An Afghan Love Affair

Escape to Afghanistan to discover passion, romance, and determined young people daring to forge a brighter future.

Afghanistan stamp
Armchair Adventure inside
envelope flap
Najib
Sipping tea at the cozy Kabul guesthouse that I’d call home for the next two weeks, I patiently waited for Najib to go over my schedule.

Like other fixers in Afghanistan, Najib’s job was highly demanding. Their job was to accompany foreign guests everywhere they went
back of envelope
Sipping tea at the cozy Kabul guesthouse that I’d call home for the next two weeks, I patiently waited for Najib to go over my schedule.

Like other fixers in Afghanistan, Najib’s job was highly demanding. Their job was to accompany foreign guests everywhere they went, take care of everything they needed, provide translations, arrange meetings, understand the lay of the land, change currency, know which areas were safe and which weren’t, maintain an extensive network of friends and colleagues, and—most importantly— make sure their clients didn’t die.

Fixers were the ultimate babysitters.

A highly regarded fixer who’d worked with many foreign journalists over the years, Najibullah Sedeqe was as good as they came. But due to Kabul’s rough infrastructure and general unpredictability, getting even simple stuff done could be difficult even on a good day. My list was beyond ambitious, so we’d have to prioritize.

Najib spent several minutes in silence, studying his way down the list. Finally, he slid the page across the table and leveled his gaze.

“No problem,” he said calmly stretching back in his chair.

“No problem, what?” I asked curiously.

“I can make it happen.”

“All of it?”

“Everything.” His confidence was borderline smug, and I suddenly felt my internal competitive switch click into gear.

Game on. “Wonderful!” I said. I would find something he couldn’t make happen.
Over the next two days we strolled through the National Art Museum and historic Babur Gardens.

We explored ancient forests, conducted interviews with TV and radio stations, and visited schools.

We had lunch with an Afghan family, shopped for arts and crafts, and toured a landmine museum.

We lounged in exotic restaurants and stuffed our faces with lamb kebabs and piles of rice until I could barely move.

No matter what I threw at Najib, he made it happen.

I had no choice but to increase my demands.

Watch a Buzkashi match? Done. Fly kites with kids? Done.

Attend a conference for the disabled? Done.

Interview a former Taliban member? Done.

It was like he operated on a completely different time continuum— making time stretch and bend at his will.

With only one day left, I went for broke. “Najib, I would like to crash a wedding.”

The looks on the bride’s and groom’s faces when they saw an uninvited American tourist at their wedding were epic. (Najib even sent me in with an elaborately wrapped wedding gift to present.) But, despite their shock, they welcomed me with open arms— inviting me to enjoy an afternoon of music, dancing, and feasting on kabuli pilau like a long-lost member of the family.

Brazen. Dauntless. Unflappable. Najib was a king to me now. Laying down my proverbial sword, I had met my match.
Convenience store in Afghanistan
Afghan convenience store
History museum
Ancient relics
Girls in Afghanistan
Afghan school girls
Kabul, Afghanistan
Arial view of Kabul
Bakery
Bread for sale
Clothing store in Kabul
Latest fashions
Mosque in Afghanistan
Mosque
Afghan boys and girls
College co-eds
Rug store
Rug shop
Afghan guy selling rugs
Product for sale
Fields in Afghanistan
Lush fields
Students in Afghanistan
Colorful classroom
Afghan girls
Recess
Coca cola in Afghanistan
Afghan coke
Flying kite
Father and son tradition
Old outpost
Silk road outpost
Afghan kids
Young sheepherders
Afghan food
Afghan dinner table
Runners in Afghanistan
Track meet
Afghan boy selling bread
Young bread seller
Smartphone
Afghan woman
The Afghan Wedding Empire-
Birthplace of Bridezilla
Paucartambo mountains
Back in the early 20th century, while attending the wedding of his cousin, Afghanistan’s King Amanullah Khan made a grand gesture that would change the course of history. He laid down his sword, knelt on the ground before the bride and groom, and declared that they could make any demand they wanted as the 'king and queen' of the night.

Since opportunities for power like that didn’t come along every day, they ran with it..... continue reading
Wedding hall in Afghanistan
One hundred years later, decked out in royal green attire and perched on throne-like chairs at the head of massive wedding halls packed with hundreds of adoring family and friends, there’s nothing like an Afghan wedding to bring out the inner diva in any young newlywed. And just because Afghans may live in one of the poorest countries on earth doesn’t mean they’ll forgo a swanky wedding ceremony. Families pawn possessions and borrow money to rent expensive wedding halls, throw down feasts of kebabs, and dance the night away in the glitziest attire their money can buy for an all-out, YOLO extravaganza.

Female guests peel out of their burkas to unveil gowns covered in bling like an explosion at a sequin factory, and Kabul now has a whole neighborhood of shops taking custom orders from brides-to-be looking to outdo their friends. Stores are practically printing money as wedding dresses can cost up to $900 – roughly three times the average monthly wage in Afghanistan and ten times that of a typical outfit.

