Exotic Cities, Part Two: Qonduz, Afghanistan
March 19, 2009
What do you think of when you hear “Afghanistan”? If you’re like most people, you probably think of mindless death and destruction, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, terrorists, the Taliban, Muslim fanatics screaming “Death to America!”, poverty, ignorance, disease, filth, backwardness, and stupid, barbaric men beating, mutilating, and murdering their women because they want to enroll in a typing course. Sure, all of that does exist — but mainly in the south. The northern part of the country is very different, which is lucky for you because that’s where you’re going. That’s right. You’re heading for the exotic city of Qonduz — the Jewel of Afghanistan, the Gateway to the North, the City That Never Sleeps!
Just make sure your travel agent doesn’t send you to the wrong place. Qonduz is also spelled Konduz, and it is not to be confused with Kondoz or Kunduz, which are also in the north but are different places. You have to book your flight on Ariana Afghan Airlines (“We Make Every Flight An Adventure!”), because no one else flies to Qonduz. Ariana won’t fly you to Kondoz or Kunduz by mistake, because those cities don’t even have airports, and the pilots are not going to commit suicide by trying to land there. The suicidal ones are screened out in the job interview. Or let’s hope so.
Qonduz used to be a shabby little dump stuck in the 12th Century, but thanks to the presence of American and NATO forces, it has been pushed ahead into the 20th Century — like roughly the 1970’s. So they’re still behind us but only by a little. Yes, you will still find a lot of hairy men in sandals working in dirty little shops, but now you will also find modern buildings, nice stores, bright lights, fast food, and normal urban entertainments — including alcohol, gambling, and prostitution.
There is only one really good hotel — the Radisson Plaza Admiral Qonduz, or “R.P.A.” for short. It’s an absolute magnet for NATO troops on leave, because it has all the modern amenities, and every room costs $100 U.S. a night, regardless of the number of occupants. So it’s Party Central! Manager Dermot McKeown, a transplanted Londoner, is an enthusiastic booster of the new Qonduz. “This place is more exciting than London and much safer. Qonduz is jumping twenty-four hours a day, and you can go anywhere any time and not have to worry about getting robbed, shot, or blown up. Qonduzers are wonderful hosts. They love Westerners and will pick up tourists spontaneously and say, ‘Hey, you American? I show you good time!'”
The fellow who decided to show me a good time was a taxi driver named Ahmad, who was on his day off but offered to drive me around for a few dollars. We stopped briefly at the Labour Exchange, where people seek any sort of work. At the men’s exchange (there is a separate one for women), there were mostly poor, young boys. Ahmad asked me if I liked boys, and I said no. (It was here, by the way, that Ellen DeGeneres and her partner, Portia de Rossi, “rescued” a deformed 8-year-old boy named Yama, whom they adopted.) The women’s exchange is largely for girls seeking employment as domestics, although they are mostly picked up by foreigners as daily “companions.”
The Duck Pond is located in the city’s park. It has ducks but no fish. Old men “fish” for the ducks using simple fishing rods and pieces of bread. If a duck is stupid enough to get hooked, it gets strangled on the spot and is then taken home and eaten.
The city has an 18-hole golf course, which Tiger Woods has described as the most challenging course he has ever played, thanks to unexploded ordnance in the ground.
Qonduz also boasts the world’s second-smallest library, and a museum of amputated limbs.
The selection of restaurants includes all the familiar Western fast-food chains, which are run according to Western standards, so they have proper toilets and no rats. The local Afghani eateries must be treated as “high-risk” by Western visitors. These places have unusual smells and have never seen a health inspector.
Culinary “fusion” is provided by the popular Lentil Heaven, which offers a variety of Western foods smothered with lentils, such as lentil burgers, lentil tacos, and lentil pizza. The place is owned by Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama, through her private holding company, Bamco.
Every great city has its naughty district, and Qonduz is no exception. Its naughty district is the Batouti Bazaar (or just “Bazaar”) — formerly an area of humble shops and street stalls but now a glitzy circus of bars, cinemas, casinos, and strip clubs. There is a highly visible contingent of hookers — all Russian.
The most notorious attraction in the Bazaar is a raunchy club called the No-Go, which features a woman who has sex with squids. Her name is Nadira, but she, too, looks Russian. She’s hot-looking and has big tits. She comes out naked, in high heels, she lies down on this mat, and an assistant places squids on her body. Nadira then writhes and moans and pretends to be having sex with these squids, which are sucking her breasts and pubes — sort of like Bela Lugosi pretending to struggle with the giant octopus in Bride of the Monster. The audience is supposed to believe that the squids are alive and are actually sucking her body. Rush Limbaugh was in the audience when I visited, and I went over to him and asked him why he was there. He said, “I’m trying to understand how these people think!”
Across the street from the No-Go is a strip club called Jihada-Dada, which is always packed with soldiers. Diamanti Damons was headlining there for an entire month.
Qonduz has a rodeo every October. It’s called the Qonduz Stampede. Afghani cowboys lasso donkeys, ride them, and then shoot them. The kids love it.
Be sure to make time for a day trip across the border to Tajikistan to visit the Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve, where many endangered species of wildlife are protected. It was here that Dennis Rodman, while on an errand for Donald Trump, identified a Chongawarry fruit bat — a species thought to be extinct. For this contribution to science, Rodman was awarded the Tajikistan Conservancy Medal.
Tourists in Qonduz need U.S. dollars or euros. No one wants the Afghani currency. Your credit cards should be used only when necessary; otherwise, best keep them out of sight. There is also an informal barter system, so bring a supply of women’s panties, chewing gum, cigarettes, sunglasses, and guns.
The climate is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Spring and fall are pleasant. However, Qonduz, unfortunately, is directly in the path of migrating locust swarms, which happen occasionally in the spring and fall (but they only last for a day).
Recommended vaccinations: anthrax, dengue fever, mouse typhoid.
Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada. E-mail: email@example.com