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100 People, 100 Places: The Rugweiler

Rahim Walizada designed Afghan carpets with a modern twist and serious artistic flare, and I was completely captivated from the first moment I wondered into his effortlessly cool and sophisticated shop called Nomad in Kabul.

While Rahim had low-key charm and charisma, his cousin, who ran the shop on the Kolola Pushta Road, was surly and unfriendly.

His preferred mode of communication was to snarl.  In fact I am sure I only ever once saw him unsuccessfully attempt to crack a smile in all the many times I ran across him, despite being a loyal customer who bought a Tora Bora cave full of carpets.

Finally, after years of patronage, I was emboldened to ask for a small cup of tea, which I believed he offered everyone else (just ‘cause I’m paranoid, to paraphrase Woody Allen, doesn’t mean ….). His mouth twitched momentarily and for a nanosecond I believe his lips slanted ever so slightly upwards, then the mirage evaporated.

Even the smallest of shops would indulge in the ancient tea ritual, often no matter how small the purchase. Once Jenner, one of the characters in Dispatches, and I went to Chicken Street, to buy some Afghan tops.  We ended up sitting on a pile of carpets and chatting to the owner who magically produced a jar of marinated fruits and nuts in which he dug up a spoonful and shoved one in my mouth and one in Jenner’s, as Afghan hospitality is legendary.

Getting a smile out of the cousin was no easier than getting a cup of tea or in fact a good deal.  In a land where bargaining was another ritual, at Nomad it didn’t exist. If you liked it you bought it – end of story. Despite no tea, no bargaining and no smile, I own a few carpets, despite my absolute resolve not to buy any – and no thanks to The Rugweiller.

100 People, 100 Places are a series of short dispatches to complement my latest book, Dispatches from the Kabul Café (Advance Editions, 2014)