Kandahar is well known as the birthplace of the Taliban, beginning in Arghandab; the birth village of Mullah Muhammad Omar. His popularity increased during the late 80s when he led the Battle of Arghandab, which was an offensive led by Afghan and Soviet forces but ended in utter failure. Arghandab is a district within the central part of Kandahar province, known for its green and agricultural landscape. During my first day in Kandahar I visited Arghandab district and was astounded with what I was seeing within the first few minutes. The mesmerizing beautiful greenery weaving through the district, the calm and hospitable residents, and the river of Arghandab – which dries up during the summer but maintains a crystal clear demeanor through the rest of the year. On the outskirts of the river, next to a small waterway, we had a melon and saw a man who had a shop there - cooling himself off from the heat by immersing himself in the river.
My journey across Afghanistan has taken me to many different regions, including Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar. Each of them has presented some wonderful memories, people and experiences – but the one place that has surprised me tremendously is Kandahar. I found it unpredictably secure, friendlier than many other regions across the country (including some great camera posers), a mutual respect for the law but an underlying struggle for peace regardless. I am glad that my experiences from Kandahar can possibly change the mindsets of people whom are thinking that the entirety of Kandahar could be your graveyard - well yeah! You will find many graveyards in every corner of the city or around the villages. My local friend had asked me while showing me the city, ‘’How did Kandahar look to you?” I frequently answered: ‘’It was amazing and I never thought of such positivity around, but why are there so many cemeteries?” Feroz responded by saying, ‘’ Well, these graveyards are the price of peace in Kandahar.”
Even though you will not see any official license plates on cars (mostly being either from a Dubai plate number or without a plate completely), people drive very carefully, following the traffic lights, which would be rare in the capital. I saw a local man standing with his motorcycle at 11pm for the red light in a road which you will not see any other cars passing by. The nightlife among people is busy, many staying out and mingling, eating and chatting past midnight. They are people who love to enjoy life and not live under the shadow of fear. One of the nights I was in ‘AINO MEENA’ (The New Modern City of Kandahar, with beautiful fountains on the road, amazing boulevards and bright lights at night) having dinner with my fellow colleagues and just as we were about to finish the meal, we ordered tea with a hookah. Looking up, we saw three bullet proof cars parked on the roadside with 10 bodyguards around their boss. The restaurant we were having our tea had an open space beside the road so a policeman came and kicked on those cars not to park there and the bodyguards ran towards him. This was the first time during my trip in which I was scared and thought they will beat or kill this police man. The bodyguards had RPGs, Machine Guns and AK47Kalashnikovs. Surprisingly, they were begging the policeman to let them be there. “Once they are eating and finished, then we will leave’’ said one of the guards. The kindness and civility absolutely shocked me.
Throughout my time in Kandahar, a friend of a friend allowed me to use a car to drive around if I needed to get around the city. At every police checkpoint, questions were asked such as, "What have you got? A gun, a card?" If I said no, they would ask, "Mind if I check?" And if I agreed, then they would say I am good to go and to stay blessed. I remember my last day in Kandahar when I was asked the same questions at a final police checkpoint and the officer began again with, "What have you got?" and I answered: "I've got myself and this car." He replied: ‘’Then tell me you've got an iPhone and glasses as well!" I ended our conversation by telling him how proud I was to be stopped by such a young and strong police officer. His happiness showed through his face and he shook my hands and said, ‘’Allah De Mal Sha Zwana’’: which means, "May Allah protect you always, young man!" This is how mutual respect happens only in Kandahar. As I have mentioned earlier, every little second in Kandahar was filled with surprises and priceless memories. I can only share a few in this piece of writing but I can happily say that Kandahar is in a state of constant growth and peace. Change your perception and see it for yourself!