Grand Overland Voyage (2005-2009)

Jalanjalan (2009): The Secret World of Kirghiz

 Jalanjalan (May, 2009) The Secret World of Kirghiz Gadis-gadis yang tak pernah melihat dunia menikah dengan mahar seratus ekor domba. Gulagula dilempar ke angkasa dan pertandingan polo buzkashi dengan domba tanpa kepala digelar guna mengobati ratapan mereka. Agustinus Wibowo pergi ke Pegunungan Pamir dan menyaksikan ritual pernikahan suku Kirghiz itu. Dari pelosok Afghanistan, ia menuturkan kisahnya. “Semua orang punya mimpi,” kata Khudainazar, “Mimpi gadis-gadis Pamir adalah memperoleh suami yang kaya, ternak yang melimpah, dan anak yang banyak. Sederhana, karena mereka tidak pernah melihat dunia di luar Pamir.” Salju mengguyur Lembah Manara di Pegunungan Pamir. Pada ketinggian lebih dari 4.500 meter, musim panas di sini tak pernah benar-benar panas. Sebaliknya, hujan dan salju lebat terkadang melumat padang rumput hijau di tengah keroyokan gunung raksasa. Tak ada hari yang bisa dilewatkan tanpa meringkuk di tepi perapian. Hanya bangsa nomaden Kirghiz yang mampu bertahan di alam sekeras ini, di ujung terjauh negeri Afghan. Khudainazar, pria empat puluh tahunan berjaket hitam tebal berlapis, menuang teh susu yak yang hambar ke mangkok saya. Ia menyeringai ramah, memamerkan barisan gigi depannya yang tonggos. “Bagaimana tidurmu semalam? Cukup hangatkah?” tanyanya ramah. Di tempat sedingin ini, hangat bersinonim dengan nyaman. Kami duduk di tepi perapian yang hangat. Pagi [...]

April 29, 2009 // 1 Comment

Bomb in front of Indonesian Embassy in Kabul

I am not in Kabul at this moment, but was very much shocked to read a friend’s SMS: Bomb outside of Indian and Indonesian embassies in Kabul. Casualties. All Indonesian friends are safe. Building damaged. Later, I read more on the Internet. The bomb happened at 8:25 a.m., the busy hour when dozens of visa applicants queueing in front of the Indian embassy. The Indonesian embassy was not the target, but unluckily it was located right next to the Indian embassy. The location is on sensitive area of Ministry of Interior street, heavily guarded everyday during office hours as a deadly bomb blast in 2006 here. On the same street is also the Pajhwok Afghan News Office, where I used to live in Kabul. Here is a photo of the scene after the bomb blast, taken by photographer colleague of Pajhwok, Ahmadullah Salemi The deadly bomb blast At the right side, far behind, the white building is the Indonesian embassy. Despite of the worsening security in Kabul, the embassy still puts its office right beside the main street. The result of this blast, the building is damaged and some diplomats are wounded. Body pieces even reached the tennis lawn, about [...]

July 7, 2008 // 6 Comments

Bam – The Flattened Civilization

From what is left, you still can be amazed by the grandeur of an advanced ancient civilization 27 December 2003, the small town of Bam – located in southeastern Iran, about 300 kilometers from Kerman – was shocked by 6.8 Richter-scale earthquake. More than 40,000 were killed. Asides of the human casualty, Iran has another thing to grieve, as one of its civilization jewels was nothing but flattened. The ancient mud city of Bam used to be one of the strongest tourism magnets in Iran. People claimed it has 3,000 years of history, at least from the Sassanian period. Thousands of interesting old mud houses, sprawl under a giant mud citadel, giving exotic fairytale impression. I adore the old pictures of Bam, which are still hanged everywhere to remind how majestic the place used to be. But, the view of Arg-e-Bam (the ancient citadel surrounded by the mud city) today makes me weeping. The place is in severe desolation. The citadel which was appraised by Marco Polo and other ancient travelers now turned to be rubble. The old town become sad crumbling remains and debris. Workers are everywhere, hoping to restore the old town to its ancient glory, but not [...]

