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AFGHAN

ISSUE 63 - OCTOBER 2009

Top of our world


The men who conquered
Afghanistan’s highest peak
perspective • insight • people • reviews • pics • life
SCENE
Afghan Introduction
Contents
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan
Afghan Scene
Scene October
October 2009
2009

ISSUE 63 - OCTOBER 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
Cover photo: Jean Annequin
Contact: info@afghanscene.com / www.afghanscene.com
Afghan Scene welcomes the contribution of articles and / or pictures from its readers.
Editorial rights reserved.

7 Introduction
10 Cemetery sentry
David Gill meets the man who has been tending to the
graves of Britain’s fallen for 30 years.
14 Climbing for peace
David James on an historic expedition by Afghan
mountaineers to conquer Noshaq, the country’s
highest peak.
20 The Four Tigers of the Wakhan
Louis Meunier’s blow by blow account of how four men
20 went up a mountain and came back national heroes.
25 Inside the narco economy
Gregor Salmon lifts the lid on how Taliban from the south are
using opium to buy guns from warlords in the north.
36 Restaurant review
In her final review Rosemary Stasek samples some of the
best food Kabul has to offer.
38 Remembering Rosy
Afghan Scene looks back at the life and work of our long-
serving restaurant critic, Rosemary Stasek
42 Book review
Rose Taylor checks out an action-packed page turning
25 account of a CIA super spy in Afghanistan.

46 Be Scene
A selection of the summer’s best party pictures.
54 Bloggers’ FAQs
Scientists have invented things called “weblogs” designed
to give struggling, out of work journalists something to do.
PEEJAY TOBIA takes us through the plusses and pitfalls of
blogging.
61 Farewell Scene
Legendary British journalist Tom Coghlan reflects on the
good times and bad times.
66 Afghan Essentials
38 A super-sized directory of the best restaurants and hotels
in Kabul.

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Introduction
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Farewell to a
Scene stalwart
I
t is only fitting that this week’s Kabul Help. She first came to Afghanistan in 2002,
at Work feature is about Kabul’s British focusing most of her attention on improving the
Cemetery. It was there on a sunny lot of this country’s women and girls taking her
afternoon late last month that around fifty case, on one occasion, to a personal meeting
people from all walks of Kabul life gathered with President Karzai.
to remember Rosemary Stasek who died on Afghan Scene’s thoughts are very much with
September 24 after suffering a heart attack her family and her many friends left behind in
related to the early stages of multiple sclerosis Afghanistan and across the world. And, most of
from which she had been suffering. all, with her husband Morne who she first met
Readers will know Rosemary as this and fell in love with in Kabul, a city she evidently
magazine’s tireless restaurant critic. With loved almost as much. �
dollops of wit and endless enthusiasm for
Kabul’s often dubious culinary output, Rosemary editor@afghanscene.com
had actually managed to review every eaterie in
the city which was prepared to be featured in
this magazine. Her final review on page 36 of
Sufi sees her returning to a restaurant she first
scrutinised long before.
But, as the deeply moving stories told by
those who attended hermemorial ceremony
showed, she was much more than just a food
critic. Her formidable list of achievements
include serving as city mayor of Mountain View
in North California and internet entrepreneur as
“I wonder how much longer Gordon Brown can last...”
well as running her own charity called A Little

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Scene Team Farewell scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Contributors
Afghan Scene Magazine is proud to showcase work from the best photographers in Afghanistan

David Gill is a British writer, photographer and videogrpher focusing on a 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

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.

Jérôme Veyret, 29, arrived in Afghanistan by car in 2003, at the end of a


roadtrip from Bordeaux. He works as a journalist for international TV channels,
making full-length documentaries. The most recent one covered the Afghan
Kyrghiz who live in the Pamirs at an altitude of 4,000 meters. Jérôme has also
covered a story for the magazine “Grands Reportages” called “The oasis of
Wakhan, a sanctuary for the wakhi and Kyrgyz peoples”.
www.noshaq.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.

“Of course, it’s the children I feel sorry for...”

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Kabul at work Kabul at work
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

The
Grave
Tender
DAVID GILL meets the man who kept the British cemetery
in Kabul through 30 years of war SIX FEET UNDER: SIX FOOT UNDER: Grave diggers prepare the ground for a new occupant | David Gill

R
ahimullah is a beautiful bearded old However the place is so peaceful as we sit none of the Kharijees (foreigners) have come there. This seems like a bargain and I make
Afghan man and caretaker of the drinking tea, poured by one of his 30 plus grand back to haunt him and err… that’s it. a note to reserve a space or three. If the
British cemetery in Kabul (aka - adire children, amongst the gravestones of fallen His main focus seems to be getting a pay Taliban’s offensive continues next year I am
gora- white people’s cemetery). He’s British soldiers. As the gravedigger sets about rise via me. He is currently paid by $140 sure there could be potentially a massive rise
been working here for nearly 30 years. It’s a his task, he recounts stories of a visit from a month by the British Embassy, which is in business. The grave hedge fund
wonderfully serene, reflective place and it’s Mullah Omar during the time of the Taliban and roughly the same cost as getting buried starts here. �
as far away from the madding crowd as you about how he offended him after unfortunately
can get in this hectic, dusty city. The week I cracking a joke about being blind. The Mullah
visited him the murdered aid worker, Gayle only has one eye! The story is 18 years old
Kabul, A City at Work is a selection of over 100 original portraits from the
Williams, was about to be buried, following her and he tells it like happened last week. When capital. It’s authors describe it as a window into Kabul’s soul. For more
assassination in Kart-e Char. October 2008 was pushed further for more exciting anecdotes he information visit www.web.mac.com/shot2bits/work | www. kabulatwork.com
a busy month here. volunteers, with a wry smile and a chuckle, that

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Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

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Climbing A
mruddin fumbled with the zip of his two of the climbers finally reached the highest
jacket. His frozen fingers still covered point in the country to light a beacon for the
by two sets of gloves closed numbly whole nation and the world to see.

Peace
around the neatly folded flag. Malang “We just want people to know there’s more

for
quickly grasped one corner to stop the icy wind to Afghanistan than the Taliban, opium and
blowing it from unfeeling fingers and in an roadside bombs,” said Amruddin, “We want
explosion of colour the red, black and green mountaineers to return to Afghanistan to
of Afghanistan unfurled above the cold white experience for themselves how hospitable the
summit of mount Noshaq. The two climbers had Afghan people are.”
just earned their place in history as the first This historic feat took place in July which
of their countrymen to stand on the 7,492m was also the bloodiest month for NATO troops
summit of Afghanistan’s highest mountain. serving in Afghanistan. With big questions being
Former soldier DAVID JAMES on how an historic climb by But the expedition is about so much more asked about the international community’s
four intrepid Afghans offers glimmers of hope in a war torn land than mountaineering. It is about a small flame strategy in Afghanistan maybe it is time the
of hope that has been lit in the far north east world stopped focusing on the military problems
of the country, protected from the winds of war and started focusing on the Afghan solutions.
by the impregnable Hindu Kush mountains. Four According to CIA World Fact Book
Afghan climbers had set off from the village of Afghanistan has a population of 33 million.
Qazi Deh in the Wakhan Corridor carrying with According to the Afghan Minister of the Interior
them the dream of a better future. By battling just 10-15,000 of them are Taliban fighters,
against unseasonally deep snow and high winds that’s less than 0.05% of the population. Yet

