Aware of the danger of this journey, I soon realised that exercising healthy caution on the ground does not come automatically, if - unlike the prudent Afghans - you don't need it to the same degree in everyday life at home in Europe. I relaxed immediately after my first few hours in Kabul. Curiosity and a desire to discover more took hold. I even got daring enough to open the dating app Tinder, which suggested a host of love-hungry men within a radius of a few hundred kilometres. Most of them were employees of the US military base at Bagram. Their profiles showed muscle-bound guys in camouflage, inmates of a huge, fenced-in gym, who, after several months of staying there would have a handsome body and an equally handsome paycheck.
Bagram houses some 20,000 personnel as well as the two and a half kilometre long Disney Drive with American catering. No one is allowed to leave the small town for tourist trips. Unauthorised people are not allowed in. In Europe, Tinder is a door opener and a means to an end. But here? It can’t even be used for personal meet ups. Instead it amounts to a verbal-erotic pastime and an ego massage. But there are a few curious Afghans who use the app. And they have the same approach as Western profile holders. Unwanted dick-pics included. Unlike their American counterparts in the military base, the Afghan men can move around fairly freely and meet a potential playmate in one of the many teahouses: pavilions protected from prying eyes within spacious parks that allow a certain amount of privacy.
In the end though, I didn't dare to meet an Afghan Tinder user. That chimed with the approach of my travel companion Gul, who was always on his guard, even when he was licking an ice cream in Herat. Gul who, with a gesticulation, leaving a centimetre between his thumb and index finger, warned that it was not safe here at any time: “There is always a little bit of kidnapping around.”
Translated by Jess Smee