Sunday, 6 May 2007 / Yakshanbeh, 16 Saur 1386
From the Airport to Kabul University
To this day, Kabul has no address system and there is no formal agreement on street names. However, I just realized that for the past year Kabul has had an effective address system for internet-users: it is the precision coordinates that can be entered into Google Earth. To demonstrate this, I am going to take you on a virtual tour of Kabul.
This technique is pretty straightforward (I believe this is what Iraqis are doing right now to get across Baghdad without getting killed). What you need to do is enter the degrees, minutes, and seconds (down to the hundredth) in the search field of Google Earth. How do you obtain such precise coordinates? Zoom in on a place you know, put the cursor over the exact location you want to identify, and then read the coordinates at the bottom of the screen. Note! Google Earth’s syntax is very exact, for reasons which I will not cover here. So I suggest you just copy and paste from this web page into Google Earth.
Kabul International Airport (Maidan-e Hawayi).
34 33 39.64 N, 69 12 42.15 E
This is where the vast majority of foreigners first arrive to Kabul.
Cult of Massoud, anyone?
Great Massoud Road, with the Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic on the immediate east, the Macrorayans further east, and Bibi Mahro Village on the west. Bibi Mahro is an old village which has now been absorbed into the expanding city. The Macrorayans were built with Soviet assistance; the fourth one is still under construction.
34 32 32.58 N, 69 11 49.51 E
Char Rah-e Massoud, looking west from Microrayan-2.
Keymap of Ch.Massoud, matching Google Earth from 1000m.
The blockage of Great Massoud Road.
34 32 12.24 N, 69 11 33.84 E
This is one of the most symbolically important streets in Afghanistan. But the American Embassy happens to be on it, and the Americans decided they would block this central arterial rather than move their embassy to a more secure and defensible location.
Note that for my safety, and the safety of the guards, I am showing a picture of another roadblock. There are many in Kabul, but none so important as the blockage of the central avenue.
From here all cross-town traffic is diverted west through the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood.
|Char Rah-e Wazir Akbar Khan. The billboard in the center with the girl on it is from USAID. Note the mobile-phone tower on the right.|
The Wazir Akbar Khan neigborhood was used by the Taliban leadership (read The Kite Runner) so it was relatively intact when Westerners started moving in. Since 2002 landowners here have been charging several thousand dollars a month for rent of houses to government organizations, NGOs, embassies, banks, and high-end restaurants. Rachel Morajee has just published an interesting article about the shaky political economy of this area in the Financial Times.
34 32 07.23 N, 69 10 47.14 E
The Kabul Business Center was just beginning to be built when I lived near here in 2003. It is the main office of several airlines now.
Sinama Park, Shahr-e Naw (New City). This area was originally developed in the 1930s, in the early years of Zahir Shah’s rule. I have put the coordinates on top of one of my favorite kebab-khanas: Risturan Nawi. Calling this restaurant ‘atmospheric’ would be an understatement; think Blade Runner.
34 32 07.86 n, 69 10 08.31 E
Kabul City Centre, exterior view. Located on Ansari Intersection.
Kabul City Centre, interior view of the mall on the lower levels.
Char Rah-e Ansari, named for Tamim Ansary’s family (read West of Kabul, East of New York). The Kabul City Center mall is on the south side. Walk through the metal detector, get your bags inspected by armed guards, and you, too, can shop in comfort.
34 31 58.60 N, 69 09 55.68 E
Kuchi Gul Furushi, Kuchi Murghab (Chicken Street), and Behzad Books on the north corner of the intersection.
34 31 46.32 N, 69 10 16.78 E
Char Rah-e Sedarat. Hotel Mustafa on the north, photo shops on the east.
34 31 33.33 N, 69 10 12.43 E
Char Rah-e Deh Afghanan.
34 31 16.30 N, 69 10 24.62 E
Massive outdoor shopping, especially shoes. Ministry of Education on the north, Municipality in the east, and the Mosque of Haji Abdul Rahman (pictured below) further southeast, next to the Municipality building.
Menar-e Istiqlal (Independence Monument). Commemorating those who died fighting the British for independence in 1842 and 1919. To get here we have passed through the Lion’s Gate, where the Kabul River flows between Kuh-e Asmayi (Sky Mountain) on the northwest, and Kuh-e Sher Darwaza (Lion’s Gate Mountain) on the southeast. Immediately west of the monument is the Kabul Zoo.
34 30 36.27 N, 69 09 28.73 E
Char Rah-e Deh Mazang, with the Ministry of Transport on the north side.
34 30 38.30 N, 69 09 11.67 E
Lysa Ghazi. One of the three leading high schools of Kabul in the 1970s. It remains unrestored, although thousands of students attend classes in the blasted shell of the building and the tents outside. Why is it unrestored? As I understand it, this was Zalmai Khalizad’s high school. He wanted to restore it himself, but he got distracted by Iraq, etc. So Mr. ‘market-led reconstruction’ has left a testament to what the market can do for public infrastructure.
34 30 39.03 N, 69 08 43.69 E
Faculty of Engineering, Kabul University. Workmen are preparing the entrance path for new paving, which was designed, funded, and contracted by students in the Faculty.
34 30 57.41 N, 69 08 22.47 E
You have arrived at the end of this tour! Please make sure you have your belongings with you and step away from the computer now…