SLOG: Onwards and upwards | Louis Meunier ENTOURAGE: Day one in the Wakhan | David James

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“We just want people to know there’s more


to Afghanistan than the Taliban, opium and
roadside bombs”
this 0.05% of the population dominates the here.” In fact just a few days after returning
international community’s consciousness and from Noshaq Gorg Ali led an expedition for
resources. The four Afghan mountaineers British trekking company Wild Frontiers into
represent the other 99.95% of the population the Little Pamir near the border with China
who are just trying to get on with their lives and Afiat Khan led a French expedition to Lake
and hoping for a better future. To get their Zorkol.
voices heard above the media’s thirst for war Tourism may seem to be a frivolous
they literally had to climb to the top of the activity in a country riven by war but it serves
highest mountain. a strategic purpose. First it challenges the
“Life for people in the Wakhan is very hard,” world’s perception about Afghanistan. “When
said Malang, “if more tourists come then life I told people I was going to Afghanistan they
will get better. We hope that Afghans from all said I was crazy,” says French mountaineer
over the country will start to climb and maybe Jean Annequin “everyone said ‘It’s too
one day mountaineers will return to every part dangerous, you’ll get killed’, but crossing the
of the Hindu Kush.” border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan
“Afghanistan is covered in mountains and was like crossing the border between France
mountaineering is a sport that all the Afghan and Italy. It is like there are two different
people could excel at,” said Gorg Ali another of countries; the Wakhan is definitely not the
the four climbers. “We’d like to see Pashtuns, Afghanistan you see on the news.” Secondly
Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Wakhi people this paradigm shift along with the developing
climbing together in joint expeditions as an act tourism infrastructure will provide the business
of friendship amongst the Afghan people. We community with the facilities and confidence
are Wakhi but first we are Afghans.” to visit north east Afghanistan which is rich
But isn’t the idea of tourism in Afghanistan in minerals, precious stones and other natural
just wishful thinking? “It is very safe here,” says resources. At the moment it is almost impossible
Afiat Khan another of the climbers. He was a for local Afghan businessmen to develop the
former Mujahedin fighter who took up arms distribution channels necessary for international
to defend the Wakhan during the Taliban era. trading. Trekkers and mountaineers are often
“We have had many visitors coming to climb well connected professionals with high levels
and trek in the Wakhan. There are no problems of disposable income. Therefore tourism offers

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GRAND PLANS: Intrepid Afghan climbers discuss details of their historic assault on Noshaq UNFORGIVING: At base camp the team had endure the cold and discomfort of the high Pamirs

both the opportunity for direct sales to the which he called Oxus: Mountains for Peace. Meunier who helped the Afghans organise the successful and the Afghan people and our
international market and the chance to build At the time Carlo’s modest objectives were to expedition. “We had a dream to see an Afghan government will be proud too. Our dream is to
relationships, that with some support, could show solidarity with the Afghan people who reach the top of the highest peak and we have see the Afghan flag flying above Noshaq the
develop into long terms export opportunities. had been so hospitable to him in the 1960’s achieved that. We hope this expedition will give highest mountain.”
“What the Afghan people need is jobs,” says when he made a number of first ascents in the other Afghans the confidence to achieve their Perhaps the greatest achievement of the
Amruddin. “If people don’t have jobs they can Hindu Kush and to return Noshaq to a pristine own dreams.” expedition was that in a year dominated by
get angry and that’s when trouble starts. For us state by removing all the refuse left by previous “We are doing this for the whole of bad news four Afghans managed to give their
and for many of the other people living in the expeditions. However that expedition became Afghanistan,” said Malang prior to the countrymen something to feel proud about and
mountains in Afghanistan climbing and trekking the genus for a programme of training Afghan expedition. “I am very proud to have this to share with them the dream of a brighter
is the only chance we have for working, so I mountaineers and developing the tourism opportunity and God willing we will be future. �
encourage everyone I know to get into these infrastructure which has now culminated in two
activities.” Afghans climbing Noshaq, the country’s highest David James is a former television news cameraman who joined the army in April 2001 at the
age of 28. He served on two tours of Afghanistan and was awarded the QCVS for the second.
Mountaineering has provided a ray of hope mountain. His military experience convinced him that economic development not military force was the
to the people of north east Afghanistan since “We wanted to help the four climbers do route to success in the county. He is now the director of Mountain Unity International a social
2003 when Carlo Alberto Pinelli organised the something that would be a source of pride enterprise dedicated to providing economic opportunities to the people of the Hindu Kush and
Pamir mountains. Found out more at www.mountainunity.org.
Mountain Wilderness expedition to Noshaq and hope for the whole country,” said Louis

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Conquering Afghanistan, Camp 3. 6,700 m. Dawn, a day before summit constantly battered by powerful and freezing

M
winds, and access to the summit is blocked by

The Afghan Attempt


alang, his hands covered with a daunting 200 metre unstable rock barrier.
thick gloves, folds the tent Anyway, Afghans were rarely given a chance;
uneasily, clamps it under his arm they were employed as high-altitude porters by
and opens his rucksack. Suddenly western adventurers but they were not allowed
a powerful gust of wind blasts the surface of to accompany them to the very top. This time, it
A team of Afghan climbers overcame prejudice, poverty and ice cliffs to the mountain and rips the tent away. Helplessly, was different: This was an Afghan ascent.
scale the country’s highest peak for the first time in history earlier this year. we stare at the yellow piece of fabric flapping From the idea of climbing Noshaq to the
Adventure filmmaker LOUIS MEUNIER was with them away in the distance. expedition itself was a gigantic step. It took
We now have only one tent left, leaving over a year to put the project together. Rallying
room to four climbers only. No need to speak, support was a huge challenge. We had to face
we all know what it means: Two of us will have rebuttal and sarcasm from people telling us that
to descend. “Ba nam e Khoda, in the name of we were mad and that Afghanistan was not a
God!” It looks like the fortune is against us. place for such adventures. Besides which, we
Yesterday, Afiat Khan and Gurg Ali suffered had to identify and hire two qualified mountain
altitude sickness and had to descend to avoid a guides, wise enough to accept the idea that this
potentially deadly lung oedema. What’s next? part of the country was safe. We were lucky,
Will we ever manage to plant the Afghan flag Jean and Simon proved to be the best.
on the summit? Afghans are tough and rough mountain men,
The adventure had started over a cup but they are not mountaineers. The Tigers were
of tea, almost like a joke: “Why not go up not familiar with the techniques of rock, snow
Noshaq?” The question sounded simple and and ice climbing. Thus, we also had to organize
the idea titillating. Doing it soon became an a training course in the French Alps in order to
obsession. Mount Noshaq, the highest peak enhance their skills. Facing the red tape and
in Afghanistan, had never been climbed by an organizing the logistics for the expedition was
Afghan citizen. Amruddin, Gurg Ali, Malang and another snag. But finally we had managed to
Afiat Khan were ready to take the challenge. By set off. Together with a group of 68 porters, we
scaling Noshaq, the four Tigers of Wakhan - as had crossed the minefield – approximately 640
they call themselves - would earn a place in antipersonnel mines had been laid in 2000 to
history and open the way for more expeditions prevent a Pakistani incursion – and installed the
in this stunning, safe and remote corner of base camp. It seemed we had to climb Everest
Afghanistan. Above all, they would send a before aiming at Noshaq.
message of hope to their fellow citizens. And here we are now, at the foot of the
There are a couple of reasons why no Afghan rock barrier. The joke launched over the cup
had ever reached the top of Noshaq. First, it’s of tea seems far behind, and we would give
a serious mountain. At 7,492 meters, it is the anything for the warmth of a cup of tea. The
second highest peak of the Hindu Kush; it is fierce 200 metre rock wall is taunting us. Will

