Open Bar

The Gandamack

Daniel J. Seckman

Gandamack Lodge
Kabul, Afghanistan

Although the bar’s official name is the Hare and Hound Watering Hole, most people know it as The Gandamack.

Year opened 2001. The founder of the lodge, Peter Jouvenal, was a cameraman working with the BBC’s John Simpson when the Taliban were ousted from Kabul. Hordes of journalists flocked to Afghanistan to cover the fall of the oppressive regime, but few had a place to stay. Jouvenal found a house and began renting rooms. The lodge moved to its current location in 2005.

Who drinks there As the only real bar in Kabul, the cavernous basement pub of the Gandamack Lodge is a favorite hangout for journalists, NGO workers, NATO representatives, and private security contractors in tight T-shirts that show off tattooed muscles. Diners from the restaurant trickle downstairs around 10pm.

Who doesn’t drink there Afghans or anyone the security guards think might be Muslim. Afghan law prohibits alcohol, and the owner once spent 10 days in prison after police raided the place. An “arrangement” has since been made, according to the staff.

Signature drink Heineken in a can ($10), paid for with coupons which customers buy in $20, $50, and $100 packs at the entrance.

Distinguishing features A bookcase full of works by war correspondents from all over the world stands by the entrance; a framed photo of the current British hack pack hangs on the wall next to a tribute to former customers who’ve been killed in Afghanistan.

Tough ticket Getting into the compound housing the lodge means passing through armed guards and three metal gates.

On the record The original lodge is said to have been the former home of Osama bin Laden’s fourth wife.

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Sabra Ayres is a journalism instructor at American University of Afghanistan