Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Hitting the ground running

It’s nearing midnight on Monday evening, and I’ve just finished the powerpoint presentation I’m giving at the British Embassy tomorrow evening. I’ve had about 5 hours of sleep since Friday night, so this will be relatively brief, and probably not very coherent.
The mozzies are out in force, wafting in the window at our ‘not quite as luxurious as the website suggested’ accommo in Kabul, but a haven of tranquility from the bustle and dirt of city nonetheless. One of the virtues of Kabul is that it’s a few degrees cooler and a lot less humid than Dubai. I can’t think of many others – the open sewers are certainly as rancid as I remember!
I dozed through most of the Ariana Afghan Airlines flight from Dubai, when not being prodded by my neighbour, who didn’t seem to understand the concept of personal space, as defined by the arm-rest between our seats. Kabul airport is getting a face-lift and is more chaotic than in 2005, although the two are probably unrelated. About 2 hours after landing, we finally emerged into the summer glare, to be greeting by Haji Naqshband, our ‘white beard’ (and so much more) from 2003 and 2005, and Fath-e Mohammad, our chilled-out driver. We then sped along part of the new ring-road on the way into town until a windshield blew off FM’s mate’s beat-up taxi, requiring us to reverse into on-coming traffic to retrieve it. It was the obvious thing to do, and none of the other drivers took exception – Kabul is that kind of place.
As in much of the Middle East, it’s pointless trying to organize much until you hit the ground. The upside is that if you know someone as well-connected as Ana of SPACH, a lot can be arranged quickly – we had afternoon meetings with the Head of the Department of Historic Monuments and the Chancellor of Kabul Uni, and tomorrow we’re seeing the directors of the National Afghan Institute of Archaeology and Kabul Museum. Wednesday is currently looking suspiciously free, but I’m sure that won’t last long!
I’ll try to give you more of a sense of the colour of Kabul in the coming days, when things calm down a bit and I catch up with some zzzzs. The internet seems to be functioning here, although the power flickers on and off – must unplug my compoota before a surge blows the motherboard!

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