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100 People, 100 Places: The Valentines Day Massacre

As it happens I found myself in Kabul on Valentine’s day.  Rahim Walizada had recently transformed a derelict spot into the Design Centre with his magic artistic touch.  In the middle of the capital this well-known Afghan designer had created a cool vibe at a place that served as both a venue for brunch and showcasing Afghan artists’ work, including his own modern rugs.

His friend Humayun Zadran had taken over the events management and  had organised live music for the 14th.  Holly, who I had only just met despite having seen her on the scene for a while as her dancing was legendary, and I decided to go and experience café culture.

That night the restaurant had morphed from a casual hangout to a more formal destination where tables were laid with linen and spread throughout the usually sparse rooms. Candles ensconced in the cuts outs in the wall provided low lighting. There also seemed to be roses on each table. Holly and I looked at each other in absolute horror. Trying to ignore the enormous shame of the situation we stood there mortified and without a Plan B. Our idea of having a regular night had turned into a romantic dinner a deux.

A bit later, as couples started to arrive, Holly and I, gulping down our humiliation, waved to friends who stared at us with bemused and startled expressions.

We ate as quickly as possible and slunk out into the night before the entertainment began, and never spoke of our tryst ever again.

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