The old turbaned man sipping tea next to the road opposite bombed-out Barikot cinema.
A man on a bicycle handing out dates to passers-by a few minutes before iftar.
The young guy who gives a fresh nan to the elderly beggar woman in the torn burqa – and his smile when I give him thumbs up.

Over 30 degrees in the shadow, then a hail shower in mid-August.
First snow at the Salang.

(to be continued?)