INGULFED

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The Afghan Ski Challenge — Women’s Edition

The third annual Afghan Ski Challenge kicks off above 10,000 feet in central Afghanistan. For the first time, the festival holds a race for Afghan women, seven skiers and a snowboarder.

All powder, no nonsense.

I originally filed this video/pics/article for the Al Jazeera English Magazine. Check it out here.

Afghan photos and more at a-vl.com.

Breakfast with the Taliban — تناول الفطور مع الطالبان


Downtown Kabul, past the largely expat Wazir Akbar Khan and distinctly expensive Shar-e Now neighborhoods, is a friendly place to stroll. Nestled deep in a high valley and lined with sandstone cliffs two-hundred and forty kilometers northwest, Bamiyan is even calmer. But for all the paving efforts that have made it among the smoothest in the country, and despite the stunning backdrop of jagged, dusty hills rising up through cooler and cooler air, the road in between is not so nice.

Seven days before we took our chances on this route from Kabul through the Shibar pass, head of Bamiyan’s provincial council Jawad Zahak had been pulled out of his bus by the Taliban. Three days later, he was beheaded. A fellow passenger pointed: “Right there.”

Half an hour outside of Kabul, we entered an ethnically Pashtun area. The land now controlled by the Taliban across Pakistan and Afghanistan is almost entirely Pashtun, and this stretch, as had been made tragically manifest days earlier, was within their territory. My foreignness was a danger not only to myself but to the four other Afghans in the beat up white Nissan. They should have kept me hidden inside the car. But we all wanted kebabs.

The video below is taken from my phone in a particularly dangerous stretch. In retrospect — not sure it was worth all the fuss.

[Dear readers: I am submitting this story to something, and cannot ethically publish the rest of this post however loosely I interpret the word “publish”. This doesn’t mean it’s any better than other posts. But if you’re still looking to read this nail-biter about the kebabs the Taliban eat, send an email with the words “breakfast”, “Taliban”, and “Dominique Strauss-Kahn” used in one sentence to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM.]


All the pictures from Afghanistan here.

Malik 2 / The Lohan Ranger — مالك ٢ \ الحارس لوهان

Videos after the jump.


The road from Nizwa to the Indian Ocean is paved with surprises, but mostly, the hundreds of kilometers that roll by are lined with a whole lot of very little. The mountains of the Omani Interior are like blurry photographs — up close, towering piles of dirt and rubble, but from afar, sharp and rugged like camels’ toenails.


Off the straight, flat highway stems variety, where a 10 minute drive can take you up into the mountains and back down to a valley river, or into the desert, red sand dunes appearing out of the blue. We did both, teaching Omani children how to skip rocks (they were naturals), and seeing if our Altima could manage a road made of sand (it couldn’t). The pavement snakes into the 5,000 square miles of the Wahiba Sands, until, all at once, it just stops. And there at the end of the road, we were called in for coffee.



I had turned down a young Omani’s offer to go dune bashing and he had responded by offering me into his home — the very last stop in town — cooled by a thick straw roof and a floor of sand.

We left and raced for the Gulf, hoping to catch the sunset before we made the final stretch for the coast. We kept pushing, motivated to stay above the speed limit of almost 90 mph, flying through the tiny towns with everything in our control except… except that the Gulf of Oman faces north. And the Arabian Sea coast faces east. And the sun sets in the west, doesn’t it.

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