Kabul Sport and braving the traffic

20 06 2010

Obviously life in Kabul has its differences and being flexible about what this characterful capital offers has its benefits. 

Cricket at the Qala

Playing Frisbee at the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, Winter 2010.

Getting involved in sport, something I couldn’t do without, varies month by month. When I arrived I’d heard about touch Rugby games and hash-harriers running through town but opted to play Frisbee because the fixtures were more reliable and 2 hours chasing a flying disc kept me fit without the post-match sessions. We’ve also played occasional football matches there with local kids. 

Playing football at Ghazi Stadium overlooked by one of Afghanistan's rulers

By mid August even playing late morning led to an afternoon spent rehydrating. Cloudy days and even rain are a welcome relief. We moved from high school pitch to high school pitch to Kabul’s main stadium, Ghazi as the police became less relaxed about our presence and the ‘administration fees’ became unreasonable.  ‘Ghazi’ means hero, celebrating the Shar’s victory over the British and some people never got over playing social sport on a pitch where public executions were held.  Anyway, at the beginning of the year we were moved off, apparently for maintenance. 

Skiing in the Salang Pass in March

TM’s very own ‘Fit Club’ has kept me in shape and also entertained the guards who took a beyond-cursory interest in the international girls who were brave enough to join us on the grass terraces. The UNICA compound in town has a squash court, a bit smaller than any I’ve played on, although the original land-owner has terminated the lease and sold it for $5m  This is a high price that may be difficult to recoup before development aid tails off along with its indirect revenue. The good news is that another organisation in Kabul has built another court, soon to be finished. The bad news is that they took the measurements from the UNICA squash court so this too involves a little less running around. 

We have a table-tennis table in the fort and the occasional cricket knock-about. A game is planned between Murad Khane and those who work in the Qala. 

The clay tennis courts at the International club are busy all evenings and weekend with terrace tables to enjoy a cold beer or meal while players sweat it out on court.

With the advent of summer I have moved on to tennis, something I was convinced I wasn’t very good at although a new racket, recently picked up in Dubai,  has helped. There are reasonable, if dusty clay courts and I play a couple of times a week with players of different abilities. At $7 an hour, the price of a (small) beer here, I can forget the grind, although not the dust, of Kabul. 

Meanwhile elsewhere in Kabul the guys at Skateistan are planning their own part in GoSkateboardingDay so this week’s Afghaniman has to be dedicated the kids who will be out skateboarding on the pothole-ridden streets tomorrow. 

Duncan DJ


Ramadan and Skateistan

28 08 2009
Sillouette of the Mosque of the Three Balconies in Edirne, Turkey.

Silhouette of the Mosque of the Three Balconies in Edirne, Turkey.

There is no doubt that this holy month of Ramadan is a testing time for Muslim’s especially in this heat. Going without food for 15 hours is tough, without water is really difficult. I don’t envy the labourers on my site, the Jewelry School. As internationals we don’t eat or drink for 10 hours from breakfast til mid afternoon but this out of respect for the people we work with than any spiritual inspiration. People do talk about ‘when they did Ramandan’ but it’s usually half-arsed. I could probably get through a full day of Ramandan but I know it would mess up my working day even more than last night’s whisky and poker playing. On the way home yesterday I saw a fight breaking out on the steps of a mosque and earlier there had been a shooting between Afghan National Army and security guards close to us on site at Murad Khane. The waiting  from after work to break their fast at sundown seems about avoiding frustration rather than a physical demand.

Motorbiking on Turkey's European side can be a lottery but the views are always impressive

Motorbiking on Turkey's European side can be a lottery but the views are always impressive

If you thought my work here rebuilding part of Kabul’s old town is a bit leftfield you should check out Skateistan. I met Max at a party on his roof terrace. They have recently opened a skateboard park on the outskirts of town where they teach skateboarding. Mostly working for NGOs in their free time they put their time to buying skateboards so that the kids can design their own artwork for them. In the name of fun some of them have also entered the ugly dance world cup. The winner plays live in Hamburg next year. You can help their cause by clicking on Danciban which will take you to Youtube.

Above are two photos from my week in Turkey. 4 days in Istanbul with 3 days motorbiking 700km around the European part of the country, from the Black Sea to Bulgaria/Edirne and back to Istanbul via the Sea of Marmara. The roads are a lottery from smooth highway to expanses of loose gravel depending on where the roadworks finish.

New metal trough specially made to mix lime.

New metal trough specially made to mix lime.

 Building – Although things move slowly I’ve taken on a newly created role titled Murad Khane Project Manager. The idea is that overall management of the site is based in construction in MK not in administration and management up at the fort. Responsibility covers building projects, national/international architects, site engineers, infrastructure, site quality, safety, progress and costs of this 3.8 hectare site. Which should keep me busy. We’re mixing more lime to store away for a year’s curing before rendering the mud brick walls.

Duncan DJ