Mandawi Fire

It’s odd that several of my last posts were about the traditional shopping districts in Kabul, when almost immediately afterwards, one of those traditional shopping areas has had a very large tragedy, in that a fire has consumed Mandawi.


Picture courtesy of Wadsam News

Evidently, on the night of December 22nd, a large fire broke out, which destroyed 600 shops in the Mandawi, which is part of the traditional Kabul Bazaar as I wrote about in this post:



Picture courtesy of Wadsam News

The fire caused more than a loss of shops and product for the business owners; due to the mistrust of the Afghanistan banking system, most shopkeepers kept their money in safes in their stores.  By the time the shop owners were able to get into their shops, many safes were allegedly broken into and the money was missing.  It is rumored that the police broke into the safes and took the money, though according to the Chief of Police and the Kabul Fire Chief, the money was taken to secure it.  There is little accurate information available to determine what the truth is, and no reports of people receiving their money back.  The government has promised to help the shop-owners, and have most recently granted a tax holiday of four years to the shop-owners.  It is too early to say whether this will be carried out, however.

As I talked about in my End of Chicken Street piece, I really like this part of Kabul the best.  My introduction to this part of Kabul was when I foolishly attempted to drive through this area during a busy shopping day in 2009.  After a couple hours of just sitting in my car, waiting for the foot traffic to clear I just gave up and decided to park and take a walk.



Karachi at the Mandawi

I saw some wondrous sights.  My leather coat and karakul hat singled me out as relatively wealthy, so the beggars singled me out fairly early.  We stopped and talked to several people on the street.  My friend Nawab shopped for a coat, and found a nice tweed jacket.  I saw a riding shop, which had saddles, boots and tack for sale.  We also stumbled into an arms bazaar, and bought a pellet rifle and pistol to shoot rodents with back at our shack where we lived.

On the way back to our car, we stopped at a shorwa dealer, who was selling chicken soup at a mobile restaurant built on a bicycle frame, and had some extremely delicious soup.

All in all, a very good day, which was interrupted by a traffic jam, and turned into something much more interesting than we had planned.

The government is currently calling for the Mandawi to be rebuilt according to international standards, and is calling for shop owners to own insurance in order to run their businesses.  I just don’t see that happening considering the state of the Afghan economy.  Yet another pronouncement by a Ministry that will be ignored, like most other top down policies that are completely out of touch with conditions on the ground, and therefore unenforceable.


About hotmilkforbreakfast

I am a researcher, a writer, a former soldier, an academic and a lifelong learner. All text and pictures are copyrighted and are not to be used without express permission of the author.
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