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K ABUL

86 KABUL •• Information

KABUL’S STREET CHILDREN

The UN estimates that around 60,000 school-age children work on the streets of Kabul. Contrary to popular belief, most of these children aren’t orphans, they’re just desperately poor. You’ll see street children everywhere, cleaning shoes, collecting rubbish or burning spandi (a sort of aromatic herb) in tin cans and waving the smoke over people for good luck and a few afghanis. A good wage is 50Afg to 100Afg a day. Many children have to support parents who are impoverished, disabled or widowed. Although

the Afghan constitution makes primary education compulsory, economic necessity forces these children away from school. Many schools charge fees that are out of reach of the poorest Afghans, and while school registration has increased five-fold since the fall of the Taliban, around seven million children don’t attend classes, over half the children in the country. One highly regarded charity working with street children is Aschiana (www.aschiana.com). Mean- ing ‘nest’ in Dari, Aschiana recognises the problem of children being forced to work out of need, and provides basic literacy and numeracy education to the poorest children. Many children attend classes in the morning and receive a meal at lunch before going to work in the afternoon. Older children also receive vocational training once they can read and write. Based primarily in Kabul, Aschiana has recently started to expand to Herat and Mazar-e Sharif, as well as setting up out- reach camps for returning refugees. It’s an uphill struggle, but several hundred children a month are integrated into the education system through their work: one for every five kids working Kabul’s streets.

DK German Medical Diagnostic Centre (Map p85 ;

x079 9136 211; www.medical-kabul.com; Street 3, Cha- rahi Ansari; treatment requires deposit of US$100/5000Afg against cost of treatment; h9am-5pm, closed Fri) Offers wide range of laboratory diagnostic tests, vaccinations and X-rays. Dental and gynaecological services were being introduced as we went to press. Emergency Hospital (Map p85 ; x070 287519; Cha- rahi Sherpur; h24 hr) Emergency surgical centre only.

Money

For exchange, ask at your hotel or guest- house; banks aren’t much help. Money- changers are found at Charahi Torabaz Khan or in the market around Pul-e Khishti Mosque. Look for the small stands with piles of money. There are also some money- changers around the taxi stands of Serai Shomali motor park.

Afghanistan International Bank (Map p85 ; behind Amani High School, Wazir Akbar Khan;h9am-5pm Sun- Thu, 9am-1pm Sat) ATM. Also has 24-hour ATMs at Kabul Airport, Intercontinental Hotel, Kabul City Centre, Chelsea Supermarket and Supreme PX. Issues dollars and afghanis. Kabul Bank (Map p85 ; Jad-e Torabaz Khan) Also has a branch of Western Union. Standard Chartered Bank (Map p85 ; Street 10, Wazir Akbar Khan;h9am-6pm) Issues dollars and afghanis.

Post

Central Post Office (Map p93 ; Deh Afghanan) Post Office (Map p85 ; Interior Ministry Rd)

INTERNATIONAL COURIERS

DHL (Map p85 ; x070 276362/079 9750 750; Charahi Sherpur; h9am-6pm Sat-Thu) Federal Express (Map p80 ; x020 2500525; Sarakh-e Khai, Karte Se; h8am-5pm Sat-Thu) TNT (Map p85 ; x020 2200266; Charahi Torabaz Khan; h8am-5pm Sat-Thu)

Telephone

Kabul’s phones are in a state of confusion (see p209 ). In addition to the new mobile phone networks, Kabul had some digital fixed lines installed in 2000 with seven-digit numbers, and a decrepit five-digit analogue network. Both can usually only call other local numbers.

It’s possible to place calls at any of Kabul’s

post offices, but it’s easier to go to any of the phone stands found on any street.

Tourist Information

Afghan Tourist Organisation Head office (Map p80 ;

x020 2300 338; atokabul@yahoo.com; Great Massoud Rd); Asmai Wat (Map p93 ; x079 9304 516) The head office is the place to go for letters to extend visas. The Asmai Wat branch can organise drivers and translators. There are two largely ineffective sub-offices at the airport and Intercontinental Hotel.

