U.S. Water News Online
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Ask a man here about "Kandahari
water," and the response is usually a flicker of a smile, then a
solemn avowal that the city's water is an aphrodisiac like no other.
"From my childhood, I heard stories that Kandahari water was good
for sexual energy," said Ubedullah, a 21-year-old shopkeeper. "Then,
when I became a young man, I experienced it personally."
He didn't elaborate on his experience. But the taboo topic of
sexuality is never far below the surface in traditional Kandahar,
once the spiritual center of the Taliban, a militia that imposed
often cruel edicts in the name of Islam.
U.S. bombing and American-backed Afghan forces ousted the Taliban
in December, but virtually all women still wear the burqa -- the
sheath of cloth that covers them from head to toe -- in the streets
Only young girls and a few old women wear shawls, and many women
stay indoors much of the time. The thoroughfares are full of men who
rarely if ever talk to women other than family members.
Despite the segregation of the sexes, men often chuckle when
shopkeepers shutter their stores at midday and go home for lunch.
That's supposedly when they spend some private time with their wives.
And many men speak avidly of how the water in the desert city
supposedly imbues its drinkers with sexual drive. Ubedullah said it
may be because the water is melted snow that flows downstream from
By contrast, he said, the water in the Pakistani cities of Quetta
and Karachi -- frequent destinations for traders from Kandahar --
comes from dams or "storage" places, and is less potent.
Kandahar's tap water comes from mountains to the northeast in
Ghazni province, and is pumped from underground. Two rivers, the
Tarnak and Arghasan, used to flow through the city, but years of
drought have dried their beds in the Kandahar area.
Akhtar Mohammed, who sells women's cosmetics, travels six times a
year to Karachi, Pakistan, to pick up supplies and always feels
lackluster after a couple of days there. He blames the water.
"When I visit Pakistan, I don't feel turned on. I feel cold," said
Mohammed, who is 29 years old and engaged to be married. "But once
I'm back in Kandahar, it's different. This is my personal
In line with local custom, he won't see his wife until the day of
their marriage, though his female relatives will check beforehand to
make sure the bride is right for him. They will look at each other
for the first time in a small mirror held in front of them.
Mohammed does a steady business selling eye shadow, blush, lip
gloss, mascara, perm kits, pantyhose and nail enamel -- all things
Afghan women wear at home. Some customers even raise the front of
their burqa to look at his products.
"Some are liberal, they don't mind. This is the good fortune of my
job," he said.
Among unmarried men, it is a custom to glance at burqa-clad women
and guess whether they are beautiful. The best indicators are hands
and feet, said Zmaray, the proprietor of a video store.
"The hands should be pale and clean and soft," said Zmaray, who
often gets requests for movies with romantic scenes. "We can also
tell from the style of walking. If she walks like a strong breed of
horse, then we know she's beautiful."
Most burqas in Kandahar are blue with simple embroidery in the
head area and a mesh for the eyes. Several men said they preferred
what is locally known as the "Iranian" burqa, which is black, not as
loose-fitting and has a veil.
That burqa was banned under the Taliban because the wind sometimes
lifted the veil, exposing a sliver of flesh on the wearer's cheek,
known as the "kissing place." It has made a comeback, though it is
not as common as the old blue one.
The repeal of Taliban laws has meant the return of television
videos, and an invasion of racy music and dancing shows from
Bollywood, India's film industry. In one restaurant with a
television, mesmerized men watched gyrating, scantily clad forms in
While the men of Kandahar attest to the powers of their water
supply, there are doubters.
"I don't feel a thing," said Abdul Manan, a hotel worker from
Ghazni province, to the northeast.
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