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ISSUE 60 - JULY 2009

KaboulADisco!
French cult
classic translated
Absolutely Fabulous Afghan fashion
Tristram Wallace Angusteen-Tittershaugh, the early years
A guide to Afghanistan’s most dangerous road
perspective • insight • people • reviews • pics • life
SCENE
AFGHAN Introduction
Contents
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

ISSUE 58 - MAY 2009

Publisher: Afghan Scene Ltd, Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul, Afghanistan
Manager & Editor: Afghan Scene Ltd, Kabul, Afghanistan
Design: Kaboora Production
Advertising: sales@afghanscene.com
Printer: Emirates Printing Press, Dubai
Contact: info@afghanscene.com / www.afghanscene.com
Afghan Scene welcomes the contribution of articles and / or pictures from its readers.
Editorial rights reserved.
Cover Illustration: Nicolas Wild

7 Introduction
10 The Willy Wonka of Kabul
In the latest instalment of Kabul at Work, journalist David Gill
introduces a family of confectioners who keep themselves
busy making boiled sweets and sticky treats in the old city.
14 Gallic humour deciphered
Nicolas Wild, the creator of a surreal look at expat life in
Afghanistan, introduces Kaboul Disco. Afghan Scene is
also delighted to publish the first extract of the forthcoming
English translation of the cult French graphic novel.

14 24 The smell of Velcro in the morning
Kabul’s top blogger, the Afghan Hound, reveals what life is
like for an embedded journalist stuck in the Twilight Zone of
Bagram Air Field.
28 Mad Max meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert
The story of two Australians who hitched a ride on a
fuel convoy plying one of the most dangerous routes in
Afghanistan just to see if anything would happen.
42 Afghan Fabulous
A charity event thrown by Bridget Cowper-Coles wowed the
chattering classes of Notting Hill and raised plenty of cash
for AfghanAid.
52 Operation Snakebite
28 Journalist Stephen Grey gives the inside scoop on the
meetings diplomat Michael Semple had with top Taliban
commanders in the months before his sensational
expulsion from Afghanistan.

58 Wakhan on the wild side
Restaurant junkie Rosemary Stasek gives her take on the
tasty treats available at Kabul’s newest and hippest eaterie.
76 Afghan Essentials
A super-sized directory of the best restaurants and hotels in
Kabul.
79 Separated at birth and caption competition
Bill Nighy impersonator Kai Eide introduces Afghan Scene’s
42 first caption competition.

Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 5
Introduction
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

Time for
another

Big Mac?
I
t was an abrupt goodbye to the man internet junkies in Tirin Kowt.
in charge of ISAF amid all sorts of We struggled to arrange a live web link with
unconvincing rumours about change at the the capital of Oruzgan, so instead we sent some
top. Scene suspects the real reason General mad Aussies there the old fashioned way, with a
McKiernan got the chop is that he was late fuel convoy from Kandahar City.
with his copy for our July edition. Contributors Last month also saw reports of mass hysteria
beware. at a number of girls schools north of the capital.
Either that or the Pentagon realised what his Medics said the women were “confused, irritable
surname means in the local lingo. and weeping” - and blamed it on Taliban gas,
But in the spirit of continuity David obviously.
McKiernan (who replaced Dan McNeill) will be We’ve also got France’s premiere cartoonist
succeeded by Stanley McChrystal. It makes life in Kabul, Nicolas Wild, with an extract from
easier if they’re all Big Macs. his book Kaboul Disco - translated into English
And it’s all evidence of just how seriously for the first time. And in the spirit of Scene
ISAF takes its communication strategy. In case Magazine’s lighter take on life in Afghanistan,
you hadn’t noticed, they’ve started trying to we’ve got the first in a fictional series about
reach key target audiences - Afghan villagers Little Lord Do-Gooder and his adventures in the
and the like - through social networking sites Hindoo Kush. Any similarities with real life are
like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. Watch out absolutely intentional. Enjoy. �

Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 7
Scene Team
Afghan Scene July 2009

Contributors
Afghan Scene July 2009

Afghan Scene Magazine is proud to showcase work from the best
photographers (and cartoonists) in Afghanistan
Aurelia du Vignau is a French journalist and photographer who first moved to
Kabul in March 2006. She now splits her time between Afghanistan and Paris.
She recently travelled to Djibouti to report on piracy.
www.aureliaduvignau.com

David Gill is a British writer, photographer and videogrpher focusing social
documentary and overseas development. His current book project
Kabul, a City at Work is a selection over 100 original portraits.
web.mac.com/shot2bits/work

Travis Beard is an Australian photographer, film maker, adventurer and part time
security analyst based in Kabul. He’s ridden to Badakshan and Bamiyan on a
motorbike and is looking forward to the day when Route 1 is safe again.
www.argusphotography.com

Leslie Knott is a Canadian photographer and film maker who has been following
the Afghan Cricket team on their quest for world cup glory for more than a year.
The documentary, which takes them to Peshawar, Jersey, Tanzania, Argentina
and South Africa is due out later this year.
www.outoftheashes.tv

Harry Cole is a cad and a bounder. A former guards officer in the British army
he’s now a raconteur, wit and man about town who juggles security and
logistics in between scribbling Scene’s pocket cartoons.

Guilad Kahn is a photographer, videographer and producer based in Bangkok.
He’s been visiting Kabul since 2001, inbetween trips
to Myanmar, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria.
www.guiladkahn.com

Almost all of the photographs and cartoons featured in Afghan Scene are available for sale direct from the
artists. Most of them are available for commissions, here and elsewhere. If you would like to contribute to
Afghan Scene, or if you can’t get hold of a contributor, please contact editor@afghanscene.com.

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City scene City scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

CHARLIE: Bucket loads of sweets | David Gill

The
Candyman DAVID GILL meets
Kabul’s answer to Willy Wonka

I
n the heart of the old city’s Mandayee entrance is a nondescript curtain.
bazaar is Kabul’s oldest sweet shop (or is it Inside there are no rivers of chocolate, only
sweatshop?). blazing hot furnaces, vats of boiling sugar and
The narrow, muddy streets which lead little smirking Hazara kids chopping and folding
to this medieval treasure are teeming with glutinous rolls of melting sweetness. “Oompah
activity. This is no tourist souk, it’s a working Lumpa dipadeedoo”… or whatever they say in
marketplace and the bustle is relentless. Stop to Dari.
gawp at some oddity of life here and you will be This is a totally family run outfit but Safar, ingredients to his glassy goodies for over 25 sexual substitute Scrumdiddlyumptious bar.
crushed under the wheels of a passing handcart. 37 is the actual Willy Wonka of this ancient years. He stayed here throughout the civil war If you need directions head for the
The mud walls are tall and narrow and the establishment and he’s been adding secret and the dark days of the Taliban. bird market and then follow the smell of
Music and cinema might have been banned melting sugar. No golden tickets necessary.
Kabul, A City at Work is a selection of over 100 original portraits from the capital.
but confectionery escaped the draconian One kilo of candy costs 30p and flavours
It’s authors describe it as a window into Kabul’s soul. For more information visit
restrictions, besides in times of war everyone include pomegranate melon rose and
www.web.mac.com/shot2bits/work
needs an everlasting gobstopper, never mind the peach. �

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Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009
Comic scene Comic scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene is delighted to Afghan Scene July 2009

publish the first ever English

Comicbook
extract from NICOLAS WILD’S
hugely successful graphic
novels about his experiences in

writer
Afghanistan. Here the 32 year old
Frenchman introduces himself

ASM: What on earth made you come to ASM: Why did you call it Kaboul Disco?
Afghanistan to write comic books? NW: It was just the working title to start with.
NW: In 2005 I saw a job advert in France saying a I liked the sound of two words that were not
comic book artist was urgently needed to work in supposed to match together. A year after it was
Afghanistan. At first I thought it wa s a joke. But published a Russian friend of mine told me that
it was perfect for me, because my dream was to he thought it was because in the mind of people
both travel and make comic books. There was just Kabul is all about war, but disco is festive and
one week between the advert in the paper and me happy. And I thought, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what I
arriving in Kabul. meant!’

