Nov 162007

IMG_4531_web (Pic : Sunset over Kabul from Murad Khane)
Although it’s only two days ago I left Kabul, it seems so long ago, especially flying into the modern metropolis of Dubai, apparently home of 20% of the world’s cranes.  If only some of the building equipment here could be moved over to Afghanistan.

Now I’ll never, ever, try to say I have an understanding of Afghanistan after a fleeting 10 day visit.  I was lucky to be able to speak to many people out there working – both Afghans and foreigners, Afghan businesswomen, many locals, and tour guides during my time.

(Picture : some traditional herbs used for medicine…and mulberry bread given to us by ex-mujahaddin, which they felt was necessary after I gave them a Scottish postcard as a thank you for tea and cakes in Panshjir valley)



(Picture : Carpet seller in old bizarre, downtown Kabul)

IMG_4268_web All the time I was speaking through interpreters, so I was never sure if I was really hearing the truth, especially some of the circumstances I found myself in.

(Picture : A typical butcher!  Yes, even next to the dusty roads)

IMG_4262_web One thing I am absolutely sure about though is that the country is not as dangerous to visit as you would believe if all you read if the western media.  Find other sources on the internet etc if you are thinking about travelling there.  Speak to the local guides over there.  Obviously the place is not without it’s risks – there were several incidents we heard of that would never make the news.

(Picture : a ’70 or 71 year old year – he’s not sure’ market pottery trader)


It’s a confusing place to try and grab a realistic opinion of.  Some people say the media is great now and pretty free to say what they want, as long as they are balanced, yet others say there are loads of problems with journalists being pressurised from officials.  No-one painted a great picture of the police force which is a shame as you see them everywhere.  But maybe they should be paid a bit more than the $50 a month figure I heard, assuming that’s true.

(Picture : a chickpea vendor in the market)

IMG_4309_web Some of the local’s seemed very hopeful for the future, whereas others apparently still don’t have any belief in what the future holds, wandering why large parts of their countries are still at war.

I can understand the Afghan’s frustration at the lack of progress.  In Kabul there are still hardly any paved streets, no street lighting, and power is still not something to be relied upon.  Meanwhile the American’s are ‘restoring democracy’ from a compound where the majority of them are forbidden to leave.

Although I met, and stayed with some great NGO’s I am a tad skeptical about this area of regenaration.  Some of the people I met were from superb educational backgrounds and had a real passion for introducing new (actually very traditional, old in reality) techniques to Afghan labourers, and letting them experiment to see what would work and what wouldn’t.  Many of these NGO’s were making a real effort to learn the language as well.  The labourers who worked for them seemed to enjoy their time there and totally appreciate the work and opportunities they had been offered.


There is a real need to fill the sad educational gap from the last few decades of war in the country.  However the cynical side of me fears there are too many NGO’s using countries like Afghanistan to try out their own pet projects, to do something they couldn’t do at home, get a shit load of funding, then walking away when it runs out.  If you were really cynical you may think it’s the place where people from Berkeley and Harvard end up when they don’t know what else to do (this is a huge generalisation as I met a load of wonderful people from this background who were doing a world of good out there – sometimes it just felt like I never met anyone without an educational background from Harvard, Berkeley or Oxford universities).

Anyway, that’s my waffle on Afghanistan as I sit in Dubai, recovering from ‘afghan belly’, preparing for my flight back to a cold Scotland in a couple of days time.

Everyone we met there was great, and the locals were fascinating, but sadly sometimes for the sad reasons that can’t really be described as fascinating – leaving their country due to war, or living through decades of hardship.  There’s a potential great future in the country, with loads of opportunities for tourism from trekking to culture to rafting and climbing.  If only the ‘powers that be’ can sort their shit out!

(Picture : the traditionally poorer end of the market)


 Posted by at 3:54 pm

  One Response to “Reflections on Afghanistan”

  1. Hey Darren
    Long time no see!(Its Gavin from 06E btw) I had a read of you blog, I have to say I am stunned by all you have been up to since 2006, hearing about where you have been is giving me itchy feet.
    Sorry to hear its back to normal (relatively speaking , Afghanistan – fantastic!).
    I just thought I would try and catch up with a few people, Ive somewhat neglected correspondence lately. But how are you anyway?
    Hope to hear from you
    And if your ever in Glasgow give me a shout.


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