Indian Decade

Nightlife in Afghanistan

A visit to Kabul highlights some differences between perception and reality there.

(This is the first in a series of dispatches from Indian Decade blogger Sanjay Kumar, who is currently on assignment in Afghanistan.)

For an outsider who has never come to Afghanistan the country presents an image of backwardness, a den of terror where there is no normal life and people live in constant fear. When you tell someone in Delhi that you are going to Afghanistan the first reaction is, ‘Why are you taking the risk?’ and ‘Life is more important than journalism.’

In Kabul however, on the surface, people go about performing their daily chorus like any people in any other city in the world. It has malls, shopping centres and sports grounds. And it has a nightlife. The other day for instance, I went to a Lebanese restaurant at ten at night. Located not far from the hotel where we were staying, the place was within walking distance. This is how it works: There’s no board hanging outside the restaurant; only some security guards standing outside. There’s also no frisking, but the guards check you through your ‘look’ and style of dressing. Then one signals someone inside to open the door, where a poster says ‘no weapon allowed inside.’ The moment the door opens two security personnel with AK-47s appear in front of you with broad smiles on their faces.

Inside the restaurant is a complete contrast to the dimly lit and dead silent street outside. Fully lit and decorated with English music playing in the background and people—mostly foreigners—in their western outfits enjoying the meals with drinks, bear and hookah, it’s a different world altogether.

More tomorrow on the night’s unfolding events and my conclusion on Afghan nightlife, from personal experience.