Tuesday, September 15, 2009


(All of the pictures are taken through the window of the security van.)

Traffic on the streets of Kabul is both chaotic and terrifying, but it tickles the hell out of me.

Anything with wheels...
And 'buses.' The young man outside the van is apparently the conductor - he yells out where the van is going and collects the fares.

Scooters.Afghan-style pedicabs. An enclosed structure on a motorcycle.


Carts. Whatever this is.
Student(s) on bicycles.
And then the animal contingent: horses.


The goats.

And the fat-rumped sheep!

Mix everything together with people and pretend the whole street system is a gigantic sidewalk and ...you get dodge-em people cars. Whoa!

White car heading directly towards cab.

So now there's a problem.

See the traffic cop behind the taxi.
Looks like a collision in the works.
Traffic cop still there - directing.

The direction of flow here is unclear...as is the function of the cones and the traffic hut in the middle.

There are some signs.

This sign makes it clear which way to circle the roundabout. But when the traffic is really heavy (most of the time) and it's faster to go around the other way, then that seems to be OK, too.

Here's another directional sign that may or may not be followed, depending. The seated fellow is next to a hut marked 'traffic information.' I love it. This car faces barricades. He's probably going to back up - missing, one hopes, the wheelbarrow behind him.

When I talked with my Kabul contact when I was still in the States, I asked her about driving in Kabul. She just chuckled, 'oh you won't be driving.' And that's right.

Our Afghan drivers are superb. I keep my eyes closed most of the time.

There appear to be few accidents; luckily speeding is not a real problem, given the traffic. Fender-benders may be common, but it's hard to tell since most of the vehicles look well and truly fender-bent anyway.

So far I've seen one traffic light, although I understand there are 'several.' There are no street signs. Lanes are not marked, but, in any case, lanes have no meaning.

Some cars have steering wheels on the left as we do, other cars have their steering on the right. Those cars are supposedly illegal. (Oh, really!) Apparently when it comes time to renew their license plates, they can't.

License plates are problematic as well - some cars don't have them. I've been told that those cars belong to the warlords and apparently they don't have to abide by the rules of the road. There doesn't seem to be any rules of the road, so I don't get that distinction.

Honking your horn means 'I'm coming; get out of my way!'

No one uses turn signals.

And...many drivers have cell phones to their ears!!!!!

Here's one incident. We were trying to go the bazaar at UN headquarters.

Traffic became snarled as we approached the street that runs along the Kabul River.
People in front of cars. Cars aiming for people.

Get out and have a look.
The street was more or less closed, but you could still get through - note the cars ignoring the truck. That's a mosque on the right of the picture and the overflow crowd was praying, sitting in the road!

A great comment I heard tonight about Cambodia and the general 'freedom from rules' found there: if they want to drive, they buy a car. I think there's an analogous statement that could be made about the non-rules driving in Kabul. I'm working on it.


  1. Great pictures Penny, very entertaining! Chris

  2. no turn signals, cars to ears, no licence plates, sounsd like l.a. county to me!