June 14, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kerman – Life of Afghan Children

New life for Ismail here in Iran, totally different from what he dreamed of before. Ismail, 15 years old, is another ordinary story of an ordinary Afghan who is desperate of better life outside their homeland, and then found that life is not always as beautiful as dreams. The place where Ismail now work in live in southeastern Iranian city of Kerman cannot be called fancy. When others come to the Bazaar-e-Vakil for shopping or sightseeing, Ismail and his three Afghan compatriots work underground, digging holes for septic tanks of public toilets in the old bazaar area. From the dark hole, they brought out stones and sand, to be transported somewhere else. They work from 8 morning until 5 afternoon, earning about 15 dollars per day, much a better wage than the average income in Afghanistan. These young boys came from the northern Afghan province of Takhar, tuck between Kunduz and Badakhshan, about one full day journey from Kabul. Takhar, as I visited in 2006, was a dusty province with similarly dusty provincial capital town of Taloqan, wrapped in time where turbaned men and traditionally dressed nomads from the surrounding villages and grassland fill in the weekly animal market. Was [...]

June 12, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Welcome to Ariana Flight

The boarding room of Kabul International Airport. Everybody is ready to fly … The first encounter with Ariana – the Afghan national carrier – is not always thrilling. It might be a unique experience from the Afghan land. In last several months I have been working as a consultant for UN. This, more or less, has changed my preference in traveling. Probably I got spoiled already with those amenities, facilities, and luxuries. Today, the first day of me turning back to be a backpacker again, I feel a sudden shock. Usually I prefer to take overland trip, but this time, on my way going to Iran for a short holiday to change the routine in Kabul, I chose to fly Ariana. The Kabul – Herat’s 1000 kilometer distance can be reached through three different routes. The northern route, through Mazar-e-Sharif, takes at least four days, killing unpaved road full of dust of the desert Dasht-e-Laila at the end of its leg. I have experienced this in 2006 and am not so keen to try again. The second option is the Central Route, through Bamiyan, Ghour, and Heart provinces. Most of the roads are unpaved, hitchhiking is required, and in my [...]

June 9, 2008 // 3 Comments

Women’s Silk Factory in Kabul

AZANA is an Afghanistan women’s small enterprise aiming to a much bigger dream Not only they weave silk, they also weave their future. “AZANA has changed my life,” says Nazdana, a 16-year-old girl who just recently learned how to weave silk shawls in AZANA, a silk factory managed by a woman director and operated mostly by woman workers, in deep alley of Kabul, where job opportunities for women are still scarce. “Before joining AZANA, I used to only do house works. There are 14 people in my family, and I knew only how to cook food, wash their clothes, and clean our house. But, now I am very happy because I start to earn money from my own hands. Not only does Nazdana learn about silk weaving, now she starts to grab pens to write. Ms Shaima Breshna, the director of AZANA silk factory, provides literacy class for the female employees of the factory. Nazdana remembers, “At the first time [joining the class], I even did not know how to hold pencil. Other colleagues laughed at me. I felt ashamed and wondered whether I could really be learned. Even I could not do the simplest thing.” Ms Breshna with her [...]

June 2, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Assassination Attempt

He has managed to escape several assassination attempts. Who knows what happens next. Since the beginning of 2008, there had not been any big incidence in Kabul yet, until today, when the government and people of Afghanistan was proudly celebrating the victory of the Holy War, to commemorate the withdrawal of Russian troops. I did not go to the scene myself, as the program is restricted to accredited journalits (I am now a freelancer), but some colleagues from Pajhwok went there for reportage since early morning. Nobody expected that the yearly military parade turned to be assassination attempt to President Karzai, and the attack turned bloody. Some TV cameramen and photographers lost their cameras amid the chaos. Here is the updated news: ——————– Afghanistan’s President Karzai Is Safe After Attack (Update1) By Jay Shankar April 27 (Bloomberg) – Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and foreign dignitaries are safe after an attack on a military parade in the capital, Kabul, the government said. At least one person was killed, Agence France-Presse reported. “The national police and army acted swiftly and are doing their job,’’ the government said today in an e-mailed statement. Karzai was escorted to safety from the parade ground [...]

