Afghanistan Diary
Thursday, March 10, 2005
  Visit to the zoo

I have seen many zoos, but never a more pitiful one than Kabul’s. In its center stands a shelled out, bullet ridden building. Although most of the zoo ground is plain dirt (or more accurately in this season: mud) with nothing to see, there are a few animal exhibits near the entrance. One can see three pigs, two lions, three bears, a few monkeys and some birds. I probably omitted an animal or two but not more. To make things worse, the cages were glaringly inadequate. The poor bears had only green stagnant water to bathe into.

I went there with an international group, and for locals, we were quite an attraction ourselves, rivaling with the lions in terms of popularity.

One of the highlight of the visit was watching half dozen guards and one vet attempting to capture an injured pig to give him medicine. The event was reminiscent of a rodeo, although the pig was squealing as if it were a mantanza.

Kabul zoo used to have a one-eyed lame lion called Manja who gained a certain notoriety during the civil war. According to the most common version of the story, a Taliban fighter wanted to have a picture of himself next to the lion and got into the cage. Unfortunately for him, the lion ate him. A few days later, the deceased’ family came to avenge the death of their family member (as one does in this part of the world) and threw a grenade into the cage. The lion survived but lost an eye as a result. According to another version of the story, it was a starving man who threw the grenade into the cage, intending to eat lion for supper. As he got into the cage, a surprised awaited him: the lion was still alive and waiting for a snack… Whatever version of the story you believe, that lion is now dead.

In the zoo, we witnessed some gathering. People were buying hard boiled eggs painted in red and used them to compete with one another. Apparently, the game consisted in hitting your egg against your opponent’s. The person whose egg breaks first loses.

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This is my diary. My name is Lev and I work in Kabul for a non-governmental organization (

Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
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