Waking up today, the skies were blue and the sun was blindingly bright as it hit the courtyard of my guesthouse. The rows of rose bushes glistened as the gardener finished watering them and the air smelled cool and clean with several hours to go before the hot dust of the day settled in. Doves have been roosting in the eves above my door, and their close proximity of their coos drowned out the noise of the city starting to wake up outside the walls of my guesthouse.
I walk across the stone path through the garden courtyard with a smile on my face, basking for a moment in the patch of warm sunshine. I look across the courtyard where a piles of sandbags is stacked 8 feet high, and next to it, bundles of barbed wire – both ready to added to the already heavily fortified exterior walls. One of the security guards walks by and nods at me, his gun slung casually across his shoulders, and the sound of low flying helicopters drowns out the morning activities of the resident doves.
It’s a portrait for Kabul as a city, and Afghanistan as a country, pockets of peace thriving in a warzone. Behind walls and heavily guarded gates are rose gardens, pockets of calm within the storm. Guesthouses, cafes, and private residences nurture these patches of color in a city bathed in shades of brown, safely behind concrete walls and unmarked steel gates. In a city where nothing much grows, these gardens are an oasis to those that have access to them.
As I drink my tea I think about people in the streets outside, going to work, entering the fray of the Kabul commuter hour chaos. Recent months have seen a distinct upswing on attacks inside Kabul; the Intercontinental Hotel, British Embassy, US Embassy, the assassination of the High Peace Council leader and former President Rabanni, and the suspected CIA compound as recently as two nights ago. Afghans are growing increasingly anxious as the steel ring of Kabul’s security fails again and again, and its Afghan citizens that are most often caught in the crossfire.
Its easy to forget the violence after a few days of calm, to spend a few hours working in a café, behind locked gates with armed guards, in a rose garden, with wifi, coffee, and good food. But walk down the streets of Kabul, in the dust, amongst the Afghans and the tension is palpable. There is an edge to the city, average citizens waiting on tenderhooks for the next eruption of gunfire, without the benefit of a rose garden to hide in, and no peace in sight.