Parwan-e-Se roundabout. June 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.
You don’t see many foreigners nowadays on the streets of Kabul, in fact almost none. Perhaps a little bit in Taimani, where many have guesthouses, or in Qala-e-Fatullah, where the neighbourhood is mainly Shi’ite. And that’s it.
In Shar-e-Now park on Friday morning there are Kowk fights. An emotional, visual spectacle, so attractive, so pictorial. Hands of kowks handlers tremble, hundreds of spectators bet on hopefully the winning partridge. Dwellers of Kabul slums will bring their birds and offer you a show. A child will ask you – “uncle, where are you from?”, every second (at least!) picnicking group will invite you for a tea and to share their bread. And once you get to the fights, the crowd will open, accept and assimilate you. It will push you towards and offer a place in the front row of squatting men, where the view is the best. And you will see no foreigner there. Often not a single one. The paranoia of believing that Mullah Omar is just in front of the gate of foreigner’s house waiting to fire an RPG round – it is there.
We develop fear in this city because it’s populated by Afghans, people who speak incomprehensible language, wear other clothes than us, and have the history of war affecting each and every family here. And those are people that will always greet you on street, will take care of you, will smile, will share their bread. Can you find another place in the world where taxi drivers that will often reject accepting the fare saying “you are our guest”? I don’t think so.