April 27, 2008 // 1 Comment

Kabul – Women Carpenters from Afghanistan

Woman carpenters from Dasht Barchi. Most if not all of them are Hazaras. Most people believe that carpentry is a man’s trade, but for the 60 carpentresses of Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi district, it simply isn’t true. “Women are able to do all kinds of work that men do,” they proclaim proudly. Hidden among mud houses which sit idly off of the main road, the center for carpentry is a local shura (council) where women learn about basic carpentry and build various items from cupboards, tables, computer desks, chairs to sandalis (heaters). A middle-aged woman is too happy to take me to the production center, where everything seems to happen all at once, located inside a small hut. “See, we are now able to handle heavy machinery,” she points out to several woodworking equipments that are modern-looking, where two or three women work in tandem to produce wood chops or create nail punctures and screw holes. Nails, chisels, hammers, sawing machines, screwdrivers are as familiar to these women as the pots and pans hanging inside their kitchens. Fatima Akbari, 42, is one among a handful of optimistic war-widow who promotes carpentry for women in her neighborhood. She encourages them to become involve [...]

April 3, 2008 // 3 Comments

Mazar-i-Sharif – Perayaan di Makam Suci

The holy flag in the holy shrine Perayaan Naoruz pun dimulai. Pukul 6 pagi, barisan orang sudah mengular di depan keempat pintu gerbang menuju Rawza Sharif, makam suci Hazrat Ali. Bangunan ini megah berdiri dengan kubah-kubahnya yang bak fantasi negeri seribu satu malam. Dindingnya berukir mozaik indah. Orang asing biasa menyebutnya sebagai Blue Mosque, walaupun gedung ini tidak biru dan sama sekali bukan masjid. Mazar, artinya kuburan. Sharif berarti yang agung. Mazar Sharif menjadi ternama karena dipercaya jenazah Hazrat Ali bin Abi Thalib, sepupu sekaligus menantu Nabi Muhammad, beristirahat di kota ini. Umat Sunni menganggap Ali sebagai khalifah keempat sedangkan Syiah menganggapnya sebagai Imam pertama. Di kalangan umat Syiah sendiri sebagaian besar menganggap tempat peristirahatan Ali (A.S) ada di Najaf, Iraq. Tetapi di Asia Tengah ada Mazar Sharif dan Shakhimardan (Uzbekistan) yang punya klaim yang sama. Bangunan megah Rawza terletak di tengah taman. Bangunan ini dibangun pada abad ke-13. Berbagai kesaksian mengenai kesucian tempat ini selalu menghiasi buah bibir orang Afghan. Makam suci Hazrat Ali dipenuhi oleh ribuan merpati putih. Konon merpati hitam yang datang akan dengan sendirinya berubah menjadi putih dalam 40 hari. Demikian pula ribuan orang yang datang ke Rawza di hari Naoruz ini. Semuanya menantikan mukjizat dari [...]

