The Survival Guide to Kabul©

Published internationally in July 2003 as Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide.

First published in Kabul in September 2002 as a pamphlet.



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Wais Faizi, Manager, The Mustafa Hotel


Died December 27 2006, Kabul


Please see Bulletin Board for further memories and details. is now online and a magazine will be produced in his memory.


All photographs and stories welcome.


Some pictures received so far are temporarily at






On Wais


Wais featured in Christina Lamb’s The Sewing Circles of Herat: ‘We quickly nicknamed Wais “the Fonz of Kabul” for his New Jersey accent and fast-talking “tell me whaddya want, Wais can geddit” manner. A short but powerful-shouldered man of 31 with a jutting chin and passion for Al Pacino movies, he was a former body-building champion and knew everyone in town.’



Unpublished piece from 2004 written by Dominic Medley. I lived in the Mustafa Hotel for ten months in 2004 but have known Wais since early 2002. In a city of transient friendships he was the enduring one.

Wais Faizi is the manager of the Mustafa Hotel in Kabul. He’s our friend and hero of the hotel. He’s been a friend to every guest that has ever stayed there. He’s helped them all, whatever they do, during their time in Kabul.

Wais was probably first made famous by the UK Sunday Times correspondent Christina Lamb. In December 2001, just a couple of weeks after the fall of the Taliban, she drove around Kabul in Wais’ 1968 Camero convertible. Christina nicknamed Wais “The Fonz of Kabul”.

Wais is in his late thirties. He spent much of his childhood in Germany and then New Jersey. His accent is from New York, where he worked as a car dealer, mixed in with his love of Al Pacino in the film Scarface.

For much of the 1990s Wais was in and out of Kabul from New York. He grew his beard when necessary during the Taliban regime, and shaved for the return to America.
Wais’ most treasured possession has to be his Glock automatic pistol. He’s also got an infra red sight for it; he’s just missing a silencer. On one occasion a fellow journalist Dan, spotted someone walking on the roof of the Mustafa Hotel. Wais rushed up to the terrace locking and loading his Glock as he ran up the stairs. Sure enough on the roof was an Afghan crawling along the corrugated metal. Wais shouted and then lit the guy up like a Christmas tree with the red spot from the infra red dead centre on his chest. Massood from the bar, a boxer, jumped onto the roof and got the guy in a headlock. All the time Wais had the roof crawler illuminated with his infra red sights. Wais probably wasn’t desperate to let a round off, he spends enough time in shooting ranges, but he would have done anything to defend his family’s business. The Afghan claimed he was returning to one of his shops where he’d left a key and couldn’t get back in through the door.

Wais is one of the most generous people in Kabul. He throws regular BBQs and kebab nights, he takes people out and about in his convertible and his Wrangler jeep, he lays on Red, Black, Blue and Green label Johnny Walker whiskeys and has always been a source of information for journalists. In the early days of the hotel at the end of 2001 and early 2002, every journalist in Afghanistan ended up staying at the Mustafa Hotel. There was just no where else to stay and no where else to hang out with colleagues. But by the October 2004 presidential elections it was interesting to see how many returned to stay in the Mustafa Hotel or had moved to the more upmarket Gandamack Lodge set up by BBC cameraman Peter Jouvenal. Wais would shout “I helped all these guys and look how few of them god dam don’t even bother to come and say hello. If it wasn’t for me here they’d be stuck in the god dam Panjshir valley.”



Older material:


Wais was a great supporter of this guide. In July 2003 we hosted An Evening with Ahmed Rashid on the Mustafa Hotel terrace.


Wais also had the guide’s web address painted on the hotel walls.


Photos of the Mustafa Hotel.


كابل، افغانستان

The Survival Guide to Kabul©