Food Shopping in Afghanistan
Food Shopping in Afghanistan is an important part of living in Afghanistan, but also an activity that can cause a great deal of culture shock.
In Afghanistan culture, men do the majority of the shopping, and in many villages, women simply are not allowed out.
You are advised to go in pairs as women, but if a man can go with you, it's even better.
This page is divided into two parts:
1. Free advice from expatriate women experienced in shopping here; and
2. Where to shop for food/groceries.
Free Shopping Advice
- Swarming Burkhas - particularly in the Khair Khana fabric bazaar, this phenomenon has been experienced by friends and myself on a couple of occasions. What happens is about 4 Afghan women (they are covered, so it could be men) wearing their blue chadaris surround me and my shopping partner, and start pulling and pushing.
What they are doing is through group intimidation, distracting and scaring us while one of them slits our purses with their knife and steals our money.
Be aware at all times, and do not allow yourself to be surrounded like this. If they start pushing, for your own safety, start yelling and pushing back.
- Safety: Look for an old man wearing glasses. I've been in a bazaar on a couple of occasions when an Afghan told us the bazaar "is not safe right now." Look around for an old man wearing glasses and driving a taxi - he's usually your safest bet to get out of there fast.
The Afghan code of hospitality means that if you took refuge in a shop, the shopkeeper is honor bound to protect you...but I prefer getting on my phone immediately with our security officer or my husband and getting out of there immediately.
Start watching how many Afghans wear glasses, and you'll be dismayed. Any Afghan who has taken the trouble to get glasses is probably a safer driver than the rest.
The Art of Negotiation: Put away those feminist ideals.
This may be harder for some women than others. Negotiate a bit. If you don't, you push the prices up higher for the rest of us. You need to at least try to get 1/3 to 2/3rd lower than the original asking price on non-related food items, but on some food items, too, especially when out in the second hand bazaars.
One way to do this is to decide on a price ahead of time, and when the shopkeeper won't go lower, I use the "My husband/brother/father won't let me spend more than this" excuse (doesn't matter if none of your men folk are in country). It often works. My niece used the "my uncle won't let me spend more than this" and she got some phenomenal prices (on non-food-related items).
Also, don't be afraid to smile, apologize for the trouble, and walk out. Many times the shopkeeper came down to my price when I began to leave.
Where to go Food Shopping in Kabul
Food Shopping in Wazir Akbar Khan
1. Finest Shopping Center, Street 15, right on the corner of the main chowk (round-a-bout). Mr. Ahmadi has grown from a tiny shop on Flower Street to the first high end grocer in Wazir. He has a decent freezer section and fruit/veggie section. He also has a bathroom upstairs for customers, with toilet paper!
2. Afghan Spinneys - just down towards the Roshan headquarters, and across from the British Embassy, Street 15.
Food Shopping in Sharenau
1. Finest Shopping Store - brand new, with real laser check out! Can you imagine? We took photos to prove it and will upload them here. It's the cleanest nicest food store in all of Kabul.
2. A-1 - he's friendly and imported large Pampers by the case when I asked him to a few years back. Located right across from Sharenau Park.
3. The Fruit and Veggie Stand on Flower Street - he's one of the first Afghan men to start selling BOTH fruits and veggies in one location. He can be depended upon to have unique items (like fresh dill, mint, and pineapple) when other bazaars don't have it. I noticed the other day one seller selling both fruits and veggies, too, on Karte Char road by Pul-e-Surkh - the novel idea of selling both in one location is catching on finally.
Recommended with Reservations
4. Chelses - he's the oldest grocery store selling western foods in the city, and was known to send Christmas cards to every foreigner in the city during the Taliban times. But why go to Chelse's when you can now go to Finest, just a few blocks away?
5. Hashmats - a meat store over by the Safi Airways office. He's the first Afghan back in 2002 to start packing and freezing fresh meat immediately. His meat is local, but always clean. We've never gotten sick from his meat.
6. Iranian Store - the extreme opposite end from Chicken Street, close to the corner. This is the store I go to for Barley for soup, barley, oat, and wheat flakes for homemade bread, and a few other items. The Iranian fans I bought one year did not last as well as the Pakistani fans, however.