March 20, 2008 // 1 Comment

Mazar-i-Sharif – Malam Naoruz

Busy Mazar street and business before the great holy day Proses mengurus izin liputan Naoruz memang ribet. Saya mesti bolak balik ke kantor urusan kebudayaan, minta surat sana-sini, ketemu pejabat ini itu. Akhirnya kami baru sampai pada tahap akhir: penitipan kamera. “Kawanku,” kata bapak tua yang bertugas di kantor itu, “jangan lupa nanti kirim hadiah padaku ya.” Bapak itu berbicara bahasa Rusia. Entah mengapa di sini banyak sekali orang yang lebih bangga berbahasa Rusia dengan orang asing. Si bapak, walaupun baru ketemu pertama kali, sudah minta saya mencatat nomor telepon dan alamat di Indonesia. Mau kirim surat katanya. Kamera, lensa, batera, memory card kepunyaan saya, ditambah mikrofon dan kaset perekam milik Zabiullah, semuanya kami titipkan di kantor ini. Sudah ada antrean panjang jurnalis dan kameraman Afghan dan mancanegara. Petugas yang menerima pentitipan barang-barang berharga ini tampak begitu serabutan, bahkan untuk mencatat pun malas sekali. “Jangan kuatir,” katanya, “tidak akan ada yang rusak. Serahkan saja pada kami.” Bapak yang tadi minta kiriman hadiah itu juga meyakinkan saya, “besok pagi, jam 6 pagi, kamu tinggal datang ke Makam Hazrat Ali untuk mengambil barang-barang ini.” Kami cuma diberi secarik tanda terima sederhana, lebih kumal daripada karcis bus, tanpa kartu pengenal apa pun. “Ini [...]

March 19, 2008 // 0 Comments

Mazar-i-Sharif – Orang Pashtun

Pashtun guys having fun in Mazar Kantor Pajhwok Afghan News dipenuhi orang Pashtun. Selain Zabiullah Ehsas dan adiknya yang tinggal di sini, hari ini mereka kedatangan serombonan tamu dari Kabul. Sebagian dari tamu ini saya kenal sebelumnya, karena kami pernah bekerja di kantor yang sama di ibu kota. Suasana lantai atas hotel ini semakin ramai oleh kedatangan tamu-tamu ini. Dalam sekejap, saya menjadi sangat kikuk. “Jangan sekali-sekali kau bicara bahasa Persia di sini,” kata Israr, seorang pemuda Pashtun dari Kunar yang pernah memperoleh gelar juara dalam lomba programing internasional, memperingatkan dengan tegas, “di sini cuma boleh ada bahasa Pashtu!” “Orang Tajik itu brengsek,” kata yang lain, “mereka sama sekali tidak taat dan banyak melakukan dosa. Bahasa mereka sama sekali tidak terhormat.” Saya merasa tidak enak dengan Naqeeb yang mengantar saya ke sini, karena Naqeeb adalah orang Tajik. Tetapi Naqeeb bisa berbahasa Pashtu dan para pemuda Pashtun ini sama sekali tidak tahu ke-Tajik-an Naqeeb. Primordialisme etnik adalah fenomena yang sangat kuat di Afghanistan. Semua suku punya kebanggaan kesukuan yang luar biasa, jauh melebihi segala-galanya. Identitas Islam tidak cukup kuat untuk mengikat semua suku ini bersatu. Dalam sejarah Afghanistan kita teringat bagaimana semua suku Afghan bersatu padu melawan invasi Rusia tetapi kemudian [...]

