My heart will go on.
Life goes on in Kabul. After the evacuations most things went quiet. The Americans had left. There was evacuations taken place from the Serena hotel of a plane at a time to Qatar. It was organised with co-ordination of the Taliban. People waited in the early mornings to go on a shuttle bus to the airport, be ticked off a list and then be flown to Doha to be processed.
The economy began to fall dramatically though as the afghani began to rise. Money was getting hard to get as even Western Union closed. Even sometimes the hawala that I recieved money would have no US dollars to give me. But the country continued on, just like the Celine Dion’s My heart will go on that used to play at weddings.
Weddings however still managed to go on, being still lavish and bourgeois as before with the only difference that live musicians are unable to play and only DJs were playing Afghanistan previous hits. Hollie and I went to a wedding of a relative of Naweed. Hundreds of people danced and made groom the centre while the women had their own section from prying eyes. Afghan weddings are generally segregated and probably the groom’s lucky day when he gets to sit in a room of thousands of women who are likely to have their hijabs off.
I traded in my Royal Enfield for a dirt bike and got a 1991 Suzuki Djebel 250cc which glided over the bumpy shitty roads with ease. I took Alex up to TV Hill where all the tv, radio and telephone towers stood and looked over Kabul.
TV Hill divides the city in two and it is either a choice to go around it or up and over which used to be terrible road but road works had been commencing again and hopefully the road would be completely paved. Most of the homes were built illegally back in the day and have no running water so water has to be collected each day by the owners or hire a kid for 20 afs to fetch it from below.
The Taliban on the hill were quite friendly especially when getting the permission note of being a journalist and let us hang out and enjoy the view which we strolled to the top, taking photos of the Kabul denizens below.
Kabul seemed quiet for once despite there being threats to the Serena hotel where the evacuations were taking place from IS-K. Ironically the Taliban were in large numbers to defend it. The Taliban had been involved in multiple complex attack and now they were the guards of the place. These Taliban guards generally spoke a little bit of english in case foreigners came to the Serena to stay. They complained though of the exotic food their were offered for lunch unaccustomed to pizza and pasta and possibly sushi.
Alex’s and my little favourite spot was on Wazir Akbar Khan hill where the Republic flag had once been, it was bare at the moment but would be replaced one day with the flag of the Islamic Emirate.
The hill with was also a beautiful rose garden and other moments was a place where Taliban leaders like to meet. Often Siraj Haqqani would sit on carpets in the grass and have his meetings that in the stuffy government offices.
This time around the Taliban let us enter and come into the park unlike the last time I went and the Republic police officers sent me back and were rude on the phone when I ask my friend from the ministry to speak to them.
Talibs loved taking selfies and portraits of their victory going to as many monumental places for their pictures all over Afghanistan. They took a liking to the old swimming pool on the hill which back in the day they hung people back when they were in power in the 90’s.
For the most bit, the Taliban respected us being here in their country and we respected them. They fought for twenty years. Most of their young men who fought weren’t paid, just living on an idea. This idea, a country free from corruption and ruled by Shariah law and without the meddling of foreigners. This idea is why the fought for 20 years, lost their families and friends over.
For many it is hard to accept, even for I who have lost friends in attacks but I am willing to let them be without animosity.
As night fell we headed to my favourite kebab house for tikka kebab at the Jazwjan Restaurant. They had the best collection of kebabs but by far the juiciest of them all. The manager was a former wrestler and had photos of himself adorning the walls behind of his adventures overseas and olympic games wrestling.
We made it home and had a good feed, making sure to have extra for Palaw who was a ravenous little beast. My guest house was now filling up with freelance french journalists looking to make stories of the new chapter of Afghanistan…
So my first photo book is published and will be coming out soon. Hopefully you can grab a copy. It written by Hollie McKay (follow her on insta @holliemckay) who I adventured with last year in Afghanistan and about 130 photos by yours truly.
Make me a happy man and preorder a book. Hopefully a second one will be on the way!