ASM: What sort of comics were you asked to do? ASM: After three years in Kabul, you left in
NW: I was working for Sayara to make educational 2007. What did you miss?
comic books for children. The first one explained NW: I don’t know. The taste of Qabuli pilau. The
the constitution of Afghanistan. Olivier Goddin song of the ice cream truck. I had it in my mind
(the other Sayara cartoonist) and I created two for months in France – I couldn’t sleep. It was
characters, a kid called Yassim and an older man like a little voice saying come back… da, da, da,
called Kakar Raouf. After that we did other comic pa, pa!
books for other clients, about the parliamentary
elections, about children’s education and about ASM: You’re visiting Kabul at the moment –
poppy cultivation. any plans to come back?
NW: I’m very happy to be back here. It’s good
ASM: Why did you decide to write an to be here as a tourist because you have no
autobiographical book as well? security restrictions and can go round the city
NW: I was writing a comic book blog, which are meeting old friends. When I was back in France
quite popular in France, with funny little stories I only saw the bad side. Kabul seems to be more
about coming to Afghanistan. After a while I had lively. I may come back in September for six
enough material for a comic book and I took it to months. Everyone comes back to Afghanistan,
some people who said, great – do it. there is something about this country. �

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Comic scene Comic scene
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Comic scene Comic scene
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Comic scene Comic scene
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Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009
Blog scene Blog scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

The
smellof
Velcro
Scene’s favourite blogger, THE AFGHAN HOUND,
gets embedded with the US Airborne division
in the
morning

I
love the sound of velcro in the morning, it Meanwhile I am just happy to be having
sounds like victory three ‘free’ hot meals a day. ‘Will Embed for
Life on an embed depends on what Food’ is a cardboard slogan I should have had
movies you’ve seen. For me, Camp Airborne at the end of my bed. But boy, oh boy, do
is the bastard lovechild of Generation Kill, they feed you! They say an army marches on
M*A*S*H and Private Benjamin. its stomach. Mine grew at least two inches in
Most of the soldiers here sleep in tents - for the 10 days I was out here. Grilled Steak, Crab
a year. Sounds primitive? They are equipped Claws, Breaded Shrimp, Cajun Baked Trout,
with air conditioning and 24-hour electricity, Fresh Fruit, there’s even an Ice Cream Bar.
which is more than I get in a four-bedroom God only knows the carbon cost
house in a posh part of Kabul. We are sent to of getting fresh strawberries out
the ‘transient’ tent, with a mix of journalists, to Wardak in winter.
contractors, the lightly wounded or soon to Our embed was only 10 days long.
be departing soldiers. We all sleep on cots and For ‘kinetics’ (that’s GI terminology
living space is minimal. Even with military for shooting and stuff) I should have
standard earplugs you’re required to share farts, stayed longer but you have to be
snoring and the ripping sound of Velcro every careful what you wish for. Since I left,
morning. the Taliban have increased their
Conversations with the contractors are activity and IEDs are even more routine
illuminating. Most of them are earning more per on the roads around Wardak.
month than I will hope to earn in my whole stay Thanks to the bloody circus
in Afghanistan. They may be in the ‘transient that was Iraq, the American
tent’ but they are on Trump Plaza wages. Army has had five hard years of PENSIVE: I wonder what’s for lunch? | Aurelia du Vignau

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Blog scene Feature scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

MORNING GLORY: It’s close quarters camping around the wagons | Aurelia du Vignau

insurgency experience. Things have changed, hours. At one point it looks like we have to stay
and for anyone who has watched Generation overnight due to the weather. Code Red. It’s
Kill, where grunts roll through Iraq in stripped cloudy! For goodness sakes. So we wait and wait
down Humvees taking heavy casualties, this is and wait. This is a take-no-risk situation. There
a completely new ballgame. They now travel is no Godfather here (‘Generation Kill’ reference
round in heavily armoured MRAPs (Mine folks). Why risk it? Life is cheap here but that
Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles). These only applies to the enemy. The American people,
machines cost close to a million dollars each it seems, will not tolerate a third Vietnam. But
and weigh around 10 tons. This is ‘Generation surely you can’t make an omelette without
Not Get Killed’. breaking eggs. These guys are tough, highly-
A routine patrol to a COP (Combat Outpost) trained killers. They also believe (apart from
is a logistical behemoth. Over 50 men in a the Brits) that they are the only ones doing the
juddering convoy of eight of these super- fighting.
vehicles all tooled with 50-calibre machine
guns, grenade launchers and god knows what
‘bomb jamming’ technology - all just to deliver
a fuel pump and a few boxes of crisps to a base PS: American Joke - What does ISAF stand for?
If you aren’t too worried about the ruins Does my bum look big in this?
20 kilometres way. The mission takes around 12 Answer - I Saw Americans Fighting.
being old, you could consider Kabul.
For the latest ravings of the Afghan Hound visit www.foto8.com

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Danger scene Danger scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

Mad Max Four, S
ure, on paper, it sounds pretty daft.
Making the treacherous 180km trip
from Kandahar city to Tirin Kot,
capital of Uruzgan, in the cabin of a

Kandahar
lorry carrying 43,000 litres of fuel. And most
beyond friends told us as much. One of few votes of
encouragement came from a British tabloid
journalist. Though given he sneakily snapped
my picture the day before departure, I think his
motives were less than sincere. But our intel
told us it was safe. The twice monthly convoy of TAXI!: Locals wait for the fuel convoys before daring to travel
Professional Aussies JEREMY KELLY and TRAVIS BEARD cadged 100 or so trucks and lorries that ferry supplies the Terror Highway | Travis Beard
to ISAF’s Camp Holland is protected by warlord
a lift on a fuel convoy from Kandahar to Tirin Kot just to see
and police colonel Matiullah Khan, who is paid
whether they would make it in one piece quite handsomely to ensure they all get there
Words: Jeremy Kelly safely.
Pictures: Travis Beard and Jeremy Kelly All we needed was a translator.
We found plenty in Kandahar willing to work
for us… until they found out what the job was.
Apparently it was too dangerous. Most don’t
leave the city, as if Kandahar was some oasis of
peace and stability.
So, we set off without one.
We are driven to the outskirts of Kandahar GRIDLOCK: Trucks clog the road as the weak fall by the
just after dawn. About 100 trucks and lorries wayside | Travis Beard
were parked on the side of the road. Their
drivers are jovial and no-one seems fazed by a
Trip on Terror Highway, as a newspaper headline
would later describe it.
We’re told it will take eight hours and we
would be in Tirin Kot before nightfall.
Security or no security, no-one dares travel
the road at night.
One of the drivers buys a carton of cigarettes
and a twelve pack of Red Bull. At least he won’t
nod off along the way.
We strike trouble about half an hour out of ROADIE: Travis settles in for a night in a truck cab | Jeremy
Kandahar. A truck hauling a shipping container Kelly