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any Afghan overcome it? Will the Afghan flag they can’t rest. Indeed, the place is blown by a
ever float above Noshaq, or will the mountain glacial airstream, and one has to keep moving
remain virgin from any Afghan footstep? What to stay alive. The progression is slow because
to do with only one tent left? I have been of the deep snow surfacing the mountain.
suffering from acute bronchitis, so I have to go Amruddin realizes he has left his pickaxe
down anyway. Jérôme comes with me, leaving behind. In order to maximize the success of the
Amruddin and Malang with the two mountain expedition, Simon gives his one to Amruddin
guides, Jean and Simon. We say a brief but and stays back.
emotional farewell and put all our hopes in Finally, on July 19th at 2.30 pm Amruddin,
their hands. Malang and Jean, reach the summit and unfurl
The next morning, the summit team leaves the Afghan flag, entering history and giving
Camp 3 and attacks the rock barrier at 7,000 reason to the Afghan proverb: there is a path to
metres. At this altitude, oxygen is scarce; the the top of even the highest mountain.
climbers have to move in slow motion. They A word for Gurg Ali and Afiat Khan: Although
ascend gradually, inch by inch, placing their they did not get as much recognition as Malang
hands and feet inside fragile fractures in the and Amruddin, they deserve their share of
Amruddin Afiat Khan cliff. Occasionally, they skid, prompting stones honour for what they have undertaken.
to fall down and threatening to drag the next And another word for our main sponsors,
climber. A few shivers and a couple of hours without whom this adventure would not have
later, they reach the plateau safely. This is not been possible: The French Embassy in Kabul, the
the top. The summit looks like another mountain Aga Khan Development Network, Millet, and La
far ahead. The mountaineers are exhausted but Guilde du Raid. Thank you.

The ANA is gradually taking over some of the


operational duties currently undertaken by
NATO and US forces

Louis Meunier, 30 has been living in Afghanistan since 2002. A pas-


sionate mountaineer and outward bounds enthusiast, he has equipped
various rock-climbing trails in the Panjsheer valley, and has success-
fully led a group of 18 members of the Mountain Wilderness associa-
tion for a one-month long trek through the Pamirs and the Wakhan in
the summer of 2007. Louis has also crossed Afghanistan by horse in
the summer of 2005 and plays on Kabul´s buzkashi team, the country’s
Gurg Ali Malang national sport.

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Trading
Drugs
for
Guns
Australian journalist GREGOR SALMON on the
personal risks he took on investigating
Afghanistan’s narco economy

‘T
hat’s him,’ said Bashir, my fixer. A His eyes didn’t rest on me, or
stocky man was walking towards elsewhere, for long. He looked
the car with a shawl draped over his like a man wondering if he
head. He got into the back seat and was trapped. As we headed
we all said hello. He and Bashir talked. To further west through the
say the Taliban commander talked is not streets of Kabul we passed a
quite right. He spoke at such volume you’d police checkpoint, positioned
swear he was addressing a rally. I tried to there because a suicide bomb
refrain from blocking my ears. The guy was had gone off up ahead a few
uptight. The two or three times I turned days earlier. The commander
around to look at him - dark-skinned, said something to Bashir in a
chubby, bearded - I could clearly see so. voice that could split bricks.

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‘He is scared,’ said Bashir. ‘He said, “I am now ‘What do you do with the teryak [opium] you ‘One hundred per cent,’ he said.
in enemy territory. You must take care of me.”’ collect?’ ‘Okay, I want to go.’
We came to the house where we would ‘We buy weapons and ammunition from
conduct the interview. We were shown into the the north. They have a lot, so we buy bullets, ***
common room and sat down, the commander AK-47s and machine guns for our jihad and
positioned beneath a pump-action shotgun bring them to Helmand.’ Bashir called to tell me he was outside.
hanging on an otherwise bare, pale-green wall. ‘Where do you buy your weapons?’ When I appeared, Commander Shukra
He went by the name of Shukra. He said he ‘In Kunduz and Takhar provinces from got out of the passenger seat and
had around 500 men under his command in Northern Alliance commanders. You can come climbed into the back. I got in and
Helmand. He’d joined the Taliban when they with me and I will show you the business. was introduced to a Tajik guy
first came through Kandahar in 1994, because People make a lot of money out of this named Massoud. He was to
there were ‘tribal conflicts’. His motives for business, this exchange of money and drugs for be our ‘car minder’, Bashir
fighting had expanded: ‘Since the [US-led] munitions.’ told me, employed to make
bombardment we are trying to protect our ‘The Taliban are dealing drugs to the sure no one put a bomb
country and our people. It’s like a revolution of Northern Alliance? The Northern Alliance are under the vehicle while
Pashtun people, because we don’t have enough supplying weapons to the Taliban?’ we weren’t watching. I
part of the government.’ ‘It’s like a friendship. Even in the time of suspected he just loved
‘What’s the role of opium in funding your Taliban, the Taliban used to buy munitions from an entourage.
effort?’ I asked. the Northern Alliance. They got new munitions We set off north.
The commander started snickering like a freely supplied by Russia.’ The sun was warm and
schoolboy. After the interview, we began talking about the air crisp. Shukra was
‘In this business, not only the Taliban are the prospect of heading up to Kunduz to meet in a far more relaxed
involved,’ he said. ‘About 80 per cent of the Shukra’s weapons dealer. Why would he offer to mood than our first
government is involved. The governor’s involved, do this? Why would the people he introduced meeting, keeping Bashir
the police chief. How? I will tell you the process. me to trust me? What was to stop them from and Massoud constantly
Look at my tribe. We are 400 families, so we are just killing me - and Bashir? It was a nerve- amused.
all growing poppies. The Taliban get their zakat racking decision.
and that’s it. They aren’t even encouraging the ‘In a direct fight,’ said commander Shukra, ‘if
farmers or protecting them. Our 400 families I arrest or detain an American soldier, I let him
collect 100,000 Pakistani rupees [$1250] each. go back. But if I find a spy, I’ll kill him.’
This forty million [$500,000] goes to the district I don’t know why he said this. Maybe to give
governor, to the police chief - to the people in me a hint as to what he thought about double-
charge. They are protecting these fields. They crossers. My mind was working overtime, trying
are encouraging people to grow because they to weigh everything up. I decided if Bashir was
are getting a lot of money out of it. That’s the cool with it, we’d go.
process.’ ‘Bashir, do you trust this guy?’ I asked.

