What’s It Like Living in Kabul?

November 22, 2013

city290What’s it like living in Kabul I am asked? I have no idea really. The people in the old city live with no electricity or running water, walk miles to get to the markets and freeze in the depths of winter in their mud brick houses.  Oh, you mean what’s it like for me to live here? Well, I’m not really living here. Just passing through. It’s the story of Afghanistan you know. Everyone just passes through. The Americans are the latest to come and go. The Taliban had a brief flirtation, the Soviets before them. The British and Russians. Genghis Khan. Persians. Aryans. Alexander the Great and a whole host beside, not counting the merchants who walked east and west along the silk road that cuts from east to west a stone’s throw north of here. Seeing evidence of the Soviet occupation gives the experience a Far Away Tree feel to the place, for I have been here before, even though this is my first visit.  Read more

The Genie of Fez Goes Shopping

November 21, 2013

mall290Othello sits on the edge of a fountain, his white thobe draped across his knees on which he has placed his outstretched hands, elbows locked. He gazes about as if in surprise, his dark eyes catching and reflecting his wonder. Above his white keffiyeh prancing horses rear out of a fountain, clearly confused about their pedigree –a mix of romantic French design and crass imitation, modern, faux classical Greek. It fails on every count except one – the sound of the water is soothing, drowning out the chatter of the peasant  and the awful piped music. It helps ease my migraine as I wash down medicine with a thick cup of chocolate and try and prevent smoke leaking from my ears. That time travel is so damn inconvenient and painful. I distract myself from the firebrand lanced though my temple as I watch Othello. He’s lost in the grandeur and vastness of the atrium in which he sits, the  brightly lit dome ceiling of glass and faux iron vaulting a hundred feet or more above him. But he is barely seated on his pew when he is greeted by fellow worshippers and they embrace, adjust keffiyeh and agals  knocked askew in the passion of their greetings, slap palms and knock knuckles before they shuffle off. It’s the curse of these sandal wearing people, that they slide their feet along least their thonged footwear comes loose. Jeanette could care less and tells me not to fuss but I could tolerate a little more care and precision and less sloppy walking. I must be getting old.  Read more

A Night in Kabul

November 12, 2013

street290In the same way that Baghdad left me with the enduring image of ordinary folk trying to get on with their lives Kabul is impressing me with the same. Grandma wobbles through the mud on her pushbike. A mother hurries along the sidewalk. A boy wanders along adjusting his kameez, followed by a bear of a father who is carrying an enormous bundle over his shoulder and a lovely walnut stocked hunting rifle in the other hand. The boys across the road are tossing bricks up into the building where yesterday they were mixing and pouring cement.  Unlike Baghdad however there is a vibrant flurry of enthusiastic business and construction activity, some of the latter no doubt attributable to the pending winter months. Read more

Welcome to Afghanistan

November 7, 2013

kabul290My last night before heading to Kabul tomorrow On an airline that I don’t know owned by a government (or at least flagged by them – turns out it’s privately owned) which any number of ratbag elements would love to target. Of that I have no doubt. I have always wanted to visit this ‘great game’ of a place and had even attempted to do so when Franko was there. But those plans didn’t come to anything unfortunately. Tomorrow it all happens and I am very much looking forward to it. Mind you, so many people have expressed alarm at the idea I have have been tempted into thinking I need my head read. Fortunately I have none willing, or more to the point, none able to read my head so off I go, trusting to God and pushing the envelope a little. Once more. But even as I write that I know this is no more a big deal than travelling to the south side of Washington DC to talk to potential healthcare clients. Coming to harm in that place was so real a possibility my cab driver didn’t stop to allow me to alight nor did he want his change. I had to jump from a moving car in order to make my appointment. Read more