TOURS

Two private tour operators run good qual- ity city tours of Kabul, taking in the major

lonelyplanet.com

lonelyplanet.com

sights, and can also arrange trips to Istalif, the Panjshir Valley and the like:

Afghan Logistics & Tours (x070 277408/079 9391

462; www.afghanlogisticstours.com; full-day Kabul tour US$80) Great Game Travel (x079 9489 120/077 9489 120; www.greatgametravel.com; full-day Kabul tour US$80, US$60 per person if four people)

Travel Agencies

The following agents are reliable providers of international air tickets. Plenty more agents are clustered around Charahi Ansari.

Anaar Travel (Map p85 ; x079 9308 303; www.anaar travels.com; opposite Indian Embassy, Interior Ministry Rd) General sales agent for Indian Airlines. Dunya Travels (Map p85 ; x079 9386 921/070 238700; www.dunyatravels.com; Charahi Ansari) Sky Travel & Tours (Map p85 ; x020 210 4410/079 9484 848; www.skytravel.com; Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan) Travel World (Map p85 ; x020 2203453; Charahi Ansari)

DANGERS & ANNOYANCES

Security in Kabul is now handled primarily by the Afghan police and army – the ISAF military patrols that were such a common sight until recently have largely taken a back seat. Although the situation can change in- credibly quickly, Kabul is generally a calm city, with the greatest risk to personal safety being the insane traffic. It’s essential to keep in touch with the news, and to talk to locals and other for- eigners to gauge the popular mood, as well as getting security briefings where possi- ble. That said, the riots that shook Kabul in 2006 took almost everyone by surprise. At such times, visibly Western buildings or interests can be targets. There have been several incidents of

street crime against foreigners, mainly bag- snatching. A vehicular version of this has been the ‘broken car’ ruse – your vehicle is flagged down by a local claiming his car has broken and needs assistance. When your at- tention is drawn, his accomplices rob your vehicle. We recommend keeping all doors locked when driving in Kabul. We don’t recommend walking in Kabul

after dark. Aside from the crime risk, there are very few streetlights, so broken pave- ments present a genuine accident risk. Many international organisations maintain curfews for their staff.

KABUL •• Dangers & Annoyances 87

There have been kidnapping attempts (successful and unsuccessful) against for- eigners by criminal gangs. For more on kid- napping, and other security concerns, see the Safety in Afghanistan chapter, p68 . One environmental hazard you’ll quickly become aware of is the terrible quality of Kabul’s air, thick with pollution from the traffic, thousands of generators and the endless dust. Anyone staying in the city for any length of time is liable to pick up the ‘Kabul cough’ – seeking fresh air outside the city is the best remedy. In winter and spring, the dust can quickly turn streets into mud slicks.

SIGHTS

Babur’s Gardens

Laid out by the Mughal ruler Babur in the early 16th century, and the site of his

tomb, these gardens (Bagh-e Babur; Map p80 ; admis-

sion 100Afg; h7am-sunset) are the loveliest spot in Kabul. At 11 hectares, they are also the largest public green space in the city. Left to ruins during the war, they have been spec- tacularly restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

The garden was laid out in the classi-

cal charbagh (four garden) pattern, with a series of quartered rising terraces split by a central watercourse. The garden was used as a pleasure spot by repeated Mughal rul- ers, but fell into disrepair after the dynasty lost control of Kabul. Abdur Rahman Khan restored much of the grounds at the turn of the 20th century. Public access was al- lowed in the 1930s, but the gardens were despoiled and many trees cut for firewood in the anarchy that swept through Kabul during the civil war.

The garden is surrounded by high walls,

rebuilt by the local community. Visitors are greeted by a large traditional caravanserai which is planned to open as a visitors centre, showing many of the finds excavated in the archaeological dig that preceded the resto- ration. Although modern, it stands on the footprint of an older building of the same plan built as a refuge for the poor in the 1640s. From the caravanserai the eye is im- mediately swept up the terraces, following the line of the white marble watercourse. On either side the grounds are deeply planted with herbaceous beds and sap- lings. Many species chosen for replanting

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