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Danger scene Danger scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

has gone half-turtle (tipped on its side for next checkpoint. We flag down a passing tanker
non-readers of Pajhwok Afghan News) after and jump aboard. It’s the same driver who was
the driver over corrected to avoid an oncoming stocking up on energy drinks in Kandahar.
vehicle. The windscreen is splayed on the road. The sun starts to break out but the rain has
Remarkably, in a land that seatbelt use forgot, stalled the convoy.
the driver is only bruised. We’re at an incline where at least a dozen

“It’s like Mad Max meets Priscilla
Queen of the Desert”
A bit further up, where the terrain turns into trucks are ahead of us and it appears none can
rocky, lifeless hills, it starts to rain. The bitumen get up. Our man, however, is keen to give it a
road ends and the situation looks bleak. We see go.
the first of many metal carcasses from previous About a dozen trucks are waiting to make an
skirmishes. A burnt-out tanker from a semi- attempt. Within an hour, there are more than
trailer lies to the side of the road. forty.
We stop for a truck that’s broken down. A The trucks block both sides of the narrow
group of police have gathered to oversee the road. They hold up cars packed with everyday
towing operation. Afghans, who are using the convoy as cover to
One of their police cars has been pimped-up, make journey safely.
Afghan-style, with plastic flowers all over its Ahmed Wali says he’s on the way to a
ON GUARD: Armed men watch the convoy as it crawls along pitted roads | Travis Beard
bonnet and aerials. Another’s steering wheel relative’s wedding in Tirin Kot. Does he know if
has fluffy pink cover. Some of the police have the road is safe?
henna-painted fingernails. It’s like Mad Max “I don’t know. If the convoy goes, I go,” he The muddy tracks have been dried out by the It’s one thing moving slowly in a potential
meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert. says. spinning wheels of his semi-trailer. fireball, another when it’s parked in the middle
We take up the offer to ride in the back of A four-wheel drive tries to get around the We’re on our way again but we’re running of Taliban country. You’d think even a one-eyed
their pick-up. It’s a good chance to get to the gridlock so it can make an attempt up the hill. late. The sun is lowering and we’ve still got Talib could hit a stationery target with an RPG.
front of the convoy, which will ensure we make It gets trapped in a ditch and it takes several several hours to go. “No problem, no problem,” Our driver instructs us not to get out of
Tirin Kot by nightfall. men to lift it out. A car coming the other way our driver tells us. He then decides to stop at the truck or let anyone else see that we are
The driver takes great delight in hooning has also got stuck. Again, a joint operation is the next police checkpost, where he gets out to there. He tosses us some stale bread and half a
along the side of the pot-holed road. My grip on required to set it free. pray. dozen tomatoes and asks us not to drink all his
the gun mount firms as I try to avoid being It’s a calamitous scene. Soon after the last of the light disappears, Red Bull. He then pulls the curtain around the
launched off the back of the tray. Nearly two hours later, after at least seven we come to another checkpost, which, we’re windows.
Perhaps wisely, we jump out at the failed attempts, our driver makes it up the hill. then told will be where we spend the night. We wake at dawn, rested but malnourished.

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Danger scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

The police give the green light for the trucks
to continue on to Tirin Kit, which we’re told is
only about an hour or two away.
The road has become paved and for the first
time on the route our speed is above 30km/h.
As we pick up speed down the highway, a
truck in front of us suddenly swerves off the
road, the driver corrects and the truck sways
to a tipping point before he regains control. As
we overtake him, our driver abuses him for his
STANDBY: Police to the rescue | Travis Beard
carelessness.
“Pakistani drivers are no good,” he tells me.
As we draw closer to Tirin Kot, there are
fewer and fewer police manning the road
Our driver jokes upon seeing Camp Holland
that now the danger is over, which is odd given
he spent the trip telling us there was no danger.
He slots his truck behind a group of about 40
that have beaten us to the camp.
We’re told none of the convoy was attacked
yet some had broken down. The drivers lay out
blankets and sit in front of the trucks, cook
KELLY’S HERO: Travis and Jeremy celebrate their
scrambled eggs and drink chai. The need for Red successful arrival in Tirin Kot
Bull is over. They’ll spend a lazy ten days or so
waiting for the NATO machine to search, verify Kabul Fashion Week
and then take receipt of their payload. receives criticism
We’re invited to wait around and join the that models don’t
convoy for the return leg to Kandahar. reflect the shape of
Unsurprisingly, we decline, instead hitching a real women.
ride on a C130 to Bagram, where we’re initially
prevented from walking off the base to grab a
yellow taxi back to Kabul.
We’re told that would be suicidal. �

Jeremy Kelly is an Australian journalist and photographer who first visited
Afghanistan under Taliban rule in 1998. He has lived here since 2005.
His preferred method of transport is a motorbike.

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Party scene Party scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

Be scene
Share your event or party pics with Aghan Scene. email info@afghanscene.com

SHANE’S WORLD: Singer Shane and Ingo at Gilly’s Yes Logo party MAN SANDWICH: Ash, Jerome and Fis take a ride across Kabul on a BLONDE GIRLS: Trudi, Sophie and Michelle at Jackie J’s BBQ VEEGEES: Filippo, Viani and AJ get in the mood mid-week at
motorbike L’Atmosphere

SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE: Ben cut a dash at FLUFF DADDY: Cross-dressing Jon takes a puff SCORCHER: Vanessa at the campfire at the STUNNING: Mr and Mrs Straziuso caught in WOOF WOOF: Fis and Kim Barker at the frat GRIN TIMES: Smiley Dimitar and Laura at
the Yes Logo party Yes Logo bash headlights at the frat house house the frat house BBQ

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Party scene Party scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

BOOM: Miles and Jonathan watch 80 tons of drugs go up in smoke AUSSIE RULES: Down under’s diplomat Rod Cocks and the deputy Oz FOR US ZE BEER IS OVER: Brit defence attache Simon Diggins (right) on LEFT IN THE SHADES: Mark, John and Sam at the Ditchling vs
ambassador Leann at the Queen’s Official Birthday Party duty with German Michael Graf von Magnis and Col Paul. Afghanistan cricket match, outside HQ ISAF

BESPOKES-MEN: Dapper lads Haleem and TETE A TETE: Emal Maqsood and Hafeez Monsef BEARDIE WEIRDIES: Andrew Schofer and FIRST SECS: Diplomats Tom and Caroline at SEIZE THE DAY: Brit ambo Mark Sedwill gets to HEDGING HER BETS: Hannah Hedges
spokesman Zalmai at the embassy share a moment at the Queen’s Birthday Party Ben Farmer at the QOB the Queen’s Official Birthday Party grips with press attache Catherine Day with colleagues Dave and Roger

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Party scene Party scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