HIGH CALIBRE: Security enroute | Gregor Salmon

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SCORED: One of the millions of poppy bulbs in Helmand that helps the Taliban pay their bills | Gregor Salmon CASH CROP: A farmer from southern Afghanistan with a crop nearly ready for harvesting | Gregor Salmon

When the first protracted silence fell, he Okay, so we were a long way from Byron Bay. Pats of manure were stuck on walls to dry into gesturing towards the screen. He knew I meant
said, ‘I hope we are not boring you.’ I assured The drive through the Salang valley fuel for the winter. music, dancing, television - the lot.
him I was well enough entertained. I was with was the prettiest I’d experienced - it was In Kunduz we took two rooms at the Ariana ‘It will stay,’ he said, trying to be earnest,
a Pashtun fixer, an out-of-work Tajik and a the prime of autumn. The landscape was Hotel. After dinner, Grease was on TV with Farsi like he’d actually have a say in the matter. After
Taliban commander from Helmand driving from beautifully alight, the sapped leaves of subtitles. With his eyes glued to the set, Shukra dinner we sat around chatting about more
Kabul into northern Afghanistan to meet some mulberry trees coating the valley with a couldn’t contain his delight. He stared joyfully serious topics.
gun dealers, but the vibe was that same cruisy, praline glaze. The river was reduced to a at the small screen as guys skidded across the ‘Where does most of the Taliban’s money
escapist feeling that I knew well from many a trickle, leaving its white, rounded stones floor and girls bent this way and that, their come from?’
road trip up the east coast of Australia. exposed. Further on, when we reached the skirts flying like matador capes. ‘I like dancing,’ ‘I receive a small amount from teryak from
Passing through the Shomali Plain, the fields, men winnowed great piles of wheat he said, his voice pitched high with glee. ‘I’d like smugglers. The biggest source of our money
commander said grimly, ‘If the foreign while children played chasings in rings of hay. to be doing this dancing.’ comes from Arabs. The Arabs give the Taliban
forces pull out of Afghanistan, this will be a Donkeys trotted along, camels ambled, all ‘You’re Taliban. What are you going to do commanders very small diamonds to keep in
battleground in ten days.’ saddled with ludicrously huge loads of fodder. with this if you get back into power?’ I said, their pockets and sell when they need to.’

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‘Diamonds? In Afghanistan?’ I was, to say ‘Right.’


the least, sceptical. It was only later that I I had to force myself from walking away
learned how al-Qaeda had anticipated having from the interview. But I had to keep my
its accounts frozen post-9/11 and had converted manners.
tens of millions of dollars into another stable, ‘What’s going on, Bashir?’
convenient form of currency. ‘I think he’s nervous.’
‘But he’s the guy we came for?’
*** ‘Yes.’
I set my indignation aside and began to
In the morning, we took a short drive and ask my questions. For a man ‘not involved in
arrived at a very comfortable home belonging the trade’, Tofan appeared to be quite dialled
to Shukra’s weapons supplier, a handsome in.
man in his sixties named Tofan. But within The story he told resembled that of the
thirty seconds of the interview starting, I south. The militias of several commanders
learned I’d been sold a dud. were now registered as police but still did
‘He’s not in the drug business,’ said Bashir, their masters’ bidding, and these gangs of
almost into his collar. I could tell he was in a untouchables ran the trade of exporting
difficult position. heroin to Tajikistan and bringing weapons in.
‘He’s not in the drug business,’ I repeated. They could do whatever they wanted, even
‘No, and he’s not a gun dealer,’ said Bashir, daylight murder in the streets.
avoiding my eyes. Local officials had complete control of the
‘He’s not a gun dealer?’ I stared at Bashir, long border with Tajikistan; the drugs and
not sure what the hell was happening. It now guns were simply ferried across the river in
seemed our friend Tofan had had a change of small rubber boats. There were few, if any,
heart. small traders now.
‘He can talk about what’s going on, but ‘You need the official contacts to do this
he’s not part of the business,’ said Bashir. business,’ he said. �

Gregor Salmon is an Australian freelance writer based in Sydney. He has


written Australian publications including the Sun-Herald, Inside Sport and
Readers Digest and Playboy. He spent eight months in Afghanistan in 2007
investigating every layer of the drug trade. Poppy is only available online
order booktopia.com.au and gleebooks.com.au.

30 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009
Food scene Food scene
Afghan
Afghan Scene
Scene October
October 2009
2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Sufilicious
Sometimes you have to wait and occasionally you will struggle to get a
table, but ROSEMARY STASEK says Sufi is still one
of Kabul’s finest restaurants
AL FRESCO: Outside dining is an added draw COSTUME DRAMA: Sufi’s Arif in Afghan style

quoroot, mung beans cooked with milk rice time places if that means anything to you, but
and dried yogurt. I got the vegetarian version I’m recommending them because the Secret
and was surprised how tasty and filling it was. Sufi Special is one of the best options you have
This is a terrific choice for vegetarians and that when you need to impress a bunch of out-of-
got me looking at the menu for more veggie towners at an event. I call it the Secret Sufi
Sufi options. I have to say that Sufi may be one of Special because although you can have it at the
Shar-e Naw Butcher Street, Street 2,
the best places here for the no-meat team. restaurant, it’s not on the menu and you can’t
Turn right 0700-210651
Open everyday 11-3 and 5-11 Sabzi chalaw, kachalo chalaw, the hearty bean count on the waiter to tell you about it. If you
http://www.sufi.com.af soup mashawa, pakawra, boulani, ashak, veggie want a massive pile of food with just about every

N
soup, eggplant borani, pumpkin borani, qurooty, classic Afghan dish on the menu for $16, this is
ew restaurants in town are almost On a recent visit my goal was to find shoula. You can eat here often and not have the the one for you.
always fun but it’s nice to head different things on the menu apart from the same thing twice. And talking about the catering. If you’re
back to old favorites too. Sufi was usual line-up. It was a moderate success. One Dessert kept the trend going and the first heading to Sufi, you’ll want to hope they don’t
the first restaurant in town to bring of the classic frustrations in so many Kabul two choices of milk rice with saffron and milk have a big catering gig that night. The night I
top-quality Afghan cuisine to the international restaurants is the 50-50 rule. There is only a rice with cardamom where both on R&R and the was there they had a 70-person Iftar for someone
community and it still does it right. 50-50 chance they’ll have the item you first only option was firni. I was assured though that very important and they pulled most of the
Back in 2003 Sufi opened what was at the choose on the menu. If you’ve been eating in if I called the restaurant three hours in advance waiters off the floor to head over there. That left
time the classiest and most romantic restaurant town for a while, you know to always have a they’d make it for me my next visit. Three hours 2 waiters in the restaurant to serve a packed
in town in Karte Parwan. When I first made choice B ready. Sufi is no exception. My first in advance? Deciding on a restaurant for the house. It took us 30 minutes to coax one of them
it there, it was the first time I had Afghan choice of dolmai morch, stuffed bell peppers hubby and I normally involves making a choice to take our order for a main course after our
cuisine at an international quality outside was a no go, so choice B was the domai karam, based on which direction the car is parked in appetizers. And the rest of the night wasn’t much
California. It was a revelation and a delight. stuffed cabbage. It was tasty and a bit spicy. A when we leave the house. Three hours is a little bit better. Hire more cousins as catering waiters. But
Major construction in the area and a desire to nice change from the usual mantu and ashak, ambitious for our normal meal planning schedule. who am I to say how to run a restaurant. I just
be closer to more of their customers led Sufi to which are both great appetizers nonetheless. The food at Sufi has always been some want good food in a nice atmosphere and Sufi
relocate into central Shar-e Naw in 2006 and For the main course my first choice, fish of the best in town and its thriving catering has always been a place you can count on for
they’ve been a much-loved spot ever since. kebab, was a no, so choice B was kecheri business reflects that. Sufi caters to all the big both. �

