Wings of joy: Kabul's bird market
For some Afghans weighed down by decades of war and struggle, a little comfort and distraction can be found in the company of birds. As Mohammad Ismail visited Ka Faroshi bird market in the heart of Kabul's old city in January 2018, war seemed a long way off.
Packed with small, mud-walled shops festooned with bird cages, Kabul's Ka Faroshi bird market is a little more than a narrow lane with a few alleys leading off it
Customers, most of them men, but some blue burka-clad women too, squeeze down the crowded street, stopping to inspect birds on display, haggle with shopkeepers and buy bird seed and other supplies
"In Afghanistan, it’s a passion to keep birds," said Rafiullhah Ahmadi, who sells fighting cocks at the market "Some people love to keep fighting cocks, some love to have partridges and some love to have other kinds of birds. It's a custom in Afghanistan"
Fighting cocks and partridges squawk in bell-shaped wicker cages, while finches, larks and canaries of all varieties hop about in cages, and pigeons coo in small aviaries made of wire
Most of the birds come from Afghanistan, caught in the wild or raised. Some are imported from neighbouring countries, such as Iran and Pakistan, but traders said business was down, with few birds being imported these days
Ahmadi said the best fighting cocks come from northern Afghanistan. The most expensive ones can bring up to 1 million afghanis ($14,000)
But the favourite of many Afghans is the chukar partridge, an elegant reddish-grey bird with a black band across its eyes and around its throat, a red beak, and black stripes on its side. The partridges are bred for fighting
"I have a mental problem and doctors advised me to keep birds," Tanha said in his shop, stacked with cages. "Right now, I have about 50 pigeons. When I’m home I keep myself busy with the pigeons and that keeps me happy and fresh"
Another trader, Mohammad Zahir Tanha, said birds helped bring relief from the stress of life in the Afghan capital, repeatedly the target of bloody militant attacks
And are there any worries about bird flu in the market? "Afghan birds don’t have bird flu, Pakistani and Iranian birds have that," said Gawar Khan, who trades fighting cocks