Monday, June 8, 2009

Accidental Apartheid

Since Afghans aren’t allowed to drink alcohol and since expats could probably not be convinced staying anywhere without the occasional/daily drink(s), there are special licenses issued to restaurants and bars here. That means that those places are allowed to serve alcohol, but in turn Afghans aren’t allowed to hang out there. I have been told that if one looks ‘too Afghan’, you are asked for ID and might even be turned away if you had headed to such a location for a work dinner with an international. These tend to be the more expensive restaurants and I imagine that it must be infuriating to any wealthier Afghan living in Kabul to be denied access to such places. Not that there aren’t any other nice places, but if there was anything in my country that I was denied access to I’d be seriously upset! This also makes it doubly hard to maintain normal friendly relations between nationals and internationals as they simply don’t tend to go out to the same venues after work. To make Afghan-non-Afghan friendships still harder, international staff is really limited in their movements as we are confined to a ‘safe box’ (a area of the city, which is considered to be safer) and many Afghan live outside it, so officially you aren’t even allowed to visit each other.
At work there are two canteens – one catering Afghan food (which I have found to be rather delicious). It’s cheap and served outside on a beautiful sun-lit terrace under some trees. It’s really rather lovely. Then there’s the international canteen, which is inside, cooled to temperatures that would even make a Bostonian put on a sweater and heavily overpriced. They serve pork they everyday (don’t ask me why) and some other rather questionable cuisine that is neither Western nor tasty. Quite a few internationals do brave it regularly though (one reason may be that the Afghan canteen’s menu doesn’t ever change) but I haven’t seen a single Afghan eat there yet. Again, probably not the most healthy set-up to encourage friendly relations between Afghans and internationals.

No comments:

Post a Comment