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Afghanistan Dispatch

Kabul's Neon Wedding Halls

Photographs by David Gilkey, NPR staff photographer

When we show these photographs to NPR colleagues, nearly every one of them gasps. Perhaps that's because they're not images of detonated car bombs or ink-stained fingers or any of the other images we've come to expect out of Afghanistan.

Perhaps our colleagues are gasping because these images present an arresting display of neon lights, bright enough to rival Las Vegas. Or maybe this gasping comes with the realization that Afghans party too. Hard.

Whatever the reason, the most surprising thing about David Gilkey's photographs taken on a warm July evening in Kabul — is that they introduce us to something that has become wonderfully ordinary in Afghanistan.

Each week, thousands of people attend weddings in Afghan wedding halls. Young people. Old people. Children. They dress up. They dance. (Men and women party separately.) They feast. They laugh. These celebrations last well in to the night.

And all this is happening — in the midst of war.

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