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Afghanistan Through My Lens
Elham Ehsas


I was very young when I left Afghanistan. The social and economic turmoil that had enveloped my country during the 90s was enough of a catalyst for my family to leave, in search of a better future elsewhere.  


Our search led us to the United Kingdom, where I am now a graduate of Law and seeking employment, two outcomes that could not have been possible had my parents not decided to leave. But having been born in Afghanistan, and having spent the early decade of my life there, I still carried with me distant memories of a different childhood, where I used to chase chickens and roll a derelict bicycle tyre by slapping it with a stick. So when we booked our tickets to Kabul on July of 2012, I bought my first camera in the hope of capturing the beauty of my homeland that I had only seen on TV and in the news. This is Afghanistan through my lens."  


"My flight path would take me from London Heathrow to Dubai, after which I would board another plane from Dubai to Kabul. The first part of the journey seemed ordinary enough, but it wasn’t until I took my seat in the second plane in Dubai, that I suddenly felt a sense of strange excitement. It hit me that within an hour, I will be in Kabul. A rush of questions seeped into my head; has it changed? Would I still feel at home when I went back, or am I now a tourist?  What do I say to all the cousins, uncles and aunties that I hadn’t seen in almost a decade? 


As the plane took flight, an hour into the journey, the terrain slowly changed. The smooth ground started lifting, forming into majestic mountains, reaching out, rugged and powerful.  Some were covered in green alpine trees, whilst others stood as tall naked rocks. But all of them were beautiful. As my eyes swallowed the landscape, I realised, that I was in Afghanistan.  


 Coming out of the plane, the first thing that hit me was the scent. It was the scent that I grew up with when playing in the streets of Jalalabad. A musky scent of soil and summer breeze. I was finally home, but looking around the tarmac, I saw plenty of strangers. A fleet of American, British and NATO fighter helicopters lined the edge of the runway, with uniform soldiers constantly patrolling. I saw similar sights throughout the city, whilst in the car driving to my uncle’s house.  


 The beauty of Kabul lies in its people. As the car made its way through the newly tarmacked road, I saw the Afghans buzzing about their daily lives, some selling calling cards and others selling corn. What surprised me was the number of young children with makeshift trays hanging around their necks selling everything from cigarettes to water. Others were busy grilling kebabs in the afternoon heat. But for every child working, there were three that were just sitting on the side of the street, legs crossed, watching the world go by." 

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