(Deutsche Version hier: http://wp.me/p1ZMFw-r )
Attatürk Airport, Istanbul. Bustled, chuckled, shouted, admonitory, caressing Turkish surrounds me in all its melodic colorations. The counter for Ariana Airlines was easy to find: it was the only one with more high stapled luggage than people. And when saying people, I mean men, mostly with dark hair and curious inquiring looks towards me. As if questioning my right to stand there in line. Even before getting onto the havash-bus to the airport I had put on my shalwar kamize (wide trousers with a longer tunic as you might wear it in India or Pakistan) and the dupata, a long shawl draped around loosely. When entering the plane I would put it over my hair.
In the plane I spot five other women. Four of them with families attached. They probably came originally from somewhere in the region or might visit relatives or family. The only other blond woman carries a bulletproof vest with her, which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable for obvious reasons. It turns out she’s a photo -journalist from the US who’s embedded with the troups in Afghanistan’s south, in Kandahar. Not a place where I’d prefer to set a foot into….
It’s loud and lively in the plane. Big suitcaes and small children are being handed over the corridors like handluggage. The light is being turned off after the start and just after a couple of hours we will see the the emerging Afghan mountains below us with their deep gorges bathed in the first rays of the morningsun.
The drive from the airport leads through a sealed off Kabul. It’s Satuirday morning which is normally the beginning of a week here…my first work day will be on a Saturday, too. But right now it’s Eid-ul-Adha and for one week there’s no work but family visits, giving gifts to relatives and invitations for big dinners. The only traders I see on this morning out on the intersections are young men waving with huge bundles of…money! They are moneychangers…
The main sight while driving through the streets are walls. Walls in all kind of forms and variations. Stonewalls, concretewalls, walls with extra shielding, protection and barbed wire on top. As we pass wall for wall, Said Mafuss, the driver, comments on the view: ‘that is the German embassy’. He points to a three metre high, guarded wall on which another two metre high green view protection is mounted, onto which barbed wire is attached. This is the representation of my country in Kabul. I look at it with disbelief. The irony slips out of my mouth as I can’t resist making the comment: “There’s no embassy, just a green wall.“ Said holds out his hand for a high five as if saying: ‘you got it!’
As I reach the guesthouse, I look again onto walls. This time out of my window. The view leads out to a small construction side and a wall with view protection beyond which I can hear the humm of the street. The guesthouse also has a highly walled garden with roses. Roses that actually smell strongly like roses. Not like their highly bred european counterparts which look beautiful but have lost any charme of a smelling essence they might have posessed once.
Walls, everywhere walls. The next weeks and months will hopefully show, what lies behind them.