FOR A WESTERNER exploring Afghanistan, Kabul’s the easiest place to begin. Air travel in-and-out is safe. The Zuhak taxi service is reliable and expat-friendly, if a little pricey. Mingle with NGO-workers, mercenaries and journalists at barricaded expat hotel-bars like Gandamack and L’Atmosphere to get the 411 on your next destination or the cell phone number of a good fixer. Don’t forget to get hammered. The beginning of any trip in Afghanistan is likely the beginning of a dry one. L’Atmosphere has a lap-pool that’s great to be drunk in.
Kabul street food, with the exception of the dirt-cooked corn-on-the-cob, is top notch. Of course, if you have some way to cook on your own, shop every day for lamb shanks, or a freshly slaughtered hen or hacked-off ox feet for soup. The Kabul markets are windows into the precarious, out-of-breath, tech-deficient soul of the city.
At the cushion shop in old Kabul, 10-year-old Hazarra kids run across town from the bird market with giant bags of chicken feathers balanced on thier heads. Fourteen-year-old stuffers frantically cram the feathers into pillow cases for a group of aged seamstresses in uplifted burquas to close with needle and thread. Finally, two Pashtuns with broomsticks take turns whacking the pillows until … well, who knows? I watched them for an hour then decided to my daily life photo essay back to the pool.
Photos by Daniel C. Britt.