Ironically, it was also around 100 years ago that the American wedding industry began its evolution into the $53 billion industry that Pinterest junkies know and love today.  From the clothes, flowers, photographers, and music to honeymoons, bachelor parties, and destination weddings, the average cost of an American wedding now tops $35,000. Couples are willing to go into debt to create those scrapbook-worthy moments, and while the divorce rate may hover around 40-50% it’s apparently a gamble worth taking.

A worldwide human phenomenon, weddings represent hope, optimism, and a chance for a new future. They’re a way to leave our past behind. Celebrate our present with the people we care about. Live happily ever after with the loves of our lives.

And, of course, be king and queen for a night.


Afghan Wedding Traditions
Rumi
Rumi- the hopeful romantic
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (1207-1273), better known as Rumi, was a 13th-century Islamic scholar, mystic, poet, philosopher, and all-around Renaissance man. Born in northern Afghanistan, he wrote some of the world’s most beloved poetry that has transcended time, place, ethnicity, and religion.... continue reading
Painting of Rumi
Love is a frequent subject of Rumi’s poems—both the nurturing of love within ourselves as well as the romantic connection between two people:

A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.

We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.

The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.

You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.

The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.

In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

Map of Afghanistan
Satellite map of Afghanistan
"CLOSE YOUR EYES, FALL IN LOVE, STAY THERE.”
-RUMI
World map
Afghan teens
Afghan Gen-Z's & the Young Peoples' Universal 'Bill of RIghts'
Afghan teens in cave
In every part of the world, at every time in history, and regardless of culture, religion or parental influence, a universal rite of passage takes place in the hearts and minds of teenagers as the simplicity of childhood is replaced by the startling realization that they are now stakeholders in the game of life. But with much of the world still beyond their control, a tension grows— along with a desire to express, to push boundaries, to rebel, and to explore their own identity before the status quo of adulthood surreptitiously assigns it.... continue reading
Afghan teens
Hormones only add to the drama.

But while the collective teen tension may produce an often-angst-ridden generation, they are also the ones able to save the rest of society from stagnation.

Born into nearly 40 years of war with no end in sight— and caught between foreign governments and militaries maneuvering for control of their future— Afghan Gen-Zs have every right to be angst-ridden and fully pissed off. But despite Taliban insurgents determined to drag them back into the Dark Ages, a growing network of young Afghans are determined to push society forward and create a new chapter in Afghanistan’s cultural history.

From skateboarders to metalheads to break dancers, this young generation is writing their own metaphorical Bill of Rights, and showing the world that true creators don’t just sit there waiting for life to happen to them. They go after it however they can.
Afghan teens at skatepark
A new generation of Rebels
Blast wall being painted
Blast wall canvas
Afghan kids
Faces of the future
Afghan break dancers
Top Step Crew Performance
District Unknown group
District Unknown
Teens with Afghan flag
Drop & Ride- the new face of Afghanistan
Afghan teens painting wall
ArtLords in action
Afghan bikers
Drop & Ride hit the streets
Afghan girl painting wall
Young Visionary
Afghan teens skateboarding
Skater girls
Afghan break dancers perform
Top Step in action
Afghans protesting
Drop & Ride at Sept 20th Global Climate Strike
Afghan girl posing
Top Step Rebel
Afghan kids skateboarding
Ready to roll
Afghan break dancers
Freedom of movement
Afghan girls on bikes
Girl power
Afghan break dancer
Top Step girl
Afghan girls skating
Women on wheels
Smartphone
Afghan teens
Here's to the Crazy Ones
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

-Rob Siltanen


(watch the video)

Kenyan textile
"IF WE ARE NOT EXPRESSING OURSELVES, THEN WE ARE DEAD."
-DISTRICT UNKNOWN
(aFGHANISTAN'S FIRST METAL BAND)
Smartphone
“I AM NOT THIS HAIR, I AM NOT THIS SKIN. I AM THE SOUL THAT LIVES WITHIN."
-RUMI
Karima's family
Family photo
Karima
Karima
Afghan boy
Karima's brother Naqeeb
Karima discusses home life
Life at home
Afghan kids and parents
Elissa's team playing with Raeesa
Karima with her mother
Mother & daughter
Afghan home
Outside the Anwari's home
Afghan boy holding puppy
Mujabeen & puppy
Afghan teens
Karima & her friend
Afghan kids playing
Gulistan & Naqeeb
Afghan woman cooking
Teenaged housewife
Quail
Pet quail
Karima talking to American kids
Message for American kids
Karima thanking audience
'Thank you for listening to my story.'
Listen to the GSD Podcast
Karima Anwari, Anne Frank, and other 14 year old girls growing up in a world of "war."
Afghan textile
"THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO MY STORY."
-KARIMA
Teens from Red Lake
Ready to experience the culture of the Ojibwe?

Next stop, Red Lake Nation!
Photo credits
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Afghan woman smiling: By Mustafa Sayed (Flickr: welcome to the family) - [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] - https://www.flickr.com/photos/mustafasayed/6098077852

Wedding hall in Kabul: Masoud Akbari [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
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