Clubbing in Kabul

Kabul. There are NO similarities between the Bigg Market, Newcastle in Northern England, on a Saturday night and Kabul on the same. That's none, zero, zilch, now't. There couldn't be two more contrasting cultures in the world, ever, period. If you take a piss in the street here you could end up in a body bag -as some American troops did- rather than taking a nap in Market Street police station. There are no drunks to be seen, no stagg-doos or hen parties, no pink flesh pushed into skirts the size of belts or arses hanging out of pants. That's not to say there are no arses, there are, but there fully dressed as expats, us westerners, out de-stressing.

The expat scene here drinks and dances behind high walls, armed guards, body checks and no gun signs. There aren't many canny, thick-necked bouncers stuffed into suites to wink your way past here. Who needs a muscle man when you have a Kalashnikov? Beer at $10 a can is drunk in big male groups made up of ex-military, security guards (big blokes), contractors (big wallets), NGO staff (big guilt complexes) and media types (big egos). The few women that venture out need the ability to repel unwanted advances as skilfully and effortlessly as swatting flies. Even the grossly obese get a look in here (apologies, maybe there are some similarities). Take guys with overly plumped up feathers, pump them up with adrenaline, mix with paranoia then shake and stir with vodka and you don't always have the best cocktail company; throw in cocaine, opiates, hasheesh and you have the perfect recipe for meeting the odd wanker, or two, possibly three.

All the same plenty of people have interesting tales to tell and conversation can be gripping if you get away form the loudspeakers. On a recent venture out the few sensible blokes I arrived with surveyed the scene quickly and dived back home in taxis. The ratio of 50 men to three women, didn't make the best scoring ratio, or the best atmosphere. Somehow, I hung on in to the end and got driven back through the dark dust streets at two AM to the accompaniment of hardcore hip-hop by a drunk Afghan-American with his foot heavy on the  accelerator. I hope he has the wit to stop at checkpoints, I thought, imagining a car riddled with bullets, rather than a breathalyzer test from a Bobby. "I just need to make a phone call and I can have this whole area filled with security in fifteen minutes," he bragged to my female companion...before describing how he uses his contacts in high places to threaten Afghan soldiers with the sack when he doesn't want to show them his driving license. There, as I said earlier, you meet the odd wanker or two, some of them of the top class variety.

Living and working intensively with the same small circle of people can be stressfull and booze can be a sweet, relaxing release. It is odd though, in an Islamic culture, where Afghans are refused entry into bars because alcohol is illegal. (Imagine the loss in tax revenue from night-time economies at Newcastle Civic-Centre; think arts cuts, then think economic collapse). The expat bars have a quiet wink from Kabul's mayor to keep booze supplies steady, so long as they don't serve Afghans. This leads to circumstances in which Afghan friends can be asked to leave bars. Oddly embarrassing that. And, you will never see an Afghan female -they don't all wear the burqa- in a bar as they never drink in public; never mind ask you to hold their chips, while they have a shag. However, I did see an Afghan women in a skirt and sparkly six inch heels last week, every eye in the place -an event for International Women's day- followed her as she took to the stage. "What a tart!" I thought, and probably everyone else did too, as she waddled up the stairs; back home she would be a class act to follow. You know the type, more a Botticelli exhibition followed lobster bisque, than brown ale and a burger at Munchies.


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