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06 November 2004

A changing Afghanistan

Afghan tough guys swap guns for gym
Schwarzenegger becomes a role model in Kabul as young men strive to build the beautiful body - Declan Walsh in Kabul

Afghanistan's tough guys used to wear beards and wool caps, study the Qur'an and fight mountain battles. These days an increasing number have waxed chests, cheesy grins and bulging biceps. "People don't want to fight any more," says Temour Shah, a beefy 23-year-old, pumping weights under an Arnold Schwarzenegger poster at Gold's Gym in central Kabul. "They want to look healthy - like in the movies." Bodybuilding is the new craze of postwar Afghanistan, particularly among young urban men. The number of gyms in Kabul has doubled to 46 in the past two years, while a further 30 are scattered across the country. Every day from 5am men crowd into sweaty halls across the city, grappling with clanking weights machines before cracked mirrors. Conditions are spartan - water coolers, neat white towels and showers are unknown luxuries - but enthusiasm runs high. Barely able to afford the £4 monthly membership fee, some enthusiasts work out in their baggy shalwar kameez trousers; others use their work clothes.

(The Guardian)

A question that needs answering - how much of muslim culture is voluntary and how much is imposed?

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