THE L’A TEAM: L’Atmo lads Bashir, Sohib, Rohulla and Basir take a PATE MATES: Le journos Luc, Aurelia and Remy in L’Atmosphere VIK-TORIOUS: Olly Vik, centre, says “Goodbye Afghanistan” with Madoka, HOWZAT: Martin Patience (left) and Chris Sergeant (right)
moment to pose for Scene left and Seh Lih inspect the final score at the Ditchling cricket match

LEZ BE FRIENDS: Kabul honeys Lesley and THE LADY GILLERS: Karen and Amy Gill on the FINDING THEIR NICHE: Scott and Tara get ANYONE FOR SHERRY?: Gemma and Dan JACK’S BACK: Movie man Sam and Jackie J, HERE’S ONE I PLAYED EARLIER: Former
Anna at Dee Dee & Richard’s farewell prowl at L’Atmosphere candlelit at the frat house BBQ Sherry at Jackie J’s BBQ back in Kabul from Bangkok Blue Peter presenter Jamie Theakston

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Party
Feature
scene
scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

NO WAY: Jose and Ash at Jackie J’s bumper BBQ VANITY WHERE: Glossy girls Vero and Janine on assignment in the
Gandamack

EVERYTHING AKE?: Security man Fraser SPECS APPEAL: Richard and Hamish at the GUITARDED: Travis on bass at the Yes Logo
and the boy Patience at L’Atmo former’s farewell party

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Fashion scene Fashion scene
Afghan
Afghan Scene
Scene July
July 2009
2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

The night
I
t all began in North London. I had gone

Kabulcame to
there to meet a group of Afghan ladies
who were all desperately trying to raise
money to help women in Afghanistan. One
of them, an 18 year old called Hawa Bavary,
pushed me for ideas and I suggested they could

Notting Hill
put on an Afghan fashion show.
On my two visits to Afghanistan I had met
lots of women in Kabul who were making
clothes from local materials and I’d previously FURRY MUFF: It’s all for charity | Leslie Knott
looked into trying to find ways to sell Afghan
handicrafts in the UK as way of creating a little
income for the many war widows.
I did not, however, think I would be the one
In March London’s fashionistas were to organise a fashion show, something I had
wowed by spectacular display of never done before. But when I left the women
in North London I felt that if I mentioned it
Afghan couture. BRIDGET COWPER- often enough then someone would eventually
COLES describes how the Afghanaid pick up the ball and run with it.
fundraiser came about But over the next few weeks Hawa would
ring me regularly and ask how plans were going.
Luckily I was able to tell her that I had finally YOUR EXCELLENCY: Afghanistan’s ambassador to
received permission to visit Afghanistan again London, Dr Rahim Sherzoi, meets and greets
| Sherard Cowper-Coles
and I would raise the idea there. In Kabul in
October, I asked Mina Sherzoy of AWWSOM and Road in Notting Hill. And we discovered
Zolaykha Sherzad of Zarif whether they would Afghanaid, which did just the sort of charity
like to contribute clothes. The idea would be to work we liked. The venerable Afghan NGO
feature three or four designers after starting the carefully monitors the drip feed of money given
evening with a display of traditional costumes to projects, which in our case would be going
to show where so many of the designers’ ideas into building schools and giving vocational
came from. training to girls and women. Even more
So now the commitment was made. Hawa reassuring was the fact that 98 per cent of their
and her three sisters, I and my daughter and a workforce is Afghan, many of whom have been
few old Afghan hands met from time to time, working for Afghanaid for decades.
getting nowhere on finding a venue of what to So we were now committed, and in our
do with any money raised. slightly daffy way continued to ask for help
Finally, just before Christmas, we heard of and advice from everyone who knew anything
the 20th Century Theatre just off the Portobello about Afghan clothes, putting on a fashion

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Fashion scene Fashion scene
Afghan
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2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

“The models had
never had such an
appreciative audience
and raved about
the evening”

STITCH-UP: Catwalk beauty in a BEEBILCIOUS: BBC anchor Lyse SPLENDID: Charity big-wig
traditional embroidered dress Doucet snapped by a paparazzo Elizabeth Winter after the show
| Sherard Cowper-Coles as she arrives at the 20th Century | Sherard Cowper-Coles
Theatre | Sherard Cowper-Coles

show or anything about charity events. The people who came enjoyed a wonderful and
20th Century Theatre was full of very generous original show. Lyse Doucet spoke clearly and
people prepared to do the lighting and sound movingly about the desperate desire of women
for very little. in Afghanistan for education. Then the volunteer
A lady doctor who had danced professionally models appeared in a wonderful array of
stepped in a few weeks before the night and traditional costumes that had been lent to us by
offered to use all her contacts to set up the members of the Afghan community in London.
music, design and choreography for the event – Then came the main event - the displays of the
all things that I had not even begun to consider! three collections we had flown over from Kabul.
Amazingly everything came together in the I am pleased to say that the models, who
last three days. We had the models, the clothes, had never had such an appreciative audience,
and a professional show all there on the night, raved about the evening.
along with a huge number of volunteers who The designer from Zarif was there in person
worked their socks off from early morning until and managed to sell a staggering number of
long past midnight. clothes. I still have people asking for more.
DYED IN THE WOOL: The traditional section of the night’s festivities | Leslie Knott
We could have sold at least twice as many Most touching for me was how happy all our
tickets but were restricted with numbers. The Afghan friends were to have an event about

44 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 45
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Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

We will never see these schools. But I feel
fiercely that having been raised in a society
where education and freedom to explore ideas
is the norm, I owe it to people in a society
where poverty and civil war have destroyed so
much of the infrastructure to do my bit to help
restore opportunities for education.
On an evening when financial forecasts in
the UK could not have been gloomier it was
heart-warming to see how generous people
were with their time and money.
Many people have asked about “the next
SUPER ENVOYS: Sherard and Bridget Cowper-Coles on the hunt fashion show” and are practically ordering their
for Afghan fashion tickets now. I am still in deep shock at how
close we came to disaster but very smug about
Afghanistan which was simply about beauty what a success the event in fact was. But it will
and creativity – we all know the other side of take many months before I could even begin
the story all too well. to think about starting such a project again, AfghanITT Limited is a SMB Cisco Select Certified Partner in Afghanistan so you can
Money is still trickling in but we are creeping and perhaps a better staged event would not be sure of getting genuine Cisco equipment with standard warranty and a host of
nearer to the $30,700 mark, which should just have had the rush and energy of our cobbled other benefits.
about set up two rural schools. together, amateur production.� Benefits to working with SMB Cisco Select Certified Partner like AfghanITT:
• Value: Our certification will ensure your needs are fulfilled through an emphasis on
delivering value-added services for the SMB market.
Bridget Cowper-Coles is married to Sherard Cowper-Coles, former British ambassador in Kabul who is • Proven technical expertise: AfghanITT is a Cisco Certified Partner with sales
now serving as the Foreign Secretary’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. and technical expertise in switching, routing, security and wireless solutions for
SMB customers, allowing them to deliver the new solutions you demand.
• Focus on customer satisfaction: With access to the same online customer
satisfaction evaluation tools Cisco uses to evaluate its own performance, we can
identify strengths and develop targeted plans to serve your needs.
Learn how Cisco is helping transform businesses. Contact AfghanITT today.
Call +93 799 622 868 or email info@afghanitt.com to find out more.

