internationally in July 2003 as
First published in
A WALK THROUGH
This walk is for those who are new to the city and who want a
gentle introduction to a few of its sights and sounds. It starts at the
Mustafa Hotel, the best hotel for first time visitors and ends at the
Deutsche Hof with a stein full of ice cold German
beer. It takes less than an hour and you could make a day of a round trip and
a good lunch (the
There’ll be more walks in future issues, including a trip to the
Ka Farushi bird market in the middle of the teeming
bazaar, the Bibi Mahro
hill and the Royal Family mausoleum. But for now, take a trip through central
Well the mini-skirts are no more and some of the taller buildings bear the scars of war, but in spite of everything, the rest is pretty much the same.
If you’re worried about security ask for advice at the Mustafa Hotel. The owner, Wais Faisi, is streetwise and knows more about what’s going on than most of the security experts from western agencies here.
I have walked all over
OK, so you’re standing with your back to the Mustafa Hotel entrance watching the Afghan police shouting at Corolla drivers.
Check out the kebab shops opposite – the grills and the Bollywood radios come on at and last well into the night – and if you’re not hungry, turn right.
Turn right into what was known as Chahrahi Taurabaz Khan until the hippies turned up. It’s lined with shops selling beautiful carpets, kilims, George Bush rugs and tasteless 9/11 war rugs that even the shopkeepers who stock them seem ashamed to display. There are also, sadly, illegally poached furs on offer, particularly in the shops on the right as you enter the Mustafa end of the street.
Shopkeepers will invite you to see their wares. By all means take up the offer. Some westerners complain that the shops here are expensive and that you’ll be ripped off. In my view that’s rich coming from some desk jockey on $4,000 a month – twenty times the average Afghan salary. But it’s up to you and it’s always free to look.
As you walk down
Make friends with them. Get to know their names. They’re good kids and they’ll be keen to practice their English – and yes, most of them go to school these days.
Last time I was there, the latest commodity on sale was a stash of Iraqi bank notes bearing a picture of Saddam. You never know what they’ll come up with next. And if it all gets too much, pile into a shop for a while until the excitement dies down.
Burkha-clad women, waving prescriptions for drugs that they’ll beg you to help them buy will also approach you. Don’t. It’s a scam.
The best shop in
Right. So now you’re at the bottom end of
A bit further down and you’ll find dozens of shops that sell artificial flowers for wedding parties. If you’ve brought a limousine with you they’ll decorate it expertly for the happy occasion. If you haven’t, you could always watch someone else get the floral treatment or just have a peek at the designs in any of their shops.
Time now to double back as far as that road that you crossed.
Turn right and keep walking. You’ll pass the
This is a great park: people playing volleyball and cricket, soaking up the sun, chatting. Amble across it towards The Park Cinema once again showing all the latest Bollywood releases. This is a busy part of town even when the cinema is closed: lots of stalls selling snacks and kebabs. It looks great at night, but be careful.
As you leave the park, the road in front of you is called Jadayi Sulh. Turn left and follow it right to the end.
Shortly you’ll see a mosque on your right. It’s known as the Roshan mosque because of the huge telecom billboard some philistine has erected in front of it.
But it’s properly known as the Masjid-I-Haji
Yaqub, or Sherpur Mosque
and it’s worth a look, as long as you ask for permission. Built in 1957 it is
full of blue tiles from
Keep going along the Jadayi Sulh and you’ll come to a t-junction. Turn right. On your
left on a hill overlooking the city is an impressive fort known as Kolola Pushta. It has been
fought over for centuries, notably in the battle for
If you watch from the road you’ll see children walking up to it
on goat trails. Don’t be tempted to follow them. The site is mined and the
Emergency hospital in
Keep on walking until you reach a junction where you’ll find one
of the growing number of shops in
Follow the quiet, mainly residential road for about 500m and on your left-hand side you’ll find the entrance to the Deutsche Hof. You can’t miss it. The bollards outside are painted in the colours of the German flag.
Pop inside and you’ll find a restaurant, a hotel and a beer garden. It’s run by Gunter Volker from Thueringen. There’s draft beer and schnitzels on offer and if you’re really lucky, Gunter will be wearing his lederhosen.
Paul Vickers is a
WALKING SCENE – ON THE GRAND TOUR OF
By Vanni Cappelli
IT is a sad fact of expatriate life in
Boxed in by security fears, naturally reticent when faced with the unfamiliar, and unwilling to tread in places where sights, sounds, and smells border on uncomfortable, they never stray far from the path of absolute necessity or convenience. Which is a pity.
For by resolutely sticking to hotels,
guesthouses, offices and restaurants - and always travelling between them by
car or 4x4 - they are denying themselves a unique, unforgettable, and
life-enriching experience: the magic and mystery of
Having explored the great cities of
And arriving in
Although these words were published
more than thirty years ago - before tragedy overwhelmed
However, emerging from the ruins we
are starting to see a new look
Imagine looking from the must-stay
Mustafa Hotel knowing that the massive pile before you is not really ‘
Imagine walking through the leafy streets of Wazir Akbar Khan knowing that the great sand heap of Bemaru Hill actually draws its name from a tragic love story!
And how stirring to know that the
Shah-do-Shamshira mosque by
Everywhere you go in
So much so, that by the end of my
first trip to
And those brave souls who - fortified by a hearty meal at the Marco Polo Restaurant - have been willing to exercise their leg muscles and accrue some good ol’ Kabul dust can testify that the high point of their Kabul experience has not come via a glowing computer or a fabulous expat party, but by seeking out scenes of past and present grandeur.
Thus, those who are willing to go behind the Bala Hissar - Kabul's ancient citadel “where few feringhee dare to tread” - can experience the majesty of the Shohada-i-Salehin cemetery, with its hillside tombs, vegetation, and leaping frogs . . . living proof that life forever springs forth from death.
Thus, those who are willing to plunge
into the labyrinth of narrow streets behind the Pul-i-Khisti
mosque can revel in the colour of the Kah Froshi -
Thus, those willing to walk beside the
luscious fields beyond the Pul-i-Arten bridge will
But, don’t get me wrong.
Over some three years of extensive and dogged wandering, I have never felt any serious threat to my safety and my interactions with the citizens of this fair city have been far more pleasant than they have been annoying.
So, go get yourself a copy of Nancy Dupree’s guide - update it with Dominic Medley and Jude Barrand’s indispensable Survival Guide To Kabul - and find some kindred souls willing to turn a tour of duty into a great adventure.
I promise you, you’ll look back on it as the time of your life.
Vanni Cappelli is a freelance journalist who
The Survival Guide to