If you had to guess where it would be, where would you assume and why? Is it Somalia? Is there even an amusement park in Somalia?
Is it in another African country where food and sanitation hopefully get higher priority than repairing old rides?
Maybe it’s in a former Soviet country where the amusement rides were actually extremely well built and state of the art to begin with, but haven’t been serviced since the USSR collapsed in 1991.
Is it in Syria, due to fears of attacks from ISIS or another group fighting in the almost decade-long struggle there?
Well no, it’s none of these. Apparently, it’s the City Amusement Park (Shahr e Park) in Kabul. Located down beside the Kabul River in the centre of the city, it’s an extremely strange experience seeing such happiness and unbridled fun in a war-torn country.
It’s quite odd going there, since it was built in 2014 but genuinely looks like it’s from the 1970s. It cost roughly USD 1.5 million to build, but is generally considered to be pretty poorly constructed and a lot of the rides were already many years old when they were purchased.
The City Amusement Park has all the rides you’d expect, a ferris wheel, bumper cars, pirate ship, spinning teacups, a chair-o-plane, roller coaster, face painting for children and adults alike and all the little side shows where you’re unlikely to win the oversized stuffed toy.
The most striking feature of this amusement park is the large Kam Air McDonnell Douglas 87 airplane, that serves as a restaurant at these unique fairgrounds. The airplane was added in 2017 and caused quite a lot of panic as locals quickly spread rumours about all sorts of things from a return by the warlord Dostum, to an attempted militant attack, as it was rolled down the main road from the airport to its resting place at the amusement park.
You’ve probably seen the recent images of Taliban riding in bumper cars and getting ice cream caught in their beards. For most Taliban fighters, this was their first time in a major city like Kabul and therefore their first time at an amusement park. This has probably made it even more dangerous, considering the Taliban fighters are carrying guns and even rocket launchers. You probably don’t want to push in line in front of them, or complain if they push in themselves. For almost all of them, even the merry-go-round is the first time on any type of ride.
Since those scenes in the early days after the fall of Kabul, the Islamic Emirate Government as they prefer to be known, has banned the carrying of weapons at the City Amusement Park. "Fighters of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are not allowed to enter amusement parks with weapons, military uniforms and vehicles," Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, posted on Twitter, "and must follow all the rules and regulations of amusement parks".
Before the fall of Kabul, for most families who experience the daily turbulence of life in this dangerous and chaotic city, the fact that the rides don’t have well kept service logs and aren’t the newest models probably isn’t of much concern. Regardless of how unsafe the rides might be, it’s one of the few places where Afghanis can relax, let their hair down and have fun.
With life returning to a new normal in Afghanistan, families are now returning. We visit the City Amusement Park when we’re in Kabul so you too can ride in the teacups with some ordinary locals or Taliban alike and enjoy an ice cream or two with them as well.