Wings of joy: Kabul's bird market

Yahoo News Photo Staff

For some Afghans weighed down by decades of war and struggle, a little comfort and distraction can be found in the company of birds.The war seems a long way off in the Ka Faroshi bird market in the heart of Kabul’s old city, a narrow lane with a few alleys off it, packed with small, mud-walled shops festooned with bird cages.

Customers, most of them men but some blue burqa-clad women too, squeeze down the crowded street, stopping to inspect birds on display, haggle with shopkeepers and buy bird seed and other supplies.Fighting cocks and partridges squawk in bell-shaped wicker cages, while finches, larks and canaries of all varieties hop about in cages, and pigeons coo in small aviaries made of wire.

“In Afghanistan, it’s a passion to keep birds,” said Rafiullhah Ahmadi, who sells fighting cocks at the market. “Some people love to keep fighting cocks, some love to have partridges and some love to have other kinds of birds. It’s a custom in Afghanistan.”

Most of the birds come from Afghanistan, caught in the wild or raised. Some are imported from neighboring countries, such as Iran and Pakistan, but traders said business was down, with few birds being imported these days.

Ahmadi said the best fighting cocks come from northern Afghanistan. The most expensive ones can bring up to 1 million afghanis ($14,000). But the favorite of many Afghans is the chukar partridge, an elegant reddish-gray bird with a black band across its eyes and around its throat, a red beak, and black stripes on its side.

The partridges are bred for fighting. “My passion is partridges. I’ve been keeping partridges for about 60 years,” said Abdul Khetab, 80, another market trader.

“I’m first in Kabul in partridge fighting.” Another trader, Mohammad Zahir Tanha, said birds helped bring relief from the stress of life in the Afghan capital, recently hit by a spate of bloody militant attacks.

“I have a mental problem, and doctors advised me to keep birds,” Tanha said in his shop, stacked with cages. “Right now, I have about 50 pigeons. When I’m home, I keep myself busy with the pigeons, and that keeps me happy and fresh.” Tanha said he’s devoted to his birds and treats them like family.

“When you keep birds in a cage, you have to take care of them the way you take care of your children,” he said. “You have to love your birds because birds can’t speak to say what they need.” And are there any worries about bird flu in the market?

“Afghan birds don’t have bird flu; Pakistani and Iranian birds have that,” said Gawar Khan, who trades fighting cocks.

Photography by Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

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<p>A man carries roosters for sale at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Roosters for sale

A man carries roosters for sale at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Mohammad Jan, 67, sits beside a cage of partridges in a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Partridges in a shop

Mohammad Jan, 67, sits beside a cage of partridges in a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>An Afghan woman clad in burqa stands in front of a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Shoppers at bird market

An Afghan woman clad in burqa stands in front of a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

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<p>A grain mix is seen in a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Grain mix for birds

A grain mix is seen in a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>A parrot is seen inside a shop for sale at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Parrot for sale

A parrot is seen inside a shop for sale at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Mirza (R), 65, and Noor Mohammad, 72, pose for a picture at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Vendors pose for photo

Mirza (R), 65, and Noor Mohammad, 72, pose for a picture at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>A rooster stands in a cage at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Rooster with carpeted cage

A rooster stands in a cage at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Canary cages hang inside a shop, for sale, at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Canaries for sale

Canary cages hang inside a shop, for sale, at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Afghan men walk at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Ka Faroshi bird market

Afghan men walk at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Mohsin smokes a cigarette at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Vendor takes cigarette break

Mohsin smokes a cigarette at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Grain boxes are seen for sale in a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Grain boxes for sale

Grain boxes are seen for sale in a shop at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Sayed Mohammad Ali holds his rooster at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Rooster at market

Sayed Mohammad Ali holds his rooster at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Afghan men look at birds in a cage at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Birds are shown to customers

Afghan men look at birds in a cage at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Fatih, 70, holds a cage of partridges as he poses for a picture at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Vendor poses with birds

Fatih, 70, holds a cage of partridges as he poses for a picture at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Afghan men watch a cockfight at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Cockfight at market

Afghan men watch a cockfight at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>An Afghan man drinks tea at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Tea break at bird market

An Afghan man drinks tea at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Farhad, 13, holds a rooster as he poses for a picture at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Posing with bird at market

Farhad, 13, holds a rooster as he poses for a picture at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Afshin, 12, plays on a mobile phone inside his shop where he sells bird food at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Bird food for sale

Afshin, 12, plays on a mobile phone inside his shop where he sells bird food at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>Hamed Khan 35, prepares food at a traditional restaurant at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Hot food at bird market

Hamed Khan 35, prepares food at a traditional restaurant at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 19, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

<p>A vendor holds a quail to slaughter for customers at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) </p>
Vendor shows a bird to customers

A vendor holds a quail to slaughter for customers at Ka Faroshi bird market in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

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