Kabul Trade Fair

Sarah and I yesterday went to the Kabul Fair Trade.

It was somewhat a strange jump in the past: when we first met, many years ago, we went together to the first fair trade in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) and yesterday the feeling was in many ways similar. Randomness, exhilaration, a perspective towards the future.

The fair supposedly featured Afghan products. While roaming around the alleys of the tent where the stalls were set up we wonderend what it actually meant.

The piles of medicines ordered by colour and neatly organised in Lego-style towers concerned us a tad. Are they really produced here? What is the market? Is there any form of quality control?

The fair showcased all sorts of products in no particularly consequential order. From carpets to plumbing pipes, from packaged fruit juices to military uniforms and banana biscuits in bright green packages.

From marble eagles and lions to Afghan eggs – which I learnt are a rarity as most of what is available in the bazaar comes from Pakistan.

From saffron to shiny plastic decoration for car wheels; from (US AID sponsored) patus to little sculptures made by disabled women with colourful beads.

A soldier with a machine gun hanging off his shoulder put a big piece of cake in Sarah’s hand and soon after we were offered saffron ice cream: “A real Afghan product!” – we were told.

Few stalls away, an old man with a long white beard and a beige pakol invited us to admire his jewellery: “Come and see. Looking is for free!”

It was a bustle of activities: policemen keeping naughty boys at bay by chasing them and throwing stones, women chattering and bartering, little girls running around, portly men walking about.

On the way out, two young women stopped us and invited us to go home with them. We smiled, it could have been fun.

It was a truly good family day, a glimpse of ordinariness, which reminded me once again of how powerful the quest for normalcy can become in a place like this.

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