I love a good old Saturday night out with the lads down the pub, and it’s the same world everywhere we go in that respect. It’s just that in some countries the entertainment and choice of drinks differs. Here in Afghanistan, the lads invited me for an Afghani style Saturday night out in downtown Masar e Sharif! I was buzzing, Afghan clothes on, Afghani in my pocket and off we went! By the way, I don’t mean to confuse you here but the series on my blog is called “Thirsty Thursdays” as I release it on a Thursday, but the actual experiences can be any day, in this case it was Saturday.
There is no alcohol, mosh pits or late night kebab and street singing in Masar e Sharif. It’s a lot more relaxed and civilised here. I was based in the city of Masar e Sharif which is a top notch Afghan stronghold, located not far from the Uzbekistan border and the town of Balkh which we also toured.
Our driver Sakhi parked us outside a place called Abshar Shisha Lounge. I couldn’t read the writing and I don’t speak Dari of course, but the idea was clear – myself and three Afghan lads were out for Saturday night shisha, tea and chat. This was rather epic.
We head downstairs into the basement of this place. From the street, unless you can read the writing, you’d have no idea there was a Shisha house here.
The rules are simple. Shoes off. Men only, no women allowed. You walk in and sit down in a booth. No actual chairs, you kneel and sit on your ass on the carpet, shoes off.
Within minutes we are brought a flask of tea and four cups. I’m with Reza, Noor and Sakhi. We share the tea and Noor decides to order mint flavoured shisha. I have tried shisha manys a time down the years in places like Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Tel Aviv, Palestine, Shahr-e Kord, Kerman and Bournemouth. But to be here as the only tourist in Masar e Sharif felt a bit more exciting.
The décor of Abshar Shisha Lounge is lime green, there’s a fountain in the middle and despite the fact that everyone is smoking, you can’t smell or notice the shisha in the air inside the room. We chat about life, business, football, shisha, girls. It was exactly the same sort of chat I have with my mates in Bournemouth, Hong Kong, Bangor or Belfast. The only difference of course is no alcohol. The tea goes down a treat though, and it’s unlimited refills.
The “booth” hire costs 200 Afghani (so about $3 USD) and that covers all four of us for everything – tea, shisha and the place to sit. We just sat there for a few hours enjoying the night out before I headed back to my homestay. There was a police and army check at one point and I was introduced to the army members who reminded me to stay quite sheltered and hidden here at night, for security reasons and for my personal safety. Despite this, I felt much more relaxed here than in neighbouring Uzbekistan. You can also read how I got my Afghanistan visa and my experience eating Mantoo in Masar e Sharif.
Here is a video of my experience smoking shisha in Masar e Sharif, Afghanistan: