Life on the streets of Kabul - Part Two

Afghanistan may not seem like the most organised place to travel - inadequate infrastructure for tourists, a high security threat warning especially in certain areas, and a lack of traveller comforts - but I only experienced a beautiful and welcoming country whether in Kabul, or while travelling overland to Mazar-i-Sharif.

afghan soldier in kabul

No words can do it justice...

Before my trip, I questioned myself whether all the risk was worth it. But at the end of the day I was blessed with some of the most unique experiences a traveller could ever have on this earth. One of those memories was travelling through one of the most severe, history-laden and risky thoroughfares in the world, the Salang Pass.

 

The Salang Pass is a historic area of many tragedies, but also of indefinite beauty. It is a major mountain pass that connects the Kabul region to both northern and southern Afghanistan. Crossing the Hindu Kush at 3,800 meters in the middle of the night must have been one of the most momentous times of my trip. I was speechless, no words could do justice to what I'd seen that very night. It was nature at its absolute best.

russian tanks in afghanistan

The war stricken facade...

Kabul also offered moments like these, especially when I visited the most iconic building of the country, the Darulaman Palace. I guess no other building in Afghanistan could describe its own story as accurately as this one.

 

The war stricken walls of the palace could probably tell a hundred stories. For a little bribe I was allowed to go inside, which ended up to be such an incredible experience. As I walked through the old dining halls I closed my eyes and wished that I could travel back in time to when canapés were served at glamorous parties and grand music was played at the palace. But I was also interested in the tragic times when the only sounds ringing through the halls was the barrage of artillery hitting the building during the civil war. The place had quite a special atmosphere unlike any other place in Kabul.

Darul Aman Palace

Either dead or alive...

You will also find places full of life in in the largest city in Afghanistan. Along the river you'll find the quaint local markets where you can buy the most interesting things, from all sorts of animals (either dead or alive), seasonings and fragrant spices, clothes, interesting looking birds and lots and lots of vegetables presented on some wobbly old wooden tables.

kabul local market

A weird looking ritual...

While I would stroll along the river I would almost choke due to the heavy and terrifying smell of all the litter scattered on the streets. I noticed a group of people kneeling on the dried-out riverbed bit of it. All of them were tenting up their scarves around their faces.

 

This looked like a weird ritual and I was told that this was where dozen of Afghan drug addicts gathered to either shoot up heroin or smoke it, surrounded by garbage which covered nearly every inch of ground. This to me seemed like such an interesting correlation between human interaction and their personal surroundings.

drug addict kabul

A sad fact...

The country is the world’s largest producer of poppy opium, the raw material from which heroin is made. Another sad fact is that Afghans have also become a leading consumer of the drug. An estimated one million citizens are considered to be addicted. This is a serious problem that the country has to face in the near future if the government doesn't start acting soon.


Another, more enjoyable addiction that the country seems to enjoy is cricket. Every street, park or courtyard is filled with young Afghans batting the ball. It only stands for its progress that in 2015 the Afghan cricket team qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia for the first time ever since the end of the Taliban regime, when any kind of sport was completely banned.

blue mosque mazar

The best way a guest could have been treated...

Afghanistan still has a very long road to go and nobody would agree that it was going to be easy after decades of war, but that's no surprise. I did not come to Afghanistan as a soldier or as a diplomat but as a guest, and I was treated in the very best way imaginable.

 

The best way a guest could have been treated. Doesn't it say a lot about its people? Many people may think Afghans carry a lot of hate in their hearts but I only ever encountered kindness and love, respect and dignity for one another. I would visit the country again and I will very soon because Afghanistan and its people definitely deserve more attention.  

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