Published on 03 May 2012 at 12:53
Here, in Shar-e-Now, a dozen shops selling antique goods and Afghan-made handicrafts shape a narrow road called Chicken Street. Once this area was one of the most crowded markets in Kabul, but now few customers pass by each day. The market is near the Ministry of Interior Affairs and both entrances to the street are heavily secured and blocked by security barriers. You can only walk in, no vehicle is allowed.
Increasing security challenges have caused foreigners, who are very interested in visiting this market and buying antique goods, to dare not visit. As a result the market is less crowded and many of the merchants have been forced to close their shops and find other jobs.
Saeed Bashir, a shopkeeper, points around the street and says that due to security challenges foreigners are not coming here to buy goods. “Look! Both entrances of the street are blocked with heavy security barriers. It looks like a fortress rather than a market” he said.
Mahmood Muskinyar sells precious stones. There are several types including azure, emerald, ruby and fluorite, which attract customers’ attention. He uses these precious stones to make rings, earrings and other decorative jewelry.
“Hundreds of foreign tourists visited this market before the war years,” said Muskinyar. “They were buying precious goods and carrying them to their own countries. We could introduce our culture to foreigners this way and we were earning a lot of money. It was a boom market.”
According to Muskinyar, these precious stones are legally brought from provinces with the permission of the Ministry of Mines and then sent to Pakistan for polishing. “We bring ruby and aquamarine from Badakhshan, emerald from Panjshir, fluorite from Kandahar and some other precious stones from the mountains in the Sorobi District of Kabul Province.”
But the Ministry of Mines disagrees.
“Except for the ruby in Badakhshan, all other precious stones are illegally excavated and sold in the market with low prices,” said Jawad Omar, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines.
There are different kinds of goods made of colored stones available in the market, including cups, saucers, plates, bowls and vases for flowers.
“When I was a kid, I saw dozens of foreign tourists with their families members who were coming to this market every day and buying antique goods and Afghan-made handicrafts, but now due to the security challenges, this market is less crowded,” added Muskinyar.
Mohammad Esa, originally from Kandahar Province sells silver rings which he illegally brings from Iran. “I have to pay Iranian customs if I bring these rings legally and I cannot afford it. I would have to sell them with higher prices in the Kabul market if I do so,” he says. “No one would buy them.”
Look! Both entrances of the street are blocked with heavy security barriers. It looks like a fortress rather than a market.
Wearing silver rings is now in style among the young generation. Normally silver is worn because it is cheaper than gold.
Baser Jamshidi, a shopkeeper who sells different types of Afghan-made handicrafts, including gowns, bracelets, necklaces, and other decorative goods, shows a piece of an old cloth and says: “This cloth is 100 years old. Three months ago I bought it with 3,000 Afghani, but still I am not able to sell it. Many families would have an opportunity to work and sell their handicrafts if we had the market as it was.”
Officials at the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) acknowledge that due to security barriers along Chicken Street, the shopkeepers are facing some problems. “The Ministry of Interior Affairs has blocked the entrances to Chicken Street and few customers pass by daily to shop in the market,” said Khan Jan Alokozai, the deputy head of the ACCI.
The shopkeepers warn that the market will suffer and the Afghan handicrafts industry will disappear if the government does not take any measures.
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