Years ago, a Western Farsi-speaker would tell me stories of Tajik groups from Northern Afghanistan he took to Tajikistan as part of an exchange program, and the hilarious culture clashes that would occur between the two groups, usually involving vodka and the role of women in society. Despite sharing a language, ethnicity, and (arguably) similar religious sentiments, a few minutes of latitude and less than 100 years of history had rendered the two groups befuddling to one another. When the Tajikistan Tajiks wanted to speak privately around their Afghanistan Tajik colleagues, they would simply switch to Russian, something the Afghanistan Tajiks, having lived through the Soviet invasion of their country, did not look favorably upon. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal has an interesting story on the prurient activities of some Afghans in Tajikistan today. From the story:
Afghan tourists—numbering some 10,000 last year—are the most numerous visitors from beyond the former Soviet Union, says Davlat A. Khabibov, chairman of Tajikistan’s Association for the Development of Tourist Industry…
“The Russian tourists come here for climbing, the Westerners for hiking in the mountains,” Mr. Khabibov says. “The Afghans, they come for entertainment.”
Strangely, the story goes between the implication that Afghans go to Dushanbe (and really, the story talks about nowhere else in Tajikistan) because it’s cheap:
Dushanbe is one of the few places where Afghans—especially government officials—can feel rich. At outdoor beer gardens, stout waitresses ferry foamy glasses of beer that cost the equivalent of a few cents per pint.
Or spend lavishly:
Barman Sahib Nurbayev marveled at the whiskeys and cognacs that the club’s Afghan guests tend to order, speculating darkly on the source of their cash.
“They spend the kind of money that we don’t even see in our dreams,” he said.
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of money unaccounted for in Afghanistan, but I would still guess that the lion’s share is going out to Gulf nations. Either way, the story is an entertaining read, highlighting the complex cultural geography of the region.