Kabul Diaries: Istalif Walk II

By the time we reached Rafi, the caretaker and his companion had taken off. There would be no food, we were told, but we were to follow them for some tea and snacks. We continued in the same direction they had left. After a few minutes, we saw a woman in a flowery chador with a man and a donkey coming towards us in the opposite direction. The woman was leading the donkey, but the moment she saw us, she let go of it and stepped to the side  of the trail facing the dry stone wall with her back demonstratively turned towards us. The man rushed forward to keep the donkey back. I deliberately walked closely past the woman and said, ‘Salaam aleikum’ (Peace be with you), hoping to put her at ease. She replied, ‘Aleikum-o salaam.’ (And with you) Once they were out of sight, I asked Rafi if she acted the way she did because of him. He confirmed my suspicion by saying that in these rural areas that is how women who are not covering their faces act when they see a male stranger approaching. []

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