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January 31, 2003

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Best day for weather in Afghanistan; sunny, clear, and warm. On Friday we avoid religious areas as a precaution. What else to do in Kabul? Go to sporting events. In a Kabul suburb we saw Babur's tomb, the guy who conquered India for Islam (the most dramatic influence stemming from this conquest is the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh since it introduced Islam into a homogenous Hindu society). Near his tomb we caught the cock fights. Yes, the Afghanis bet at these events, so things have become much more permissive than under the Taliban regime. In the afternoon we fulfilled a sport dream: we watched a buzkashi match. How can someone not have fun at a sport that uses a headless carcass? The riders begin the match at one end of a football sized field, behind a green flag, and charge to the other side of the field to grab the headless carcass of a goat. Each team tries to place the carcass into a sawdust marked ring (only one ring on the field). It's rugby on horseback, an ancient form of military training in horsemanship. The men pull each other off their horses struggling for the carcass. The riders also charge full speed into each other; we literally saw horses run into one another and knock themselves to the ground. A few hundred years ago this sport was played with the headless carcass of a prisoner. Things haven't become much more civilized today.
Grab the carcass and run!
The riders brush along the walls where the spectators sit so keep watching or you'll be knocked under hoof.
A day at the cock fights; place your bets please.
Stand in the crowd and someone will offer you tea and salted chickpeas.