Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

Sal-e Naw Mubarak! Neway kal-mu mubarak!

Kate Clark < 1 min

AAN would like to wish all our beloved readers and contributors a peaceful and happy new year.

The signs of spring are all about us here in Kabul – blossom on the almond trees, cats a-courting and sunshine, warm and pleasant, is mixed with thunder showers. The mud underfoot is drying to dust in the back streets and not so back streets of the Afghan capital and two days before Nawruz, we saw our first swallow newly back from its overwintering in Africa and heard our first ice-cream cart.

The first ice-cream seller of the season, Nur Rahman, pictured here, has come from Batikot in Nangarhar. It’s hard work, he said, but the economic situation at home is worse. The tune of his cart (which belongs not to him, but to a company) is ‘Happy birthday to you’, surely the most dreary of melodies, as each line in the quatrain repeats almost exactly its predecessor in terms of tune and rhythm. Recorded on a nasty, tinny keyboard, it plays out over and over and over again as Mr Nur Rahman trundles through the mud and dust of the Afghan capital. The sound may be beloved of children, but as spring wears into summer it becomes unbearable to the ears of most residents and is an oppression which surely only the most economically desperate could endure. But surely, also, this is the sound of spring in modern Kabul. So, with apologies to Ahmad Zahir:

Agar bahar bi-ayad
Tarana-ha khaham khanam
Taranaha-ha-ye ice-cream
Che asheqana khaham khanam

‘If spring came, what poems would I sing, what poems of ice-cream, of what love would I sing.’


Mubarak Kabul