Afghanistan – Exploring Kabul

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Think of Kabul and a range of thoughts and emotions flood through, in a similar way the city affects travelers arriving for the first time.  We arrived in Kabul exhausted from an overnight bus journey over the beautiful Khaosan Mountain Pass, along a beautiful nameless river, and through the Panjshir Valley. After a short nap we went to an antique market (not amazing) and then went to the largest market in Kabul (very amazing.)

It’s a bustling place where it’s difficult to film because it’s so easy to get arrested. This large Bazar has existed in this silk road city for over 3000 years and you can find almost anything for sale here. A centuries old bird market sits in the heart of Kabul’s main bazaar named Kah Faroshi.

Bird Market, Kabul, Afghanistan

Birds are for sale from around the world.  It’s a peaceful but noisy stroll through narrow alleyways in the heart of an otherwise chaotic market. Afghanistan loves keeping song birds as pets, and people told me how soothing they are during times of war and conflict. Nearby, make sure to have a glass of fresh cherry juice. It’s incredible, and very cheap

I live in Amsterdam currently, and was fascinated by the number of bikes scooting around Kabul. Bikes are everywhere in Kabul. But, who isn’t on a bike – Women. A Lot has changed in Afghanistan in the past 2 years. Owning a car is a luxury, and taxis used to be cheap. But, according to a couple locals I spoke with, “no one can afford taxis anymore, I used to take a taxi to work, now I use my bike. Everyone is getting a bike.” It’s a reflection of the current economy. There is a new traffic chaos which sees trucks, cars, motorbikes and now a surge of bicyclists. Bike repair shops have surged in Kabul, and I saw three just outside my hotel. Women aren’t specifically forbidden from riding bikes, but that old conservative culture is creeping back where seeing a woman riding a bike isn’t normal. Almost as normal as meeting a traveler from the USA exploring Afghanistan 🙂

The blue Sakhi Shrine in Kabul is one of the most beautiful mosques I have ever seen. Walking to the shrine you will see a peaceful cemetery nearby which was really nice to explore. Families congregate here having barbecues and playing forbidden music. The Shrine sits next to a hill with magnificent views over the city on a site with over a 1000 years of history. Recently the mosque was the site of a suicide bombing which killed 33 and injured 65 a few years ago. 

Blue Sakhi Shrine, Kabul

Before entering we had to register and get permission to enter, and I had a nice chat at the entrance with one of the soldiers whom I told about my plans to make a hyperlapse video. He liked the idea, and he was an important ally later explaining to other guards what I was doing. Everyone wasnt convinced hyperlapses were normal just yet. I spend several hours here watching the sunset, making videos, chatting with locals and hearing the harrowing calls to prayer in the distance as the city lit up at nightfall.  The people here all had very different stories to tell and everyone seemed very interested to speak with me. An incredible experience and one of my favorite spots in Afghanistan. 

Soldier at Blue Sakhi Shrine, Kabul

Afghanistan is a very unpredictable place and interactions with Taliban can often be very “unpredictable”. Discriper word of choice because things can go south, quickly, once they find out you are from the USA. As I was taking photos at the Sakhi Shrine a soldier approached me and our meeting was captured in two sequential photos. It’s amazing and funny to have this set of photos because I was going through a range of emotions. Fortunately he was super kind with me, joking around, telling me where he was from and about his family. He had a lot of questions and I learned a lot about a lifetime enduring two decades of war. 

Soldier at Blue Sakhi Shrine, Kabul

One evening we had dinner at a restaurant with a Kam Air plane on top. The food was good, and the experience eating inside the plane was bizarre. The food in Afghanistan is amazing because its generally fresh and locally sourced, there aren’t a lot of imports. food is incredibly diverse – well as long as you like meat. Every meal I had was of amazing quality and flavors. As one of the most economically isolated countries in the world, it’s incredible to think everything is locally sourced. Even their energy drinks are local brands, made in Afghanistan. And they have a lot.

Marhaba Restaurant, Kabul

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