36 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 37
Obituary scene Obituary scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Rosemary
remembered
Afghan Scene’s long serving restaurant critic, Rosemary Stasek, died
of a heart-attack last month. Here some of her friends remember the
women’s activist who first came to Kabul in 2002

I first met Rose in 2006. A mutual friend of friends, I found


her sweet and generous company and later that year she
became partly responsible for one of the best decisions
I will never forget the first time she asked me if her dog
‘Tequila’ could come over for a play date, which turned
into a regular Saturday afternoon thing where we would
I ever made when she drove me to Tigger House and I trot off to watch the rugby at Global Country House and
chose my dog, Blister. I think Rose was almost as delighted leave the dogs to have a wild afternoon of fun, until all the
as I was. The next time Rose helped me out I needed a barking became too much for the neighbours.
restaurant reviewer for this magazine. Although I and my The night that she met Morne and you could tell from
friends had done our best we were clearly outclassed when then on that they were going to be a perfect couple!
Rose came on the Scene. A passionate foody with great After buying La Cantina and Rosemary coming in to
local knowledge, Rose was a godsend. I was aware that review the new menu and as it always is Murphy’s law,
Rose had suffered a major health scare some time before what can go wrong will go wrong! Busier than ever and
I left Kabul in 2008, but the last time I saw her was in service completely falling apart, then a walk out in the
La Cantina. Hand in hand with her husband, I had never kitchen. Luckily she knew the chef and so forgave us our
seen her look happier. And that is how I shall choose to problems.
remember this remarkable woman. Last night of La Cantina she reminded me of the fact that
we had gone to the opening together and were now at the
Andrea Busfield closing together.
Alison Rhind

R osemary Stasek was an advocate for women- especially


the women in Afghanistan. She wasn’t afraid to stand
out, set an example and speak out in order to challenge
R osemary was my friend from day one when I came to
Afghanistan in May 2006. She guided me, embraced me,
loved me. She was never afraid of anything and most of all
the norm and customs that Afghan women face daily. Afghanistan was her home. To say goodbye to Rosemary is
Rosey went out of her way to educate, provide and lead by one of my hardest things I have to do. Rosemary, you made
example programs for women. I remember Rosey telling me a difference in my life like a light in the darkest night. I will
about how she ordered a slew of midwifery materials and always love you and think about you and pray for you and
was heading herself to the provinces to deliver valuable still continue to seek guidance and share my stories with
and rare training in order to teach Afghan ladies to provide you. For me you will always live.
this service to women going through childbirth. Rosey did
this through her NGO, A Little Help, with her own sweat, Shqipe Malushi
tears and passion. This is just a glimpse of the wonderful
programs that Rosey led to better the lives of Afghan
women one woman at a time.

Carla Borges

38 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 39
Obituary scene Obituary scene
Afghan Scene
Afghan Scene October
October 2009
2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

one stage she had been involved in setting up the fast food of events that had happened to her: from her suitcase
joint, to the staff of Cordaid, whom she recently undertook a that went to Mecca instead of New York with some
gender review for. Kabul and the international community in rather shocking contents that thankfully customs never
particular has lost one of its key characters, whose tenacious got to see. To the confiscation of my copy of Vogue at
irrepressible energy, projects, and laughter will rarely be New Jersey Airport. Her tales of taking her beloved pup
matched. Tequila with her always started to feel more and more
We knew each other since 2002, when she first arrived like shaggy dog stories. They invariably featured obtuse
in Kabul with a delegation from Global Exchange – at a officials too much money passing hands, and after, a
discussion with the group she stood out for her enthusiasm, great deal of run around Rosemary getting exactly what
optimism and practical sense of things needing to be she needed. One thing that was a feature in all the
done and her clear sighted way to make them happen. I stories she told, was that she was laughing at herself,
immediately recognized someone who had (in her role as but also always showing how she won out through
mayor of Mountain View, California for more than seven blocks, problems and unpredictable diversions. She fell
years) and would make a difference. After that she stayed asleep one time at a US airport, losing her bags and
with me at my INGO, and as well as the many suitcases laden ended up walking home for hours half comatose. She
with medicines she always brought back for the needy in didn’t want to disturb anyone to ask for help. There was
Kabul, she brought her bed – as part of a container shipment never any self pity in her tales, and like her restaurant
of even more medicines and other aid. It seemed she intended reviews, and her real life comments she was rarely if
to stay. She asked me if there was something women in the ever negative or critical of other people.
prison needed, and I said – can you renovate their living space My last memories of Rosemary were of our
in the prison in central Kabul? With characteristic aplomb she joint testing of Serena’s buffet, for what was to be,
set about visiting the Minister of Justice and the builders, it unbeknownst to either of us, her last restaurant review
took less than three weeks from inception to finish. It couldn’t for Scene. We were there from 11.30am to 3.30pm and
take longer, because she had other things to do. When we I can confidentially say that she sampled almost every
returned to the minister to say it was completed he was single dish, whilst regaling me with her latest plans. I
aghast – I didn’t expect it this year he said, no one from the gave up after the sushi, but she continued on sampling
international community ever says they will do something and and sampling, and enjoying with a particular relish the
then does it. Well she said “when I say I will do something deserts. We did talk of her illness, which I had known
I do it.” And over the years I found out how very true that about from the first days when she woke up in South
HAPPY TOGETHER: Rosemary and her husband Morne enjoy a meal at La Cantina
was. Rosemary never once turned down a request from me Africa without feeling in her side, but she minimized
for help, whether it was to fix the computers at GTZ Gender it. She said she was adjusting, and trying not to do too

R osemary was one of the most cheerful, energetic and


inspired people I have ever met. She was always full of
life, ready for action and as eager as a puppy for adventure
For someone form a very nice town in northern California
where life is plush and comfortable to come to a place like
Kabul, where nothing is easy, says a great deal about her.
Mainstreaming, sort out the aid to women prisoners or to pick
me up from my office when I was sick. She was a trooper.
The work she did for the women’s prison is recorded in
much. I left, once again amazed at her positive energy,
her ability to focus on the future, and her tenacious way
of going straight for obstacles that would put off most
and play. She was also an extraordinarily talented, organised ‘Kabul in Winter’ by Ann Jones. Rosemary, like others who of us. I am happy to say that we laughed a lot that day
and determined person, the kind of woman who makes you Pamela Constable make up the characters in the book, was asked what name – and she looked, I thought radiant – with a beautiful
feel like you too can do anything. I will miss her in very she would like – she said “my own.” So that’s what she got, gold necklace, and a white and gold embroidered
many ways, as a close friend in difficult circumstances, as the rest of us in that book bar one other all carry fictional Shalwar Kamez, that she said was the first she bought,
a colleague who I had known in several countries, and as
a source of extraordinary inspiration for her courage and
sheer joy of life.
I t is a bitter irony that less than a month ago I sat down
to write a recommendation letter for Rosemary to
accompany her application for a MA at the Fletcher School
monikers, but I am pleased to say, that you can read about
Rosemary without any mask. Following the volunteer work
she did for Medica Mondiale, Rosemary took up the cause of
in America.
I am sure that Rosemary leaves many legacies in all
our lives. I know that as time goes on I will remember
She loved to drive around Kabul in her own car, which of Management, and now I find myself writing of her life the Kabul Beauty School with passion. Her lecture tours of the and miss more and more of her inputs to mine. I
very few foreigners do. She was intrepid in that way. You’d in the past rather than the future tense. States were starting to become a regular feature of her life, hope that we can find a way to continue her fund so
call her and say let’s meet for a coffee and she jumped Throughout her life, Rosemary’s charitable work for and she was to continue them up to this year. that even after her death it can continue to support
into her car – it sounds like a small thing but if you live the vulnerable of Kabul meant that she engaged with Rosemary came back from her travels not just with money communities in Kabul.
in that environment it’s not. She was always looking for widest cross section of people – she seemed eventually to for vital charitable projects which she was able to channel
way to come back to Kabul, finding new projects to do. know everyone here – from the US base people, where at through the fund she set up, but also with hilarious stories Rachel Wareham

40 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 41
Book scene Book scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Ripping
Afghan
yarns
ROSE TAYLOR sorts the fact from the fiction in
an enjoyable tale of kidnap, ransom and rescue

B
rad Thor is a great name for a thriller
writer spinning yarns about American
patriots hunting down terrorists in
Afghanistan. Brad conjures up corn-
fed, all-American wholesomeness, while Thor “I have to put in a quick word in defense “Worse,” said the voice. “Mandatory
reeks of an indestructible viking superhero. of Baba G. Baba G is, of course, a fictional sensitivity training. They’re killing us with
Brad Thor sounds like he could be the star of there is the added enjoyment of being able to character but were he not I can guarantee you kindness.”
his own books. identify places, characters and situations. that if he drank 11 beers in one night there is no Only CIA , thought Harvath, would waste
But no. The hero of “The Apostle” is Scot Anyone who has spent time in Jalalabad, will way he would let a guy he admires and respects time and money putting its para-military
Harvath, a former counterterrorism operative immediately recognize the fictional Shangri- as much as he does Brad find all empties. Baba operatives through sensitivity training. If it
who is hired by a politically-connected mother La guest house as the Taj Mahal and Baba G G would spread them around like frigging easter wasn’t so sad, it might actually have been
to find her daughter, who has been kidnapped in (Harvath’s sidekick) as a certain Mr Tim Lynch eggs so no one guy could get the evidence and funny. “My tax dollars at work.”
Afghanistan. (who oversees the Taj). put 2 and 2 together. Baba G is way too sneaky “Look at it this way,” the voice stated. “When
The story follows Harvath from Washington A description of the Shangri-La: Baba G to be caught operating outside the parameters I eventually kill bin Laden, I’ll be able to do it
DC to Kabul, Nangarhar and Kandahar as he “saw the compound as a great money-making of normal social mores – of that I am certain.” while embracing all of the differences between
undertakes an ill-advised rescue plan to break opportunity and turned it into a guesthouse, Yeah, Tim. Right. our cultures that make us both unique and
into Pul-e Charki prison and free the al-Qaeda complete with free WiFi access. Its garden tiki For all that is an action-packed page- special.”
mastermind the kidnappers demand as ransom. bar was the only international bar in the region turner, I suspect that those who will enjoy “The Although The Apostle is the 8th book in
“The Apostle” is a fun and easy read but and did a hell of a Thursday night business.” Apostle” most are other US patriots. the Scot Harvath series, it is the first one
what makes it stand out is the quality of the Mr Lynch was very quick to deny any likeness I did however enjoy Harvath’s dig at the CIA: I’ve read. It was a good read, and if I can
Thor’s research. The author visited Afghanistan to Baba G who is caught over-indulging, in a “I think the CIA is trying to kill me,” replied a get past Harvath’s view that NGO workers
in the winter of 2008 and his time here paid post on his blog where, incidentally, he writes voice from Northern Virginia. are “pot smoking hippies,” I’ll probably read
off. And for readers who know Afghanistan well as Baba T: Harvath laughed: “Death by PowerPoint?” more. �

42 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 43
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009
v
Party scene Party scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

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

TETE A TETE: Frenchies Clem and Rudolph NETWORK BLUES: CNN dream team Atia CHEEKY GIRLS: Scene lovelies Karen and Fotini ROAL’D OVER: Dahls surrounded at her party by Anna, Jon, NEWS TO ME: Kabul charmer Jules C chats to the lovely Elise
at Holly’s birthday and Kevin Flower at the AP bash Jerome and Leslie

MR FIX IT: Journo Nur kicks back after TALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN: Ben rates Sarah’s ENGARDE: L’Atmo’s Esmat greets gun toting STEVIE’S WONDER: Tim strikes a chord wih Sarah SHAWLY NOT?: Emily looks quizzical with Tom and Gemma
hours Cleopatra crop customers at a fancy dress bash at the AP soiree

46 Afghan
Afghan Scene
Scene October
Ocotber 2009
2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 47
Party scene Party scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

MAD HATTER: Kabul lothario Coggers at his KABUL SWEETHEARTS: Timur and Anna at HER INDOORS: Mrs Jason Straziuso keeps a OUT FOXED: Network news hounds Conor AUTUMN LEAVERS: Vianni and Ridwan REID ALL ABOUT IT: Scene lovelies Rachel and
own farewell Holly’s birthday hold of her husband at the AP party and Greg out on the town in election week prepare to depart Leslie

KABUL NOT AT WORK: David and Reuters HACK AND FLACK: Journo Jon and US PNHOM DE GUERRE: War corrs Ben and EYES WIDE OPEN: Julian, Nick and James at Coghlan’s leaving bash ENTENT UNFORGETTABLE: Herve, Jerome and Aurelia
head honcho Peter relax at Chez Straz embassy spokeswoman Erin at the AP bash Michael fresh in from Cambodia

48 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 49
Party scene Party scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

INDY PEOPLE: Journo Kim with Scene’s TOP SNAPPER: Renowned photographer Tyler VIVE LE PRESS: Journos Jean-Pierre Perrin and BOYS FROM THE BEEB: Lady J feels the squeeze between BBC IF IT WASN’T FOR HER WE’D ALL BE SPEAKING ARGENTINIAN:
favourite Dahls Hicks and Jason P Howe at the AP party Luc at Tom’s farewell producer Richard and bureau chief Ian Maggie’s men Nick and George welcome Tom back to London

REELING: French favourite Aurelia with TIMES SQUARES: FT man Matt with Times of BOWLED OVER: Kabul lifers Belinda and Leslie FOR US THE BORE IS OVER: Kabul quitters Jo ‘Buckers’ Buckley and LADIES NIGHT: Charlotte, Sophie and Paula pose for the camera
Olivier at Tom’s farewell London supremo Jeremy at Tom’s send off smile at Tom’s leaving party Julie Fossler flank Ash Sweeting