March 19, 2008 // 5 Comments

Mazar-i-Sharif – Keluarga Naqeebullah

Donor, projects, humanitarian, NGOs, UN, etc are the vocabulary of today’s Afghanistan Seperti malam sebelumnya, malam ini saya bermalam di rumah Naqeeb. Saya belum pernah bertemu Naqeeb sebelumnya. Saya mengenalnya melalui perantaraan seorang kawan Indonesia. Tetapi walaupun demikian, keluarga Naqeeb ramah menyambut saya. “Rumah ini adalah rumahmu,” demikian kata Naqeeb berulang-ulang. Naqeeb masih muda, tetapi kumis dan jenggotnya membuatnya nampak jauh lebih tua. Sekujur tubuhnya pun ditumbuhi bulu. Saya sempat berpikir dia berumur tiga puluhan. Ternyata dia bahkan masih lebih muda daripada saya. Naqeeb bekerja sebagai petugas keamanan di sebuah NGO asing. Ke mana-mana ia selalu membawa radio HT. Dia harus terus mendengar kabar dari kantornya dan memantau situasi keamanan. Naqeeb sedang dapat tugas shift malam. Setiap sore pukul 6 ia berangkat ke kantor dan baru pulang keesokan paginya pukul 7. Sebagai satpam tentunya ia berjaga hampir sepanjang malam. Cuma tidur dua sampai empat jam sehyari sudah cukup baginya. Walaupun ia tuan rumah, saya jarang bertemu dengannya karena waktu kerjanya. Tetapi masih ada anggota keluarganya yang lain. Rumah Naqeeb cukup besar, ditinggali oleh banyak orang. Ada ayahnya yang sudah tua tetapi masih bekerja, abang-abangnya, dan hampir selusin keponakan. Hampir semua orang dewasa di rumah ini adalah pekerja sosial. Selain Naqeeb [...]

March 18, 2008 // 0 Comments

Mazar-i-Sharif – Ata Muhammad dan NATO

Busy atmosphere of the holy shrine before the New Year. “Berada di Rawza pada saat upacara janda bala? Itu terlalu berbahaya!” kata Naqeeb. Sebuah gambar di buku tua An Historical Guide to Afghanistan tulisan Nancy Hatch Dupree, diterbitkan tahun 1977, selalu membuat saya terbayang akan nuansa penuh fantasi di Mazar. Gambar itu adalah perayaan Naoruz di kota ini. Latar belakangnya adalah bangunan megah mausoleum Hazrat Ali. Ada ratusan orang di halaman, bersorak-sorai menyambut sebuah bendera besar bangkit dari tanah. Bendera itu adalah ‘janda’ yang dipercaya mempunyai kekuatan magis. “Keamanan sekarang sudah tidak baik,” kata Naqeeb, “kalau kamu ingin melihat janda, kita lihat di televisi. Nanti kalau keramaian sudah mereda, kita berangkat bersama-sama.” Naqeeb bukan jurnalis. Dia bekerja sebagai satpam di sebuah organisasi internasional. Naqeeb tak punya hasrat untuk mengejar semua peristiwa. Apalagi baginya perayaan janda bala ini bukan sesuatu yang istimewa. Dari ke tahun sama saja, dan sudah disiarkan di televisi. Kerumunan ribuan orang yang ingin melihat pengibaran bendera mukjizat itu dikhawatirkan akan mengundang penjahat, aksi teror, dan sebagainya. Akhirnya saya terpaksa mencari cara lain, menghubungi jurnalis Pajhwok Afghan News di kota ini, yang mungkin bisa membantu saya. Zabiullah Ehsas, umurnya masih 24 tahun, tetapi sudah memegang kantor wilayah Pajhwok [...]

March 18, 2008 // 0 Comments

Mazar-i-Sharif – Secuplik Masa Lalu

During Taliban era, celebrating Naoruz was forbidden “Sekarang semua serba mahal. Waktu zaman Taliban, semuanya murah,” Obaidullah (32 tahun), kakak Naqeebullah memulai selasar kenangannya tentang kehidupan Mazar di masa lalu. Harga barang yang terus melambung tinggi belakangan ini menjadi bahan kegelisahan hampir semua orang. Roti nan yang tahun kemarin masih 5 Afghani sekarang sudah jadi 10 Afghani (sekitar 2.000 Rupiah). Harga sepiring nasi di Salang sekarang 100 Afghani, dua dollar. Obaid berkumis tipis, berkaca mata, dan bertubuh besar. Sekarang bekerja sebagai insinyur di sebuah NGO lokal bernama CHA (Coordination for Hummanitarian Assistance). Bahasa Rusianya bagus sekali karena ia melewatkan waktu bertahun-tahun sebagai insinyur di Uzbekistan dan beberapa bulan di Turkmenistan. Sering kali ia lebih suka berbicara dalam bahasa Rusia daripada bahasa Dari dengan saya. Bahasa Inggrisnya pas-pasan. “Waktu zaman Taliban dulu, sewa rumah tak sampai 40 dolar. Sekarang, sudah ratusan dolar per bulannya.” Tetapi itu bukan berarti hidup di zaman Taliban lebih mudah. Walaupun harga murah, tetapi orang tak punya uang. Tak ada pekerjaan. Dan semua dirundung ketakutan. “Siapa yang tak takut, potongan tangan digantung di pohon, untuk memperingatkan orang akan kejamnya hukuman bagi para pelanggar.” Obaidullah menceritakan bagaimana Taliban melaksanakan hukum rajam dan gantung di lapangan. “Waktu pertama kali, [...]

