A view of the mountains around the city from Babur’s Gardens:
Security contractors driving through the city. We were stuck in traffic next to them for a while and had a good conversation with them as they were funny as hell:
The only shopping mall in Afghanistan. The new shopping mall, with escalators in a city where constant electricity is a luxury, offers Western-style clothes, gold jewelry, a cafe. A fast-food establishment, mimicking American chains, offers fried chicken and fries instead of lamb kebab and rice. Doesn’t fit into your mental picture of Kabul, let alone Afghanistan, does it? There are guards everywhere and one must pass through a metal detector and submit to a bag check before entering. So, it’s still Afghanistan:
One of the guards in front of the shopping mall:
Flower Street lined with bags for sale:
Afghan hipster on Flower Street:
A view down the famous Chicken Street:
Groups of kids will approach you on Chicken Street and offer to carry your bags for you, show you the best places for a deal, keep the beggars away, etc. all for a very small tip at the end of the day.
I hired the kid on the left in the picture below, named Forward. Multilingual, quite intelligent and full of great stories, he is one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met. He joked that he was my bodyguard and introduced me to a number of fascinating people and showed me a number of areas not normally visited by non-Afghans.
I tipped Forward and his friend a relative fortune in Afghan terms at the end of the day ($10). I sincerely wish him the best and hope that the future of Afghanistan permits individuals such as him to realize their full potential.
And if you’re ever on Chicken Street, by all means, hire him. You won’t regret it:
A Hazarra carpet merchant along Chicken Street. His daughter attends GW University:
An antique store along Chicken Street. Those of you that are into antiques need to come to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan if you wish to see some truly jaw-dropping antiques and prices:
A 9/11 war rug… This is not a rug in support of 9/11. The Afghans weave rugs to document historic events (which this unquestionably was for both Americans and Afghans). Notice the detail in the rug, such as people leaping from the burning towers:
This is a war rug depicting the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union:
One of the few places in Kabul where one can get a beer – the Dehli Darbar Indian restaurant. A Heineken has never tasted so good to me before or since:
Returning to Kabul from Maymana… The city was very tense and soldiers were everywhere. We found out when we arrived at our destination that we had returned right in the middle of a major assassination attempt on President Karzai:
Desperation and depression in Kabul:
The next day we caught a flight to Herat. This is the front of the Kabul airport and the soldier walking purposefully toward me is a micro-second away from yelling at me for taking a picture:
However, President Karzai commandeered our airplane to evacuate the country until things settled down. His convoy drove right past us and the security provided by the Blackwater guards and Afghan special forces is impressive. I’ve never had so many guns pointed at me in such a short period of time.
Even though it was hours before another plane would arrive to take us to Herat, I didn’t mind because I enjoyed meeting other people that were waiting. The mother and daughter below are Iranian and the daughter’s name is Sahar. I have an open invitation to visit them in Iran and still communicate with Sahar regularly:
Finally cleared to walk out on the tarmac toward our airplane, here is a view of the Kabul airport:
Lined up to get onto the airplane, we had to submit to another security check. Men and women in separate lines, of course:
A view of our airplane.
After we settled into our seats, the guy next to me opened up his carry-on bag to check on its contents – a live chicken!
Kabul from the air: