Taverna du Liban & Park Star Hotel

In Kabul, you never know what lies behind high, thick metal walls topped with barbed wire. In some cases, it is restaurants serving fresh, spicy food that expats especially enjoy due to the establishment’s liberal leanings. At the Taverna du Liban, a Lebanese restaurant, our dinner was accompanied by red ‘tea’ that came in gold-painted teapots with elegantly curved spouts. We also drank foaming ‘cappuccinos’  served in white coffee cups. Against a far wall, a group of a dozen business-suited men, including several government members, spent the evening eating, smoking sweet-smelling tobacco out of hookahs, and discussing corruption. The dinner was followed by a visit to the Park Star Hotel, which was hosting a  big party to celebrate a renovation.  There were about eight women, 200 well-heeled and well-groomed men, and one female MP, who rolled her eyes at the criticism she knew would come her way from being in the company of males. (Among religious conservatives, women should never be in the company of men who aren’t family, even though they might be elected MPs.) Musicians played traditional Afghan instruments: the tabla drums and sarangi guitar, said to be extremely difficult to play, and everyone drank bottled water and fizzy pop. According to one expat, the men would go home and discard their  pious public abstinence by downing whiskey.

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