50 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 51
Hit
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

the

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Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com


Afghan Scene October 2009
Blog scene Blog scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

1. People Are Stupid And Will Believe Anything the only Afghans you come in contact with
are the ones who bring you dinner. You have
I really can’t overstate this fact. Your average an understanding that surpasses experience
blog reader is more interested in pictures of cats because you live here! After enough insults, the
dressed like Hamid Karzai (so cute!) than actual big-league blogger will be forced to rebut your
news and information about Hamid Karzai. Unless increasingly hysterical ranting and (cha-ching!)
you’re one of those unbearably dull policy wonks link to your nascent blog-site. Next, just sit back

I blog,
or do-gooding NGO hippies, this will work to your and watch the page-views climb while selecting
advantage. True story: I once posted a series of your next target, which in no way should be
pictures at Afghan Desk (www.trueslant.com/ Afghan Desk (www.trueslant.com/pjtobia).
pjtobia) of Afghan houses. Houses, people. In
a matter of hours this garnered about 25,000 3. Self Promotion and Afghan Desk
hits. The piece I wrote about election fraud, for (www.trueslant.com/pjtobia)
which I actually made phone calls and attended
press conferences? Or the video I posted of a Until you have completed Step 2, above,
colleague and I nearly dying in a gun fight? I nobody will have any idea who you are. The

therefore I am
think my mom read those. Maybe. phenomenon that is Afghan Desk (www.
trueslant.com/pjtobia) needed little by way of
The point is, people like pretty pictures and light- self promotion, because it is so excellent. Still,
hearted fare. Liven up that post about famine or Afghan Desk (www.truslant.com/pjtobia) doesn’t
the opium trade with some celebrity gossip or market itself, and on rare occasions I’m forced
Wannabe journalist PJ TOBIA gives Scene some tips on sports scores. Have fun with it! Your readers will to post links to Afghan Desk (www.trueslant.
making it in the blogosphere thank you, because they don’t know better. com/pjtobia) on my Facebook page, or write for

A
low-quality expat rags that few people read in
bout three months ago I was hired by a for opinions on counterinsurgency strategy, 2. Pick a Fight order to boost readership at Afghan Desk (www.
New York based media company called women’s rights issues and if I would “like to see trueslant.com/pjtobia).
True/Slant to blog about Afghanistan for photos of other singles in [my] area.” In prison, the surest way to gain respect is to walk
their website. These people were foolish But in addition to being talented, handsome up to the biggest, baddest customer on your cell- 4. Ignore So Called “Legitimate Journalists”
enough to pay me, and I rewarded their naiveté by and modest, I am also magnanimous. Though block and stab him (or her) in the abdomen with
creating Afghan Desk (www.trueslant.com/pjtobia), highly unlikely, there may be one of you out a homemade shank. In the prison yard that is the These guys are losers. They walk around all high
a site where I steal stories from wire services and there, holding this magazine in your trembling, blogosphere, similar rules apply. Find a blogger and mighty with their “bureaus” and “expense
add off-the-record quotes from the anonymous kabab besotted hands, who, like me, has the with a large following, say, a million hits per day. accounts” and “real jobs,” generally looking
sources in my head. In the trade, this is known as skill and great hair necessary to become a Wait till he or she writes about Afghanistan and askance at those of us on the cutting edge
“trenchant analysis.” global blogging phenom. To this end, I have BANG! Stab them with the proverbial sharpened of media’s digital rebirth. They’re jealous and
After launching Afghan Desk (www.trueslant. composed a brief list of how to’s, indispensable toothbrush. Write post after post exposing their cranky because we put their work on our blogs
com/pjtobia), I immediately became a worldwide for anyone making a foray into the frenzied alleged ignorance and explaining that unlike you, without attribution. Lame. There’s this one guy
commentator of great importance. I receive dozens digital journalism landscape known as “The the pro-blogger has never lived here. Never mind in particular, I’ll call him Jon Moon. He’s one
of emails daily from my adoring public. They ask Blogosphere.” the fact that you live in an armed compound and of these arrogant British types, and works for

54 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 55
Blog scene Cartoon scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

a Fleet St. paper. He seems unaware that nobody place, so ignore them at all costs.
really reads newspapers anymore and, despite my
international success, chooses to constantly deride There you have it, four simple steps to blog
the noble and fast growing blog community. If stardom. While I’m not optimistic about your
I listened to guys like Moon, where would I be? chances of being as successful as I, I can now
Probably gainfully employed at a respected news sleep at night knowing that I have tried to bring
agency. But that’s not the point. The point is, taking light to the darkness of your existence.
the best advice of successful news professionals is See you on the web!
the fastest way to never start a blog in the first (At Afghan Desk, www.trueslant.com/pjtobia). �

P.J. Tobia is a freelance journalist and blogger at Afghan Desk (trueslant.


com/pjtobia). his work has appeared in The Washington Post, Christian
Science Monitor, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, but in never anywhere as
esteemed as Afghan Scene. Editor’s note: Another great advantage of blogs
is there’s no real word limit and no such thing as deadlines. This article was
supposed to be 150 words in the September edition.

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Farewell scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Bestof
British
People said he would never leave but Kabul survivor
TOM COGHLAN has finally moved to London
Best of times? striking country and its people. I never knew
more about Afghanistan than on the day
The years 2004 to 2006 were extraordinary I arrived. Since then I’ve just been getting
times to be a young, struggling journalist in confused.
Afghanistan. We went where we wanted and
did what we wanted, local people welcomed us Worst of times?
and treated us with extraordinary hospitality
and though it was dangerous enough to boast In 2006 my driver and friend Sayed Agha was
about, it wasn’t too dangerous. murdered and I’ve lost count of the number of
Afghans I’ve known since who have been killed.
I was able to visit all but four of Afghanistan’s That goes for a growing number of Western
provinces and to fall in love with a bleak but soldiers too. War can be exciting and fun, and I

Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 61
Farewell scene Farewell scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

COMMANDO BLAGGER: Coggers in the the Kevlar, preparing tales of derring do, with which to woo LADIES’ KNIGHT: Costumed Coghlan makes shapes for the ladies