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46 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009
Verse scene Verse scene
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Abu Fazl – A Mujahid’s Wish From His Mother

Poems
January 2009

from
Mother! Pray for me, I am going to the battle tomorrow;
I am going for Allah’s satisfaction, without delay;
Battle has many rewards;

the Allah will grant me paradise;

underground
If I am martyred, I’ll go to my leader with a white face;
If I head to my trench
To fight against the invader,
I like pride, and will go to the afterlife with pride.
If I don’t make it back home,
This is my will to my father and mother:
Don’t be impatient; I am heading towards doomsday with a red shroud
It may not be Wordsworth but the oral poems sung by the Taliban have Until the homeland becomes free
When all the betrayers are suppressed.
a lot to tell us about the state of Afghanistan. Here AFGHANWIRE.COM I’ll go to the punishing plains of war with great courage;
unpicks the verse of war You became Allah’s blessing for us;

E
Now, we all accept you, Abul Fazl;
veryone’s doing it. From Moby Media Kandahar, to mp3s exchanged via bluetooth in I’ll ascend to the sky in great honour
Updates to Yahoo’s brrafghan mailing Kabul, to video files downloaded in London, this
list, there are countless internet cultural output has a wide reach.
bulletins and ‘media monitoring’ For the Taliban today, these poems or
services that bring the so-called voice of the nasheed (one popular form) claim a resonance
Taliban to your laptop screen. I can read about dating back to the 1980s jihad against the Condolences of Bush and Karzai
the hundreds of planes that are shot down Soviets, when very much the same rhetorical
December 2008
each day, or the apparent thousands of foreign styles, poetic formulae and tricks with metre
soldiers being killed in ambushes across the were employed. Sometimes these older Karzai: I share in your grief; I am coming to you.
country. But the official cultural output – and examples are even published on the website, Oh hello, my lord Bush; Bush:
if it appears on Shahamat, the official website, mixed in with newer additions, but with little to Now that you’ve gone, who did you leave me with? As for death, we’ll both die;
then it must be seen as part of their public distinguish one from another. Bush: Alas, we’ll be first and next.
My slave, dear Karzai! Karzai:
persona – is left untranslated, and a whole face These poems cover a wide range of themes
Don’t be upset; I am handing you over to Obama. Give me your hand as you go;
of the Taliban remains veiled. and styles: the political often brushes up close
Karzai: Turn your face as you disappear.
The Pashtun tradition of poetry is closely with the aesthetic; the celebratory cry is never These words make me happy. Bush:
associated with that of song, and the ‘poems’ far from the funeral dirge and praise of martyrs Tell me, how long will I be here? Sorrow takes over and overwhelms;
published here as illustrations of a vast and lost. Bush: My darling! Take care of yourself and I will take
varied body of work should not be read as To read and experience the breadth of Karzai! Wait for a year; care of myself.
written artefacts. They are meant to be recited emotional register should be an essential first Don’t come till I send someone else there. Karzai:
and sung and this is the form in which they are step in creating an intellectual and human Karzai: Mountains separate you from me;
consumed by the wider Pashtun public. From engagement with those across the divide of our Life is tough without you my darling; Say hello to the white moon and I’ll do so as well.
audiotapes traded in secret in the bazaars of understanding.�

48 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 49
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Najibullah Akrami - Poem
November 2008
Who am I? What am I doing?
How did I come here?
There is no house or love for me;
I am homeless, without a homeland;
I don’t have a place in this world;
They don’t let me to rest
There are shots fired, and gunpowder here,
A shower of bullets;
To where should I go then?
There is no place for me in this world.
A small house
I had from father and grandfather
In which I knew happiness;
My beloved and I would live there;
They were great beauteous times;
We would sacrifice ourselves for each other;
But suddenly a guest came.
I let him be for two days,
But after these two days passed
The guest became the host;
He told me, ‘you came today,
Be careful not to return tomorrow.’

Nasim Storay - Funerals
September 2008
The veils of modesty are seen removed;
Now the lights of his home are seen switched off.
Bareheaded, mother is wandering like a vagrant;
Flames of force, injustice and cruelty is seen;
They can’t kill the guilty;
Graveyards or innocents are seen
As she was assaulted;
The young girl is seen defenseless;
This is the life of a slave, the time of a slave;
The eyes of justice are blind;
Oh Nasim Storai! In our country
The funerals of maidens are seen.

AfghanWire.com is a service founded and run by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn. It has
recently resumed a limited service and is available free online and via email newsletter. They will be
releasing an English translation of the Taliban’s complete poetic output since 2006 along with a longer
contextual essay soon.

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Lifting T
he mission of the European Union, Kabul. territory. After meeting
Michael Semple was at his desk and him face to face,
glancing at his diary. He was halfway the field worker
through a busy day – nine meetings, suggested the

thelid
beginning with breakfast with a close relative commander
of the elusive Taliban supreme leader, Mullah simply jump
Omar, and with an office call to a senior official in a car to
in Afghan intelligence, the NDS, planned for meet up with

on d’affair
15.30. His mobile phone rang. It was Naquib, his Naquib and
Afghan partner, calling from a guesthouse in the Semple. And
city suburbs. He spoke in code, something like: the commander
“The Eagle has landed!” had agreed.

Semple
In all his months of meeting with the Meeting
Taliban, people always wondered how exactly Afghans and
Semple did it. Was he mad or foolish? How winning their
could he meet these people safely? Did he have trust involved
to be disguised or protected? But Semple had a rituals – and
big secret: rather than disappearing off to meet a language
the Taliban, the Taliban came to him, frequently that went beyond
in Kabul. It said something about the nature words. As he entered the guesthouse,
STEPHEN GREY reveals the true of this war. The British and Americans wore Semple could see that Naquib had placed the
story behind the expulsion of former uniforms, looked foreign and drove about in commander on a couch, not on floor cushions.
deputy EU mission head armoured cars. Moving just 10 miles took hours “OK, he is urbanized,” thought Semple, reading
Michael Semple of planning. But their enemy wore no uniform. the clue.
They had the freedom of the roads. A Taliban The commander – whose name Semple still
leader could wake up in a Helmand trench keeps secret – rose up and hugged the Irishman.
one morning, put down his AK-47, get a lift to There was a routine: arms round chest, pull left,
Kandahar and a bus to Kabul and be up there in pull right, pull left again, lean back and shake
a single day. hands. The two men looked at each other and
Semple threw his laptop into his briefcase compared beards. His was a little longer than
and jumped into his office car. As his car honked Semple’s but with no wavy edges, revealing that
its way through the crowded streets he thought he trimmed it. “In local terms that meant he
about the man who was waiting for him – a top was a liberal!” explained Semple later.
Taliban commander. He could not but admire His headgear gave away a little more.
his courage. If anyone from his side found out It was a simple grey-checked kefiya scarf,
about the talks, he could be hanged. A field rather than the rolled-up 9 yards of black silk
worker for Semple had been wooing this man that hardliners seemed to find essential. He
Michael Semple, (left) in Nangahar, December 2007 and had tracked him down deep in Taliban looked Semple straight in the eye through a

