Cables From Kabul - The Fun We Jihad
As recently as half a year ago, Kabul was swinging. Amongst the international community, it was the dusty Dubai to the south. Champagne cost less than bottled water and the parties showed no respect for weeknights. But a couple of things put an end to that: a new Afghan appetite for kidnappings and the secret police booze crackdown.
Nowadays it’s hard to find more than a cat on the street past 8pm. Afghans by tradition don’t go out at night and the international community have been largely scared off. We met the head of a United Nations programme yesterday who used to eat out seven nights a week. Now the only ‘real’ Kabul he sees is on the drive between the protected compound he lives in and the one where he works. The threat of a kidnapping is so high that contractually a lot of the international workers have to be home and tucked up by dusk.
So visiting L’Atmosphere today is a lot like arriving at a party at the same time as the cleaners. It’s quiet as the grave in this French garden restaurant and bar, and everyone’s jumpy. Most of them could lose their jobs if they were caught here. The bar has a strict "no Afghans" policy and you get a free rubdown for knives and guns at the door.
All of this would be fine if the booze they were selling was even cheap. But since the crackdown began in late 2010, alcohol has tripled in price in Kabul. A semi-chilled airplane-sized can of beer you’ve never heard of before costs $7.
Word on the street has it that L’Atmo is the next target on the Taliban hit list after the Intercontinental Hotel. It’s a target because back in the wild days, internationals would all get steaming then strip down to their underwear and jump in the pool. Did they end up fucking in public? We don’t know. Pervis, the owner of L’Atmo, can’t talk to reporters for fear of the NDS getting wind of it. The NDS are the Afghan secret police (we got to play with their beretta way back in part one).
L’Atmo is the last great post of western decadence in a town that’s falling back in love with fundamentalism. We went there for a beer and for old time’s sake jumped in the pool too. Out of respect for Pervis, the NDS and our families, I can’t tell you if Henry and I ended up locked in a passionate clinch in the deep end.
WORDS: CONOR CREIGHTON
PHOTOS: HENRY LANGSTON