-- Despite an upswing in insurgent attacks, Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, has a new milestone: The country’s first-ever amusement park.
It’s called Kabul City Park. Nestled between the muddy, polluted Kabul river and the city’s snow-covered mountains, it resembles the kind of smaller amusements parks that dot towns and cities across Europe and North America.
Thousands have visited the park since it opened in October, with peak visiting time on Friday afternoons, after the Islamic day of prayer. The park has a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, roller coaster, spinning tea cups and even a mascot that’s a dead-ringer for Minnie Mouse.
For Afghan families looking to spend an afternoon out, the park offers a rare respite from the ravages of decades of war. Much of the city resembles a cold, muddy maze, with row after row of 20-feet tall concrete blast walls ringing the enclaves protected inside. Many of the city’s key intersections are guarded by armed soldiers and policemen, with inspection checkpoints springing up seemingly at random.
But inside Kabul City Park, the dreariness of the city disappears. Children run to their favorite rides as test-your-skill vendors hand out prizes to game winners. Husbands and wives hold hands, walking together with their children in tow, a rare sight in a country with hardly any entertainment options that families can enjoy together.
The park – a joint partnership between the municipality and a private company – is the latest in a small series of developments aiming to give weary Afghans a chance to escape the harsher realities of conflict. In addition to the park, the city also now has a water park, bowling alley, paintball zone and a semi-functional golf course.