Yup it’s Hogmanay in Kabul. First time for many years I’ve seen in the New Year with a cup of tea. Singing, dancing, and not a drop to drink. And that’s this afternoon at work. Not safe to hang around after dark.
Now to Kabul itself. In a better world the Travel Advisory entry should read:
“After a hard day walking the ruins of an ancient Buddhist temple complex, we returned in our luxury coach to the Kabul Hilton and settled gently onto the sun deck where we sipped exquisite cocktails. The sun was sinking slowly over the majestic snow-capped mountains, reflecting off the silvery Kabul river as it headed off downstream. Our waitress, as fine an example of the beauty that is Afghan womanhood as you could find, brought over a refill and a small platter of snacks to nibble on. The merry cries of the street vendors below lent an exotic romance to the scene”.
Let me rewrite.
1. The Taliban destroyed all the Buddhist temples and replaced them with mines. Walk around one and you will lose your legs.
2. No Hilton, no booze, no cocktails.
3. Mountains yes, and very spectacular, but the Kabul river is an open sewer. Saw a dead horse floating down it yesterday.
4. Afghan women are not pretty. An ethnic mixture of Indian, oriental and the Russian stans, they have a hard life and they show it. I have yet to see one that would cause even the mildest twitch in father’s southern fruits after eleventeen pints of Old Overcoat.
5. Merry cries, more like demented shrieking, punctuated by the occasional bang and/or gunshot as the crazies resolve their issues.
I live and work in secure compounds built on the mediaeval castle concept of rings of protection, Big walls, outer bailey, more big walls, inner bailey, more big walls, then the living and working complex. Armed security guards every few feet. Get up, go to work in an armed convoy, work, come home again in an armed convoy, eat, sleep. Dead exciting. Seeing what’s on the Indian movie channel becomes exciting.
Kabul – Imagine seeing every bloke in the street carrying some sort of weapon, from a pistol, via an AK to an RPG rocket launcher. Imagine full-on fully armed military convoys muscling their way through the traffic. Imagine the architecture of the Alexandra township in the 80s. Imagine Butterworth today. Imagine taxi drivers that could teach our SA lads a thing or two. That’s Kabul.
Not a place I will be adding to my list of favourite holiday spots.
But the people are really nice when they aren’t shooting at you.