7. Turkish Grocery Store - Go left around the corner from the Iranian store (above), and go about 3 blocks - it's on your right hand side. Friends who lived in Turkey for a few years LOVE this store.
Food Shopping in Karte Se
1. French Bakery – you can special order anything, including “New York Style Bagels” and birthday cakes. All their prices are more expensive elsewhere, but they have a lot of items, are family-owned, and will get you anything you need if they don't have it ('specially if you are on lockdown...again).
We always purchase Nestle yogurt, imported from Pakistan, as long as it is kept in the refrigerator of the shop. We also highly recommend the French Bakery yogurt. They make their own fresh yogurt and keeps it in their 'fridge. It really is good fresh yogurt. They take bakery orders and are really competent at having orders ready on time (give them 1-2 hour margins, though - it is Afghanistan!).
2. Rose Restaurant - when you are too tired to cook, order their rotisserie chicken delivered, serve with a few slices of french baguette, and you have elegant low-cost meal. Their Afghan food is pretty good, too, and they do deliver.
3. The Pelican - the new (real) French Bakery on Darulaman Road. It's on the right hand side as you head away from the city towards the palace. It's unmarked, but ask around - you'll find it. This is the best bakery in the city...probably the country, run by real French people who know what they are doing. The garden is beautiful, and make sure to buy the meringue cookies. Amazing. They are open Monday - Saturday, 9am - 4pm.
They have a fabulous training project, too, really making a difference in the lives of Afghan young people. Donations for the training school are welcome. Contact me and I'll connect you with my French friends.
Not Recommended except in Extreme Emergencies
4. Yaqubi's - he's the old standby grocer in the K-3 bazaar. Problem is, he's price gauging. Check it out for yourself. His prices are substantially higher than shops in Sharenau and Wazir.
While he does cater to the expatriate shopper, he has ridiculous prices and is happy to share a bit of the profits with my guard when I send him. Stay on top of prices and send your guard or cook food shopping elsewhere in the K-3 bazaar if you can.
5. Bar-B-Q Tonight – located just past Pul-e-Surkh, great little restaurant, has a bakery (no baked goods during Ramazan). They deliver, or go there to eat. They do chicken well, so recommended you stick with what they do best. I kept my chadar on as we ate. The cooks/wait staff did not look at us/me as we sat there.
Food Shopping in Karte Parwan
Karimis – the store past the Intercon Hotel. The Afghan equivalent of "Walmart." This store is wonderful and has decent prices. Good place to get Basmati rice packed cleanly, from Pakistan in 5 kilo bags. Many western products upstairs – I go to Karimi's when I do not have energy to go the second hand bazaars. The items are clean and often within expiration dates. Great place to go when Flower Street is off limits to foreigners, too.
Food Shopping in Other Bazaars
1. Bush Bazaar, maybe it's beginning to be called the "Obama Bazaar?" aka Second hand bazaar – clothing, shoes, toys, household linens, down comforters, and all kinds of food from American, Italian, German PX’s.
This is where singles and others who do not want to cook go for American and French MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat). It moved - it's over across the Kabul River. I'll try to get better directions soon - I forgot the name of the main chowk its located by.
Recommended you don't go 'till October '09 - they are paving over there and you have to walk a long way. Some foreigners have not felt as safe there recently. But it's where the MRE's currently are. If you can, just send your house helper to buy a case (12 MRE's per case, at 40Afs/each meal. Snack MRE's can be purchased for about 30Afs each, also 12 bags per box).
2.Food Shopping at Cianos (Italian PX) – mainly for good cheeses at reasonable prices. Everything is exorbitant in price and can be found on Flower street. Located off of Jalalabad road - always a risky place for civilians to go - it's where a lot of the suicide attacks on military convoys take place.
Contrary to recent reports, there is no more "Blue" or "Supreme" shopping available for civilians. However, Karimi's and Finest Shopping Stores somehow have many items from Bagram PX.
Meat in Afghanistan
What Food/Supplies are Available in Afghanistan
Return from Food Shopping in Afghanistan to Living in Afghanistan