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BEARD-OFF: Michael Semple takes on the folicularly gifted locals BADLANDS: Stephen Grey with Brigadier Andrew Mackay in Musa Qala | Nick Cornish

pair of professorial spectacles without tints. the sugared almonds and toffees. They jousted then his local rivals tricked the Americans into war. It had been forced on him and his people.
“Confident!” thought Semple. over who should pour the tea. trashing and looting his house, supposedly But the men he led were tough and committed
The commander got quickly to the point. “You are a guest,” said the commander. looking for the enemy,’ recalled Semple. After and would carry on fighting “however long their
It was about trust. A high-up Taliban official “No you are a guest,” said Semple. that the man headed for the mountains and houses were bombarded”.
shared the commander’s view that the fighting The commander told his story in a few joined the resistance. The war had taken hold “If I could really trust you and the
would have no happy ending. He knew about words. That was a good sign. Experience told and before long the government was driven government then it might be possible to find a
Semple’s and Naquib’s reconciliation work. Semple “to be wary of those who had too from their area. way out of this,” he said, adding only that, while
But to end the fighting in his area he needed much to say”. This man was a real veteran, one Semple quizzed the commander about he could vouch for local Taliban fighters, he
to trust both foreign forces and the Afghan who had fought as a Mujahidin against the current details of the fighting, going through could not control the foreigners who joined the
government. “Can I trust you? And can I trust Communist regime in Afghanistan in the 1970s the picture village by village. It gave Semple a Taliban to fight their jihad. “They have their own
them?” he asked. – even before the Soviets had arrived. After the way of checking if this man was who he said reasons for what they do,” he said.
Semple knew something of this man by Soviets left, he went into business. And when he was. He appeared relaxed – tensing up only The more the commander talked, the more
reputation and the fighters he led, some of the the Taliban came he built cordial relations with when he talked of civilian casualties. “I felt he excited Semple was. It was clear this man was
fiercest and apparently intransigent Taliban them, but was never one of them. was on the verge of tears,” he recalled. not only a serious player, but also serious about
groups that were in battle with NATO forces. The new government under President Karzai Talking fluently in Pashtu, Farsi and Urdu, a path to peace. Plying him with questions and
And yet here he was, sharing with him a cup of had also given him high expectations. He built the commander voiced his view that any peace bubbling with enthusiasm, he abandoned all
tea from a silver-coloured teapot and picking at a fine house in the local district centre. ‘And settlement would be hard. He did not like the thought of taking notes on his laptop. Naquib,

54 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 55
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who had already done his part, said nothing
throughout, ready as the silent umpire to give
his verdict afterwards. Semple felt a buzz of
adrenalin. “We really have a chance to do
some good, perhaps to save dozens of lives,” he
thought.
Semple asked the commander if he would
stay the night. “We would be honoured. It is not
good to travel back so late,” he said. But the
commander knew his mind. He had to get back
before he was missed. No one knew about his
trip.
Semple took his permission to get up and
leave. Clambering into his official car, he got
out his laptop and rattled off an excited note as
his driver, Waheed, pushed through the traffic.
He was on his way to his next appointment with
BUY AT $3.50: Stephen grey takes cover in Musa
Dr Abdullah, the deputy head of the NDS and Qala
a small man in a big office of panelled walls.
Semple had heard stories of the gadgets the from President Karzai. Abdullah said that Karzai
walls concealed. was positive. “I suggested it might be useful for
This afternoon, Abdullah was full of energy us both to discuss it with the president – so I
and enthused over what Semple was doing. could say nice things about the NDS, and the
They talked of what lay ahead. As Semple NDS could say nice things about me!” recalled
recorded in his computer that night, the spy Semple. Abdullah described that as a ‘wonderful
chief’s view was that the main obstacles were idea’.
‘corrupt ministers’ and provincial governors. The meeting with Karzai never happened,
Looking back, Semple would see those words as though. The commander that Semple had
prescient. met that day had said pointedly he believed a
Semple told Abdullah he was pushing ahead negotiated peace was possible “if only we could
in Helmand province and would tell him if he trust the government”. Did he know something
needed help. He raised the question of backing that Semple was ignoring? � Creative Services | TV and Radio Production | Rental and Leasing

Stephen Grey is a London based journalist who writes about security
issues for the Sunday Times, The New York Times, the Guardian and
BBC’s Newsnight among others. Operation Snakebite is his second book
and is available to buy at the Gandamack Lodge.

56 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009
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M
any great things have been menu with café items like panini, salad, wraps

Wakhanon
accomplished because the people and thin crust pizza.
doing them had no idea how Running a restaurant turned out to be a lot
much work it would be before of work. You need to get food out of the kitchen
they started. Take the Wakhan Café for example. fast and it needs to be ruthlessly consistent
An IT guy and a finance guy sit down with a

wild side
couple of friends and decide to open a coffee
shop in some extra rooms downstairs from their

the
company’s offices. How hard can it be to run a
coffee shop and have a place to hang out with
your friends? Maybe they should have asked
someone first. But then we might not have the
lovely Wakhan Café to enjoy. And lovely it is.
Scene’s top restaurant sleuth ROSEMARY STASEK Two restaurant novices head to Dubai and
gives her verdict on Kabul’s hottest new cafe talk to five-star hotels on where they buy their
coffee. They do Google searches on equipment.
They get their friends to consult on décor. The
first two turned out well. The friends ended
painting the walls seven different colors before
they finally got it right. The result is a classy, SALAD DAYS: A healthier option for weight watching customers
comfortable, contemporary coffee shop that | Guilad Kahn
after one month is already a popular spot.
Wakhan Café The setting is really what draws you in. A
Kolola Poshta cool breezy patio, a grassy garden with Kabul’s
Street 5, turn left own gorgeous roses and then a dimmer, quiet
0797-881881 interior. Whatever type of atmosphere you’d like
9am-9pm everyday you’ll find a table or couch that fits.
You’ll also find whatever brought you to a
coffee shop in the first place. Five-star imported
coffee made in the Ferrari of Italian coffee
makers. All the syrups you might want for that
extra flavor. Teas, smoothies, fresh fruit juices -
all top notch. Fresh sweets daily to go with it if
you like.
Customers told them they wanted food as
well. With help from Kabul’s own International GOT IT WRAPPED: For light meals and snacks the cafe has got it all
| Guilad Kahn
Celebrity Chef they developed a very simple

PIZZALICIOUS: The thin crust Italian staple has gone down a strom | Guilad Kahn
58 AfghanScene
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CAFFEINE HIT: Extra attention FAJ-EATER: Wakhan waiter gets c COOL KIDS: A crowd of hipsters
goes into making the perfect out the Tex Mex | Leslie Knott at the Wakhan Cafe | Leslie
brew | Leslie Knott Knott