March 17, 2008 // 0 Comments

Mazar-i-Sharif – Perjalanan Menuju ke Utara

Biya ke berim ba Mazar, Mullah Muhammad jan (Mari pergi ke Mazar, Mullah Muhammad sayang) – Lagu tradisional Afghanistan   Electricity… sign that development in Afghanistan is going the right track Sudah hampir sebelas bulan berlalu sejak saya melintas perbatasan Uzbekistan-Afghanistan di desa Hairatan, beberapa kilometer jauhnya dari kota Mazar-i-Sharif. Sejak saat itu kehidupan saya hanya terkurung dalam lingkup kota Kabul. Saya bahkan tidak pernah bepergian lebih dari lima kilometer. Tak bisa dibayangkan, betapa rindunya lagi saya untuk kembali ke jalan, pergi ke tempat-tempat baru dan belajar hal-hal unik. Tahun baru Naoruz, tahun barunya orang Afghan yang didasarkan pada perhitungan matahari, akan segera tiba. Naoruz adalah perayaan penting untuk orang-orang berlatar belakang kebudayaan Persia. Di Iran, tradisi merayakan Naoruz penuh dengan pengaruh dengan tradisi pra-Islam, seperti mengumpulkan tujuh buah bahan yang berawalan huruf ‘s’ (haft sin), atau merayakan Rabu malam dengan api dan petasan. Di Uzbekistan, Navruz adalah hari di mana orang menyiapkan sumalak – puding dari rerumputan – dan tari-tarian indah menghiasi kota-kota kuno. Naoruz juga tahun baru bagi masyarakat Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, dan Afghanistan. Kota Mazar-i-Sharif adalah pusat perayaan Naoruz di Afghanistan. Ratusan ribu orang berbondong ke kota besar di utara itu. Apalagi tahun ini libur [...]

March 17, 2008 // 0 Comments

Taliban Attack on Luxury Hotel in Afghan Capital Kills Eight

The luxurious, five star Serena Hotel. With such heavy tiered security system, who expects this hotel can be attacked? Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) – Taliban insurgents killed as many as eight people in a suicide bomb attack on a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store was hosting a meeting. A Norwegian journalist accompanying the foreign minister and a U.S. citizen were among those killed in yesterday’s bomb- and-gunfire assault at the Serena Hotel. Store was uninjured, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. The assault is a “serious crime against humanity,’’ Ban told reporters in New York. Store was the target of the attack, he said, without elaborating. Suicide bombings in Afghanistan have risen sevenfold over the past two years and Taliban fighters are increasingly carrying out attacks in the capital. The assault may signal a shift in tactics for the rebels, who have previously focused on military and Afghan government targets. It was the deadliest attack on a hotel in Kabul since the Islamist movement was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001, the Associated Press reported. Four militants armed with guns and grenades carried out the assault, AP cited Taliban spokesman [...]

