Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Afghanistan Series - Flying to Kabul

Last time I posted about Afghanistan we were deep in the heart of Kandahar and about to head up to Kabul. Now after the drive thru the Desert of Death there was the prospect of driving a similar distance to Kabul, and the thought of doing this is about as appealing as having your wisdom teeth removed on your 21st Birthday.

We had heard that Ariana Airlines was still running limited flights from Kandahar to Kabul, and Lara was dispatched with little optimism to see what she could manage whilst we would spend the morning avoiding the Religious Police more commonly called the "Taliban Department of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice".

This is the same Police force that would do things like ask for tenders for 500 whips in a Kabul Newspaper Advertisement later in the year.

To our amazement there was a flight the next day and we had five tickets. I still have the tickets and if i can find them I will take a picture, because they had been Taliban'ised. By this I mean on the back of the ticket the airline had photos of the Budhas of Bamiyan (that the Taliban had blown up the previous month, more on that story later) Now under strict Islam faces are not allowed and even on books in shops pieces of paper would be stuck on faces.

On the back of the ticket some clerk had obviously been ordered to black the faces out on the statues picture and with a black marker the ticket had been colored in, obliterating the picture.

Duly the next morning we left the UN Compound and headed for Kandahar International Airfield, built in the 1962 with US financial aid, and expertise even to the extent that the power points in the walls of the airport terminal are US power points, no where else in the entire country would you find a US Power Point except for the airport. The architecture is a snap shot of America 1962.

Now we are not expecting much and luckily we were not diasapointed. There seemed to be only about tweleve passengers, a few travelling Imans, a family and us.

But Ariana Airlines realised that this was a windfall of excess baggage to be paid of course in cash to the airport manager. And to the last kilo they calculated what we had to pay. Naturally we would have to pay in US Dollars and after a prolonged discussion on which they did not budge one kilo we coughed up a few hundred dollars.

Walking out to the plane you tried not to look too closely, I assume that canvas showing on the tyres adds to the traction and braking of the Russian made AN24. Now travelling with weapons is a standard practice on any Military flight however evryone boarding the flight to Kabul carried their Kalishnikov onto the plane and if I could of translated the pre flight briefing I only hoped that the Captain requested that the safety be on, I somehow doubted it as the weapons were not even un clipped as the other passengers put their weapons into the overhaed lockers.

Such was travelling on Ariana Airlines back in the Days of the Taliban. But it was better than driving and that is all that mattered for us. The choice between 14 bone shattering hours in a car or an hour flight with canvas wheels and armed passengers, was simple.


Anonymous said...

Not exactly "flying the friendly skies". No wonder only a dozen passengers. We even worry about people carrying shampoo and toothpaste here. Since you were there before they blew up the Budda you have been traveling there for a long time. Seems we once saw you in the Kiber pass, christmas time as I recall. Do you have any photos from that trip? I thought that Budda in the rock was real art and hated what they did. You made us think hard, Mal. Guess blowing up a persons religious symbols or PCing them away amount to the same thing. They just get your attention right off with a bomb..more subtle with the PC. has some great photos of the Desert of Death and the whips of Afghanistan you would no doubt enjoy. Just another nice place you have visited, Mal. We love the info you give about those places. Like pieces of a picture we collect piece here and another there. Hope to hear more about it.
Yarnell, USA

21st Century Mom said...

The tickets look kind of standard. The flight - not so much.