SECRET GARDEN: The Wahkan Cafe’s al-fresco space | Guilad Kahn

Rosemary Stasek has been enjoying the restaurant scene in Afghanistan for
seven years and is grateful for a wonderful husband who always picks up the
every time. Things got off to a shaky start. Food glass. He tried to make it up by telling me how bills. She has short reviews of most Kabul restaurants at http://www.stasek.
took too long to get to the table, nothing ever I’d get 50 per cent off every Tuesday for Ladies’ com/rrr.
came out quite the same way twice and those Day. I was more impressed with what has to
potatoes. Let’s just say the potatoes were a be the cleanest bathroom in town, thanks to
soggy disaster. A new cook, new kitchen systems Shakib the clean freak. Many folks enjoy the
and I can tell you the food is well on the way. strict no-smoking-inside policy. Some folks
Excellent thin crust pizza, tasty wraps and aren’t happy with the no alcohol policy but
panini and fresh salads. A simple menu well the founders really feel it makes for a more
done can be all you need. I still don’t like the comfortable, hassle-free environment. Thursday
potatoes but at least they’re crispy now. nights at the coffee shop are quiet though as a
Farshid said their target market was young result.
internationals and returnees between 20 and The rest of the week head to Wakhan Café
35 years old. But to his surprise: “Older people, if you’d like a great coffee shop drink and nice
like over 40, are coming in after work.” Your café food. With free wifi you can bring the
ancient over-40 reviewer restrained herself laptop and pretend to work all afternoon. How
from beating him to death with her smoothie hard can it be? �

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History’s T
he advert on the back of the programme chuckles from the audience. Author Stephen
for the ‘Great Game’ stage festival at Jeffreys also hammers home the religion of the
London’s Tricycle Theatre sums this invaders by having them reference the Ark of
piece of overtly political theatre up the Covenant, the Cross and their souls.
quite succinctly. It is for a local South Asian An Afghan man enters and, in contrast

lessons
restaurant that is ‘Highly Recommended by to the Brits who say “foogin” a lot, begins
the Guardian’, the UK’s biggest left-leaning discussing musical counter-point and the art of
newspaper. There are two photos: one of “Red” conversation. He is murdered for his pains. The
Ken Livingstone, London’s recently deposed men in scarlet are savages, the man in the pakol
Labour mayor, the other of Ed Balls, Gordon is not. The audience seemed to breath a sigh of
Brown’s bunker-mate for the past decade. Both relief at this revelation.
are smiling as they tuck into a buffet supper.
In many ways the twelve plays that make
up the series resemble the buffet on offer: local
“No minister is present,
MAX BENITZ says an ambitious series of plays at complexity is reduced, spiced and sweetened
for the palette of those who wish to taste
no one is taking notes
London’s Tricycle Theatre says more about the writers’
prejudices than about Afghanistan
Afghan history and have their expectations
precisely met. The plays are also highly
and a plank of Foreign
recommended by the Guardian.
Part One (1842-1930) begins with a flash-
Policy is about to be
forward to Herat in 1996. A mural painter is set
upon by a group of Taliban police. As they cart
tossed out of a fast
him away he denounces them for destroying
the Buddhas of Bamiyan. This basic factual
moving plane”
error (the Buddhas were blown up in 2001) The second piece deals with the construction
undermines the rest of this weak opening third of the Durand Line. Michael Cochrane, an actor
of the event. who pays his mortgage by playing LOUD POSH
In the first play four British buglers stand FOOLS, has Durand as a frock-coated philistine
guard outside the gates of Jalalabad calling for who spouts on about how Peshawar reminds
survivors from Elphinstone’s destroyed Kabul him of “the best bits of Surrey”. In contrast,
Army who never come. Paul Bhattacharjee’s Amir Abdur Rahman is a
As with nearly all the plays, the present sensitive and perceptive man who appears to
situation in Afghanistan informs the writer’s rehearse the ideas of Edward Said in 1893. It
slant on the past. The brutish soldiers concede is western pride and an imagined perception
that the country is a “death-trap for foreign of the orient that hold the seed of imperial
armies” and that the “British Army relies on the destruction, we are informed.
enlistment of a high proportion of fools” – a The action then shifts to today’s Foreign
remark which, predictably, gained appreciative Office in Amit Gupta’s canny three-hander

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YES MINISTER: Afghan history, past and present REDS IN THE BED: The Communist period brought to
| Tristram Kenton life on stage in London | Tristram Kenton

COUCHED: Plays try to give context | Tristram TALIBAN TERROR: Two actors get a rough handling
Kenton during the Great Game | Tristram Kenton

Campaign. An expert on South Asia comes driver. Hounded from his capital due to his
and gives a condensed history lecture to an attempts at liberalisation and then let down by
oleaginous young politician seeking to spin his Rolls Royce, Amanullah rages in a blizzard
Britain out of her involvement in Afghanistan. and eventually asks the driver to shoot him. As
No minister is present, no one is taking with other plays in the series, the condensed
notes and a plank of foreign policy is about to nature of the work forces the author to rely
be tossed out of a fast moving plane. “That’s on deadening metaphor to draw a ‘lesson’ for
politics,” the MP explains to the startled looking today’s situation from an episode in the past.
academic. Part Two (1979-1996) begins with a
The concluding part of the opening third retrospective of Soviet involvement in
concerns King Amanullah Khan’s flight from Afghanistan. The opening play tracks back
Kabul in 1929. He is accompanied by Queen from 1987 to 1981 and uses the device of a
HANDS UP: Bullying Brits get their way in the Great Game | Tristram Kenton Soroya, her father Mahmud Tarzi and a British briefing room for new conscripts to illustrate

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the fate of two of her local workers. They are
dead, here are their murderers, watch as I throw
them to the zoo’s lion, she is told. When the
new creed of human rights meets the latest
interpretation of Islam, both are revolted and
violence ensues.
The setting of the last play underlines the
central problem with this project. From 1996-
2001, western involvement inside Afghanistan
was minimal but the writer decides to focus
on the reaction of a westerner to the Taliban.
Instead of this parochial British approach, why
not commission a piece by an Afghan writer
to tell his country’s story rather than risk a
British writer getting it wrong? And where were
plays dealing with Zahir Shah and Mohammed BORDERING ON THE INSANE: Mortimer Durand leaves his mark
Daoud? Where indeed were the Afghan actors? on Amir Abdur Rahman | Tristram Kenton
WAR IS HELL-MAND: British squaddies in the souhern badlands | Tristram Kenton We can only assume that the organisers wanted
to craft a project that would go down well own inherent problems (like everywhere else in
how cynicism and brutality crept into the Soviet compromises that a proxy war demands of its in London. Bizarrely, it is the character of Dr the world).
mission. The audience is directly addressed by actors. Najibullah who perhaps speaks for Afghans The first two thirds of ‘Great Game’ are
Soviet officers who also remind them of today’s Another half hour and we’re in the 1990s, when he remarks to the theatre: “for you this is happy to make many accusations but offer no
military PR with their talk of surges, IEDs and holed up with Dr Najibullah as the Taliban imaginary – for me this is real.” answers. Despite some excellent sections, it
improved kit for soldiers. Internationalism is the circles the UN compound. The old boxer dances By seeking to tell Afghanistan’s story succeeds only in reinforcing the sense of unease
new dogma brought to bear on Afghanistan, to the Spice Girls, drinks whisky and rails through the prism of foreign intervention the and the lazy “well, maybe everyone should just
replacing the religious and imperialist against British Orientalism. “The British Empire organisers of this event fell into a classic trap: get out of there” feeling which I suspect most
motivations of the British. Along the way, ‘good’ was a bad thing,” the British writer interviewing they deny the agency of the people who they of the audience went into the theatre already
intentions are shelved and the project descends him dutifully concedes. This was perhaps the were trying to give voice to. Afghanistan is thinking. This consensus with present British
into bloodshed. strongest piece of theatre on offer as the portrayed as a victim of competing sets of sentiment will also date this work rapidly.
Blood and Gifts, by JT Rogers, tries to author, David Greig, used a conceptual device foreign ideology – whether it’s crude muscular So, good in parts but vaguely indigestible
show us how. A CIA officer and a moderate (the interview as an overtly imagined event) Christianity or dodgy Marxism – rather than as and unsurprising – rather like a buffet in a
Mujahedeen commander are shown meeting to sidestep the earnest historical headlock his a country bristling with ideas, talent and yes, its London curry-house. �
three times in the 1980s. They court one colleagues fell into.
another in a slow dance of mistrust, acceptance The final piece dealt with the surreal world
and eventual betrayal. Rick Warden and Vincent of NGO work under the Taliban regime. A Resting actor Max Benitz worked as an independent media consultant in
Ebrahim’s solid performances supported a secular Muslim UN representative meets a Kabul last winter. He is hoping to join the British Army.
strongly written piece that illustrated the Taliban Mullah in Kabul Zoo at night to discuss

