Delivering mail in Kabul, where streets have no name

Last Updated: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 20:07

Kabul: In Kabul, many streets have no name and houses often have no number, meaning that postmen already braving the constant threat of suicide bombings must play detective to deliver mail.

Mohammad Rahim makes his rounds on the tattered, hilly streets of the Afghan capital riding an old bicycle. After 10 years on the job he is undaunted by even the vaguest addresses on letters.

"Here we have a letter for a man who lives near Doctor Hashmat`s house," Rahim, 46, says. "I don`t know the address, so let`s see, how can we find the right place?"

His only clues are the addressee Mohammad Naeem, the doctor`s name and instructions on the back of the envelope saying "Kart-e-Sakhi hilltop, behind the agricultural ministry".

Wearing a black fur hat, blue jeans and a violet T-shirt, he cuts a familiar figure and is often recognised by Kabul residents. He sets off from the neighbourhood post office to start asking people for help.

"Brother, can you tell me -- where is Doctor Hashmat`s house?" Rahim shouts at a shopkeeper. "Go up the hill, and turn right," comes the reply, so Rahim sets off up the rocky road.

Further on, another man tells him: "Turn right and it is the third house on the left." After waiting outside the gate, a woman in her 40s comes out: Mohammad Naeem`s wife, who takes the letter for her husband.

"We have received letters from the US, Canada, Germany and Pakistan, and the postman always brings them safely and on time," she says.

Rahim delivers dozens of letters every day across west and southwest Kabul, a city reduced almost to ruins in the brutal 1992-96 civil war.

The Kabul population has boomed to five million as people have flooded in seeking employment and an escape from the fight against the Taliban, but much of the recent expansion is illegal, with many houses and shacks built on contested land or without planning permission.
But the days of confusion over addresses could soon be over, as last month the communications ministry signed an agreement with the city authorities to create a comprehensive new address system.
All streets and houses will be coded, numbered and mapped in a two-year project that the government hopes to expand to other cities. The scheme -- which will use global positioning system (GPS) surveying -- should help Rahim, and fellow postmen such as Khan Agha, 42, who works in a post office in the central Shar-e-Naw district.

AFP



First Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 20:07

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