Afghan Dream Sandra Calligaro


Even as war has ravaged much of Afghanistan, an urban middle class has emerged in cities like Kabul and Herat and Mazar-i Sharif — a product, largely, of the influx of foreign money that has attended the coalition’s efforts since 2001. In contrast to the cliché images of turbaned elders and blue-burqa-clad women — of dusty, destitute bazars and mud-mortar huts — a growing section of Afghan society leads a relatively Westernized life. As image-conscious as any Americans or Europeans — affecting tight jeans and gel-sculpted hair, tailored suits and pointy leather shoes — these urbanites can be found in supermarkets, hookah cafes, universities, and athletic clubs. Private homes and apartments aspire toward a Western aesthetic, while preserving traditional elements. Living rooms with glass cofee tables and decorative curtains and chandeliers are mainly for show, while daily family life transpires in a separate room, where people still sit on the floor, drinking tea. “Afghan Dream” explores some of these private and public spaces and profiles several members of the new Afghan urban middle class — a demographic whose continued existence seems as precarious, now, as any other’s in Afghanistan.

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