SYNOPSIS: ABOUT PARTRIDGES IN A PARK, DOGS WHO DID NOT SHOW UP TO FIGHT, ANOTHER PICNIC UP ON A CLIFF, AND A LONG RIDE TO A CLOSED MUSEUM. TREADING WATER, STILL.
It’s Friday and as anywhere else in the Muslim world, much of Kabul is enjoying the day off. Since we were not going to Bamiyan, we had to figure out what to do. Mubin had to figure it out and he came up with three ideas: Watch bird fighting in the park, watch dog fighting at the outskirts of town, go for a picnic onto another hill with some views, and check if the Kabul Museum is open.
Animal fighting is not my cup of tea! But since there is nothing I can do to prevent it and since it seems to be a Kabul Friday tradition, I might as well go and see what’s up. A lot of men, in fact only men, had gathered in one of Kabul’s parks. Many of them were onlookers, but there were the opportunist vendors as well, selling bird cages, kebabs, and drinks. One group of men had gathered in a circle and it was clear that that’s where the action was. Two men had their partridges set against each other and the men in the crowd were betting on which would win. Betting is of course, completely un-Islamic and forbidden but as we all know, what’s forbidden and what’s done are two different matters. I had no idea that partridges would fight. In fact, I have only ever known partridges from the 12-day Christmas song which promptly was running around in my head all day long. The birds hop onto each other and pick their neck feathers. After a couple of minutes of this fight, the bird keeper puts the cage (open at the bottom) over each bird and shields them from each other’s view by a screen. Then they fan the birds. I guess, the birds get tired and need a bit of rest before they are let loose at each other again. We did not stay for long, but Mubin explained that the end of the fight is proclaimed when one of the birds runs away. I was so relieved to hear that they will not die or get seriously injured in this fight. But they definitely lose their neck feathers as I saw at a different bird cage with a bird that had finished fighting and looked rather pitiful with a naked spot at his back. The park was hopping with activities and full of interesting characters. That was as interesting as the fight itself.
I had a lot more trepidations about the dog fight. Would they hurt each other badly? Would they bite each other to death?! I was almost relieved when it turned out that due to the heavy rain the previous night the dog fights were not taking place. Instead, we bought some bread, cheese, and water and as on the day before, we climbed up a cliff for a nice, contemplative picnic.
We were at the outskirts of town and new construction competed with an old nomadic settlement right next to it. So far, the nomads seemed to be left alone. Some of their housing were tents, others were more permanent mud-brick structures. Women were carrying water canisters on their heads coming from town and others were outside their homes sweeping the dusty ground.
A huge car park was bustling with people repairing and washing trucks. In the distance civilian and military airplanes were taking off from an air strip, or was that the Kabul airport? I am still completely turned around in this town and have basically no clue where I am for most of the time.
My book said the Kabul Museum would be open, Mubin was doubtful, but what else was there to do? We gave it a try and it was closed. That killed another hour in traffic. Few of Kabul’s roads are paved. Most of the paved ones are in areas where the embassies and the military are. Many roads on the outskirts are horribly dusty and bumpy dirt roads. Many roads seem to be under permanent construction with huge ditches dug for presumably infrastructure. So much needs to be done. But it is obvious, that construction and reconstruction has been going on for quite a while now. It is almost hard to come by completely bombed out buildings that have not been touched up yet. One of those buildings was the former Parliament building near the Museum. It is prominently located on top of a small hill at the end of a huge avenue. You can see it for a while approaching it. It brings home the realities of war in its ruined state. In my hometown Dresden, you could still find completely bombed out villas in our neighborhood 40 years after the war. And on the other hand , you would find churches or homes rebuilt so convincingly that you could not believe how completely they had been razed to the ground. This raises interesting questions about authenticity.
The closed museum and all the other closed institutions left us at a loss about what to do next. Mubin suggested driving to a lake, a favorite get-away for many Kabulians. Why not? It was only early afternoon. This excursion turned out to actually be quite interesting. A spring fed lake had been dammed up to create a more substantial artificial lake where you could swim (if you are a man) and take out boats. Along the shore dozens of vendors had sprung up selling anything from ice cream to kebabs. People would sit in little wind-protected booths made out of plastic sheets or bamboo curtains right next to the lake to enjoy the view. Others would play soccer – an activity we observed all throughout Kabul – or just hang out. Hundreds and hundreds of cars piled into this area which miraculously absorbed all these people.
We settled for an indoor restaurant after sitting in one of the bamboo booths turned out to be freezing cold. The wind had picked up, the waves were high and the temperatures were still quite low after the long rain last night. I like those cool days, but the Afghans, the driver, “our gun” and Mubin were definitely unhappy.
Up in the restaurant we came to sit under a picture of New York which still showed the Twin Towers. I remarked on how old this picture was and Mubin explained that for all of the Afghanis (he stressed all of them, 100%) the 9/11 event was executed by America and not by foreign terrorists. I have met some people myself in the States, who are convinced of various conspiracy theories, but I was still surprised to hear that there is simply not the slightest sliver of doubt in any Afghan’s mind that 9/11 was a plot to allow the U.S. to invade Iraq and to enter Afghanistan. In other words, it was a move to expand America’s world power. Neil wisely remarked that if the U.S. were after world domination it would be doubtful that Afghanistan would be at the top of the list. But arguments like this just fall on deaf ears.
After this outing, we could not think of anything useful to do and going home seemed the most sensible thing. I always have my work cut out for me sorting photographs and writing the blog. I did not complain. Going home early to their families seemed a nice thing for Mubin, Navo, and Shirin as well.
And so went another almost interesting day in Afghanistan.