January 14, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kabul – A Midnight Jog

Kabul taxi, can be dangerous day or night People tend to have more things to say when they are angry or disappointed. And today I do the same. I regret I didn’t tell you earlier how I was impressed by hospitality of Kabul taxi drivers, who usually refuse to receive money from a foreign guest (only lip service mostly, but anyway it makes me happy), but now I have to tell a scary experience with a Kabul driver. I was invited by a friend to a dinner in Wazir Akbar Khan area, the rich part of Kabul where many embassies, foreign organizations, and expatriate housings are located. I usually don’t stay until late night, but yesterday we talked until completely forgetting about the time. At the end, an AFP French reporter friend of mine realized that it was already 10:30, and we had to leave. She offered me to walk together to the main road, from where I can find taxi to go home and she went back to her house on foot. We walked together to the direction of the main road. Usually, at this inconvenient time of the day, taxis are hard to find. But God-knows-why, we found [...]

January 9, 2008 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Shocked

Benazir Bhutto I was terribly shocked by the unexpected news of the assassination of Pakistani Former Prime Minister, Ms Benazir Bhutto. A friend from the UN called me, “Hey, have you heard about Benazir Bhutto? She was shot dead.” “Are you joking?” It was serious, a fact which I really didn’t want to believe. Benazir was shot three times in a political rally in Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, somewhere I used to stay two years before. I couldn’t believe that Pakistan, which I used to love because of the people’s extreme hospitality, turn to boiling hell. I remembered, sometime in winter 2005, in a village in northern Karakoram Mountains, a vertical tricolor flag was hoisted on a pole on top of a house. Black-red-green. “Is that flag of Afghanistan?” “No. That’s flag of PPP,” explained an old villager, “Pakistan People Party. That’s the party of Benazir Bhutto. We loved her very much.” I remembered, deep in Thar Parkar desert town of Umerkot, a Hindu friend of mine was extremely happy to hear from the BBC about Benazir’s plan to come back to the country and joined the election. “Life will change,” said him full of hopes, which deeply marked in [...]

December 27, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Christmas in Kabul

Christmas trees in Kabul streets, who expected? In devout, conservative Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Christmas is just like another day. It’s an ordinary day when people go to office, children go to school, and nobody is aware of what Christmas is. But since last some few years, the Christmas trees start to decorate the Kabul again. It is in the Flower Street, across the rows of foreigner-oriented souvenir shops of Chicken Street, where most flower shops in Kabul are located. Christmas trees, considered as variation of flowers, along with Christmas accessories like stars, Santa Claus, colorful ribbons, et cetera, are offered in the roadside of the narrow alley. It is indeed a bizarre combination between the artificial Christmas trees, mostly imported and costs around US$25, with women clad in blue burqas passing by. Under Taliban, said Muhammad, a shop owner, selling Christmas trees was totally prohibited. But he claimed that the Christmas trees were already available in Flower Street shops long before the Taliban. Nowadays, as the country is flooded by thousands of expatriates, the market is back again. These foreigners are the main consumers of anything related to the Christian festivities. How can a Christmas celebration be without a [...]

December 25, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Rocked by Rockets

Rockets rocking the capital An early morning in Kabul was rocked when sound of blasts reverberated throughout the capital. 8:20 A.M. I heard a blast, sounds very near. Not as loud as a bomb blast, and even initially I thought it was a car incident. The second blast came afterwards. It was not at all car incident, but rocket attacks toward the Kabul police headquarters about a block away from where I am working. A reporter and I immediately ran to the site. A big fire was seen on the emptied road. The police tried hard to seal the area from onlookers and prevented the journalists, photographers, and cameramen to get closer. “The attacker is still here,” said a police, “he is running away and we are looking for him. It’s very dangerous.” Police is quick in cleaning up the debris The road is messy. This area was full of street hawkers and in the morning it was very busy of people shopping. I saw many shoes and sandals, offered at roadside, left away by the scared owners. The insurgency came from a truck loaded with five rockets covered under piles of hay. Two of the rockets were detonated. Another [...]

December 15, 2007 // 0 Comments

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