68 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 69
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009
Lighter scene Lighter scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

View mountain
The

from the
Original fiction from Badger and Whistle

T
ristram Wallace Angusteen-Tittershaugh abluted lent them a mahogany, villous and
always had a thirst for adventure. rather malodorous disposition not unlike the
He was a bright-eyed, gangly and Mooslim tribesmen described in G-U Rory’s
somewhat callow youth with a shocking diaries.
explosion of hair and the kind of dental They were housed in the staff cottages, piled
challenges worthy of a double-page spread in around the backside of the estate.
The Lancet. It took rather little of Tristram’s imagination
As a boy he explored the family’s Highland to conjure-up great games and adventures of
estate with Durand, a cross-eyed Dalmatian the Hindoo-Kush that summer. He would harry
from an ever-decreasing gene-pool who had a and hound the natives, practice rapid retreats
passion for legs and scaling the estate walls to through the woods and sit cross-legged by their
savage poachers and tourists. fires, attempting to converse with these thick-
He slung an old Jezail musket that Great- Highland fellows.
Uncle Rory had brought-home from the Third Who knew that it would prepare him for a
Anglo-Afghan War over his unusually narrow life-time of derring-do and over-achievement?
shoulders and he set out to stalk the ‘natives’. By fifteen, Tristram was already a fellow at
They weren’t real ‘natives’ of course; though St Andrews University where he wore Harris-
the infrequency with which the estate workers Tweed and studied anthropology and basket-

72 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 73
Lighter scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Coming Soon to Afghan Scene Afghan Scene July 2009

KABUL CLASSIFIEDS
weaving techniques of the lesser tribes of “Fair thee well oh land of new
South-Central Asia. You don’t know me but I know you
He read Byron, Fitzroy Maclean, George Modern, brash and all too bold
Trying to sell a bicycle or looking for love?
Macdonald Fraser, Rumi and his favourite, Now rest my head in a land of old Got a room to let or want to buy a house?
the first Lady of Pink Prose, Cartland. He
dreamed of one day following in G-U Rory’s
club-footed steps; exploring the ancient land
Sallam Wa Leykooum Mooslim land
I find thee here with my open-hand
Afghan Scene is set to launch Afghanistan’s first
of Afghaaarnistaaarn and skipping across the I spy a hill, a mountain-side comprehensive classified section for ex-pats,
Steppes of Central Asia. Where I shall build and soon reside”
Every day he would groom the thin soft wisp and all the ads are FREE.
of slug-shaped hair above his lip and hone his And so it was there, on top of a crumbling
pipe-smoking skills (strictly a Shag man only). hill, amongst the ruins of an ancient Mongol
By eighteen he was a Captain in Her pissoir that Tristram W. A. Tittershaugh rested
Majesty’s forces. By nineteen he had helped his sack. He squatted, strained a little and
conquer small provinces in lesser-known and thought.
PER ALS
PeSrsOonNals USED CAR
beastly, benighted countries. By twenty he had This would be his new domain; on top of
nd his S
WLTM MLO a why go els
Embassy girl
mastered the lute and he knew that the rest a peak with the world beneath his feet. He ewhere to
for
really would one-day become history. would assemble a team comprised of Britain’s
, n o t fo r fr iendship, but Come here
be cheated
?
mate first!
He tutored Kings and Queens, advised youngest, brightest and fairest. He would sing, ot required.
Princes and Presidents and pontificated to the play the lute, recite poetry and build. fun. GSOH n
masses. And he would record it for
By twenty-two and a half he was ready to posterity, for “the peoples of the
journey over the Hindoo Kush to a land in the world”.
ALE
mountains, trapped from the sea and isolated It would be called “The
F O R S ” Kevlar body s
from the modern-world that very often held View from the Mountain”. �
rea thable made hole
little but contempt and derision for Tristram. New “B elmet. Man ignial
L O SLoTstCC r& h est. Or
He gazed upon Kaboul for the first time, sat
Tubby-w AatT ! ! ! armou head and ch quires.
down with a grubby-looking native and was hite.Last across ger re
seen at th no lon
moved to verse;
Gun Club
shooting e Kabul owner
range.

So if you’ve got something you want to sell,
be it a bicycle or body armour, furniture or a fridge,
Scene Classifieds is the only place to go.

74 Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com
Email: classified@afghanscene.com
www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009
Hit
Essential scene Feature scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

the
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Picture scene
Afghan Scene July 2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

SEPARATED
at
BIRTH!
UNAMA Supremo ‘Al’ Kai Eide
Oscar winner Bill Nighy

r
end you
Please s stions
sugge r@
to edito e.com.
Caption
Competition
cen
afghansst entries
Wittie printed
will be onth.
next m

Afghan Scene July 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 79
Farewell scene Farewell scene
Afghan
Afghan Scene
Scene July
July 2009
2009 Afghan Scene July 2009

He
She: August 2006. My first trip was to Uruzgan,
where I ate Dutch sauerkraut covered with
Afghan sand.

ASM: Best of times?

He: A trip to Mazar with Deedee last summer.
We stopped to swim in the King’s summer

Says
palace pool. Mango season. Then election day
in 2005.
She: Meeting Richard. Swimming in the pool
of the King’s summer palace near Mazar-i-
Sharif and eating the most delicious melon ever

She
afterwards. Going furniture shopping with my
housemates Tom and John in Chicken street. The
house remained empty, but we had a lot of fun.

ASM: Worst of times?

He: That’s more difficult. Deedee MIA in

Says
Uruzgan wasn’t a high point.
She: Going shopping for clothes in the Kabul
City Centre.

ASM: What next?

He: We’re moving to Brussels. Deedee will write
a book. I’ll join the International Crisis Group
and walk to work.
Dutch Journalist DEEDEE She: Seeing my friends in Holland, shopping in
DERKSEN and British elections London and having a Belgium beer on a Brussels
expert RICHARD ATWOOD left ASM: When did you first come to terrace.
Afghanistan?
Kabul last month to start a new
ASM: Any plans to come back?
life together in Europe. Here He: I first came in February 2005. It was too
they explain how they met and cloudy for the plane to fly. So I ended up He: Nothing definite yet, but I hope I’ll come
what they’ll miss driving in over the Khyber pass, which was a back.
tremendous introduction. She: Yes! �

80 Afghan
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July 2009
2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene July 2009 81