guess that is some of what pulls us all to Kabul the dancefloor is still rammed and the sound five hour traffic jams on mountain roads caused Ministry of Finance and wiled away many, many
if we’re honest, but these days it’s getting a lot system is so weak that you can hear your fellow by nothing more than ego, stupidity and the great evenings I can’t remember, so I must have
less fun and all rather grimly war-like. dancers’ breathing. brainless decision to start driving down the been there.
wrong side of the road if your side is stationary.
What will you miss the most? Finally I will miss the wisdom, bravery and As an Englishman, I see orderly queues as the As for Helmand, it’s an awful place of heat and
above all the wit of the Afghan journalists I benchmark of a functioning society and though dust and war and despair, but I wouldn’t have
I will miss the legion of heroes I was lucky have worked with. I don’t know how Afghans this sounds pompous, I’m still too pissed off to missed it for the world.
enough to meet; extraordinary people both keep laughing amid the chaos, but they do and I care.
Afghan and expat. I’ve made friends I’ll take to love them for it. What happens next?
the grave (which hopefully won’t be anytime Favourite place in Afghanistan?
soon). I’d like to single out my comrades at Altai What will you miss the least? I am working in London on The Times newspaper
Consulting for their unflinching determination I’m torn between Helmand and L’Atmosphere... covering Defence. This means that I still have
to make Kabul a place of beauty as well as I think driving brings out the very worst in my eyes firmly fixed on all things Afghan whilst
industry: that’s female, French beauty which I Afghan society. On Afghan roads drivers L’Atmosphere has been a place of unremittingly enjoying all the cultural riches and amenities
pursued relentlessly and largely fruitlessly for routinely display a complete failure to poor food and sublime good times. I arrived the of a fading European Great Power. I raise a
five years. comprehend that if you are considerate to one week it opened and was there through many of frothing pint of tepid English ale to my old
another, wait for another car to go first, stay its finest and funniest moments. I stood comrades and wish you all the very best of
The expat life in Kabul is a sort of perpetual on your side of the road, display a modicum of shoulder to shoulder with Marc Victor during British luck.
university freshers week and I will miss those patience, everyone will get to their destination his immortal 24-hour hunger strike against
Kabul parties where the drink has run out but more quickly. I have ground my teeth through the imposition of retroactive taxation by the Cheers.

62 Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009 63
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Afghan Scene October 2009 www.afghanscene.com www.afghanscene.com Afghan Scene October 2009
Essential scene Feature scene
Afghan Scene October 2009 Afghan Scene October 2009

Afghan Essentials
Where to stay, where to eat, where to Shop. And how to pay for it.
Afghan Scene Making Life Easier

Hotels and Guesthouses Restaurants Cabul Coffeehouse & Café Italian/Pizza Supermarkets, Grocers & Butchers
Street 6, on the left, Qale-e Fat- Everest Pizza
Kabul Serena Hotel Delivery ullah Tel: 0752 005 275 Street 10, Wazir Akbar Khan
www.everestpizza.com A-One
Froshgah Street Easyfood Bottom of Shar-e Naw Park
www.serenahotels.com Delivers from any restaurant Le Bistro Tel: 0700 263 636, 0779 317 979
Tel: 0799 654 000 to your home One street up from Chicken Boccaccio Chelsea
www.easyfood.af Street, Behind the MOI, Street 10, Wazir Akbar Khan Shar-e Naw main road, opposite Kabul
Safi Landmark Hotel & Suites Tel: 0796 555 000, 0796 Shar-e Naw Tel: 0799-598852 Tel: 0799 200 600 Bank
Charahi Ansari 555 001
www.safilandmarkhotelsuites.com Red Hot Sizzlin’ Steakhouse Bella Italia Spinneys
Tel: 0202 203 131 Afghan District 16, Macroyan 1, Nader Street 14, Wazir Akbar Khan Wazir Akbar Khan, opposite British
Rumi Hill Area Tel: 0799 733 468 Tel: 0799 600 666 Embassy
The Inter Continental Hotel Qala-e Fatullah Main Rd,
Baghe Bala Road Le Pelican Cafe du Kabul Springfield Restaurant Finest
between Streets 5 & 6 Darulaman Road, almost
www.intercontinentalkabul.com Tel: 0799 557 021 Lane 3, Street 15,Wazir Akbar Wazir Akbar Khan Roundabout
Tel: 0202 201 321 opposite the Russian Embassy. Khan Tel: 0799 001 520
Sufi Bright orange guard box. Fat Man Forest
Gandamack Lodge Muslim Street, Shar-e Naw Indian Wazir Akbar Khan, main road.
Sherpur Square Tex Mex Namaste
www.sufi.com.af Tel: 0774 La Cantina
www.gandamacklodge.co.uk 212 256, 0700 210 651 Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan, Enyat Modern Butcher
Tel: 0700 276 937 Third left off Butcher St, Between lanes 2 and 3 on the Qala-e Fatullah main road,
Herat Restaurant Shar-e Naw right. Tel: 0772 011 120 Near street four
Mustafa Hotel Shar-e Naw, main road, Tel: 0798 271 915
Charahi Sadarat Diagonally opposite Cinema Delhi Darbar
www.mustafahotel.com Lebanese Shar-e Naw, close to UK Sports ATMs
Park Taverne du Liban
Tel: 070 276 021 Tel: 0799 324 899
Street 15, Lane 3, Kabul City Centre, Shar-e Naw (AIB
Khosha Restaurant
Heetal Plaza Hotel Above the Golden Star Wazir Akbar Khan Anar Restaurant
Lane 3, Street 14, AIB Main Office, Opposite Camp Egg-
Street 14, Wazir Akbar Khan Hotel. Tel: 0799 888 999 Tel: 0799 828 376 ers (AIB)
www.heetal.com Wazir Akbar Khan
Tel: 0799 167 824, 0799 159 697 Mixed/Western The Grill Tel: 0799 567 291 AIB Shar-e Naw Branch, next to Chelsea
The Lounge Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan. Supermarket (AIB)
UNICA Guest House Lane 2, left, off Street 15, Tel: 0799 818 283, Chinese
Kolola Pushta, opposite Wazir Akbar Khan. Tel: 0796 0799 792 879 Golden Key Seafood HQ ISAF, Outside Cianos Pizzeria, US
Royal Mattress 174 718, 0700 037 634 Restaurant Embassy Street (AIB)
Tel: 0797 676 357 Cedar House Lane 4, Street 13, Wazir Akbar
Fat Man/What-a-Burger Cafe Behind Kabul City Centre, Khan. Tel: 0799 002 800, 0799 KAIA Military Airbase, Outside Cianos
The International Club Wazir Akbar Khan, main Shar-e Naw Tel: 0799-121412 343 319 Pizzeria, Airport (AIB)
Haji Yaqoob Square, Street 3, Shar-e road, On the bend near
Naw. Tel: 0774 763 858 Turkish Thai Finest Supermarket, Wazir Akbar Khan
Masoud Circle Tel: 0700 298 Istanbul
301, 0777 151 510 Mai Thai (AIB)
Golden Star Hotel Main road, on the left, between House 38, Lane 2, Street 15,
Charrhay Haji Yaqoob, L’Atmosphere Massoud Circle Jalalabad Road Wazir Akbar Khan World Bank Guard Hut, Street 15 Wazir
Shar-e Naw. www.kabulgolden- Street 4, Taimani Roundabout. Tel:0796 423 040 Akbar Khan (Standard Chartered)
starhotel.com Tel: 0798 224 982, 0798 Tel: 0799-407818
Tel: 0799 333 088, 0799 557 281 Korean Standard Chartered Branch, Street 10,
413 872 Iranian Wazir Akbar Khan (Standard Chartered)
New World
Roshan Hotel Flower Street Café Shandiz Between Charayi Haji Yacub
Charaye Turabaz Khan, Pakistan Embassy Street, off and Charayi Ansari, on the Want to get on the Afghan
Street 2, Qala-e Fatullah. Essentials list of places to eat
Shar-e Naw. Tel: 0700 293 124, 0799 Street 14 Wazir Akbar Khan right. Shar-e Naw.
Tel: 0799 335 424 Tel: 0799-342928 Tel: 0799 199 509 and sleep?
356 319 Contact sales@afghanscene.com

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