I really haven’t seen much of Afghanistan, only the largest city and capital, Kabul. Kabul is pretty unusual by western standards of course, but it also seems pretty secular by middle eastern standards. There are women on the streets with their faces uncovered, which i rarely saw in Jordan last year.
I didn’t see people doing prayers all the time and the call to prayer was not as pervasive as in other Muslim countries i have visited. It feels like the west has been tentatively embraced, if somewhat untrustingly. However, the feeling is that anything could happen when the remainder of the NATO troops move out at the end the year. It may not be safe for the festival to be held again.
Kabul is a sprawling city with about 4 million people and not much highrise. theres not many large gardens or parks but there are lots of small gardens and trees in people backyards which they seem to obssessively water. It’s really dry and dusty up here, it’s at 1800m. The fine dust gets in everything.
NATO Black hawks and Chinooks (helicopters) fly over every few hours, which you get used to. It was a reminder of the military presence here, as was a convoy of three of these huge trucks yesterday, at least twice the height of a normal car with a machine gun turret on top…
There is quite a lot of poverty but not more than I’ve seen in southeast Asia or central America. The small scale reconstruction after all the bombing was interesting to see, people straightening steel rods and breaking stones with hammers to build new buildings, heaps of new construction going on. Very slowly it seems, lunchtime is very important and everything stops for however long lunch takes.
Last night, the festival crew had dinner at the home of some ex-army aussies that work in private security. It was a flash house with quite cheap rent by Australian standards ($1500 per month) and I’m talking 3 story, marble floors, 3 living areas, a rooftop and about 6 large bedrooms. I guess there’s danger money to be made, I think they ‘look after people’ working for NGOs.
This morning Jase and I went for a walk to a couple of fortresses, the first was a British one guarded by two boys with AKs, they seriously couldnt have been older than 16. Anyway they let us look around for US$10, the whole place was strangely deserted considering it is the highest hill near the centre of Kabul. I took some cool photos and buried some stones a Melbourne medicine woman gave to me to help heal the land.
And here’s a couple of pics from a Persian looking fortress on the next hill….
There was a great 360 degree view of Kabul from the top of the English fortress, here’s a video…
We walked through a bunch of busy streets but in the side streets, all the homes were quiet and seemed empty. It was a bit eerie and I could imagine a million hidden eyes watching us but who knows really. Sometimes a guy would walk down the street yelling out to all the houses. Jason told me that how workers advertise their services to the householders.
I didn’t have any money until the last day or so when I borrowed some off Travis the festival organiser, so when I got asked for money, I could honestly say I didn’t have any. We spent a day cruising round doing missions with Qais, a guitarist in local metal band District Unknown, who helps with festival business. We went to a couple of local markets but I don’t know, I haven’t had much luck at local markets in poor countries, it always seems like piles of mass produced chinese crap, just like in a western mall. We found a nice scarf place and spent a few dollars on some afghan scarves.
Jase and I went to a local grocery and bought veges to cook everyone a couple of vege curries. It cost us about $5 for enough food for 6 people. The old guys in the vege shop used medieval balance scales with lead weights and we bought almost every type of vegetable they had. The produce was definately ‘organic’.
It was unusual walking around the streets, I guess a typical Afghan would get similar stares walking down the street in Melbourne. Some cute street kids on the way back from the fortresses yelled out a combination of “Hello, how are you” and “Fuck you motherfucker”… equally endearing to me.
Last night I had an amazing jam with 2 of the guys from the District Unknown, i was messing around with DnB beats while they played with bass, guitar and filters overtop, we recorded a few things, hopefully the synth/guitar player Sully who recorded it puts something cool together. It could have been that we were pretty high and it sounded better than it was…
There are absolutely no road rules, no lines, and roundabouts are the funniest, both sides of the road go round both ways. We had traffic jams on the way to the airport and had to go through about 8 security checks, multiple unloading of gear, unpacking pockets, explaining that it was music gear not bombs and yes, that knife was small and a gift. I am a difficult person to travel with, I have a lot of shit in my pockets, I have a hole in my foot, and my belt broke on the last afternoon so my pants were constantly falling down, all the way back to Melbourne.
The people have been 90% friendly and honest, that I have met anyway. I guess the only thing that seems dangerous about this place are the number of assault rifles, they are everywhere. It’s legal to own a handgun or shotgun here. What can I say, this is Kabul, check out some of my photos….
Thanks for your continued interest, please feel free to share with anyone interested in this beautiful wartorn place… And if you have any questions, just comment below…