Afghanistan Diary
Friday, April 01, 2005
  Shisha night

I had a very pleasant night smoking shisha (waterpipe) at the DACAAR staffhouse. DACAAR provides subsidized housing to its employees. Many opt for this option, either because they are young and without family, or else because their family is not in Kabul. Either way it enables them to save some money on living expenses. For 20$ per month, charge included, DACAAR provides clean accommodations with basic facilities (four people per room), a cleaner and a guard.

Shisha is not common in Afghanistan. Certainly less so that many places in the Middle East, and even less than in neighboring Pakistan. The only establishment I know where one can smoke shisha in Kabul is an Iranian restaurant. There are also one or two shops selling shishas and accessories (tobacco, special coal and pre-cut sheet of aluminium to put between the tobacco and the coal. I hear that in Pakistan, where shisha has always been smoked (I am not sure how frequently), it is even becoming a little bit of a fad to smoke for young trendies like ourselves (not).

It is a cliché to say that in many muslim countries certain demonstrations of physical affections between men are considered totally acceptable and have nothing to do with being gay. This is very true in Afghanistan. It is not uncommon for men to hold hands (whereas I have yet to see a man and a woman holding hand in public). Last night, I was surprised to see how two of the guys kept holding and touching each other.

Somebody told us that Mazar is renowned for having the best hashish in the world. Now you tell me! Before I was told this, I thought we had had a great trip. It is obvious now, that our drug free visit was an abysmal failure. Apparently, in some part of Kabul, it is not uncommon for stores to sell hashish under the counter apparently.

I actually found some good DVDs. I mean, not just Hollywood mainstream. We are talking Almodovar and Kurosawa here! Of course, some of them have some flaws. Most discs contain five films. Inevitably one or two do not work properly. Also another DVD (special japanese cinema) contained an American series that bore no similarities whatsoever with the advertised content. A friend of mine got a DVD whose subtitles clearly belonged to another movie. Oh yes, I wrote recently that one could buy software releases that do not even exist. You can also purchase movies that do no exist (Star War IV, Toy Story III).

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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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