Freddie On The Street...In Kabul


Written by Robert Foster
11 Monday 11th March 2013

What did you do last summer? I'll wager with actual money that you spent time variously: daytime drinking, working a shitty job, being a dick on holiday and smoking weed during a Mario Kart bender. Amirite? Knew it. This'll make you feel like a lazy, unproductive douche: our production assistant Freddie McConnell went to Afghanistan to work for Skateistan (he ended up contributing to this book, which is worth a read) and taking a whole load of photos. He took a lot of great shots, so we're going to post them up here 6 at a time with Freddie's captions underneath, you goddit? Great.

This is your standard issue Afghan policeman, complete with AK, US-issue desert boots and washed-out fatigues. He braves diabolical odds against surviving more than a year on the job because any job is hard to come by. He’s probably illiterate, hold’s down a solid substance-abuse habit and is more likely to pull you over at a checkpoint because he’s bored or thinks you might have beer than because he suspects you’ve got a bomb strapped to your chest. He’s also guaranteed to grin after posing like a tough guy.

Do not mosey into this downtown cinema expecting to find the latest Tarantino or Spielberg flick. In fact, I’m not sure they show films at all, even when the lights are turned low. At least, I’m not sure that’s the primary purpose of this foreboding establishment. Let’s just say it’s better known as a place to get certain sensual needs met that might otherwise result in death by angry mob. Strictly no females.

Kabul, where the locals can pick from a growing market of Dubai-based mobile phone services, while foreigners (private or government contracted) can shop around for whichever armoured vehicle promises to be least eviscerated by an IED from below or RPG from the heavens. Top tip: play ‘spot the armoured vehicle’ in traffic from the way they sway heavily on their axels, under the weight of all that extra (arguably pointless) steel plating.

Had enough of leathery goat kebabs that taste like the garbage bags those animals munch through on the street all day long? Pick up a sack of local grapes for a few pennies, like these ones on the road out to Baghram. Don’t forget to haggle with the lad, it’s half the fun.

Find your street-art antennae perplexed by these woefully neglected hoardings? Just be thankful it obscures the fetid Kabul River below, mostly grey puddles and weeds these days. The waterway is all but dried up, except in a few spots where the flow is 90% sewage. Oh the other hand, you could literally head under the bridge to score a $2 gram of opium. If you can’t get to your local chemist that is.

Witness a Kabul snack-hawker showing incredible brass in taking on traffic to reach lucrative territory in a nearby park. He’s navigating his cart around Massud Circle, a nightmarish roundabout flanked by the US Embassy, a NATO base and an Afghan military camp. Drivers hit it at whichever angle looks less congested. The circle itself holds a monument to Massud, the mujahedeen hero assassinated before he could ascend to the national leadership many thought was his destiny. Needless to say, it’s high on any insurgent’s martyr-time bucket list.

Catch Freddie on Twitter here.

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