Kabul, a place I once called home, has become a city of security barriers and fantasy palaces.
I can’t find my old house, my old street or the bakery where I used to watch the early-morning ritual of men slapping dough into hot ovens beneath the floor. They’ve all vanished behind a high-security superstructure of barricades and barbed wire, a foreign architecture of war. Elsewhere in the Afghan capital, a parallel construction boom is underway. The slapdash sprawl of nouveau riche development has sprouted modern apartment buildings, glass-plated shopping centers, wedding halls with fairy lights, and gaudy mansions with gold swan faucets and Greco-Roman balustrades, commissioned by wealthy men with many bodyguards and no taxable income.
Both of these facades are conspiring to cover up the past, paving over the rubble and the lessons of war, distancing ordinary people from the local elites and the bunkered foreigners alike. Most tragically, they are erasing the hope and the promise of change that burst forth in Afghanistan’s post-Taliban liberation nearly a decade ago.