August 2009 – Mercedes takes cover Far away in Berlin, one of the editors believes to have read that there is now an official Mercedes-Benz branch in Kabul and that apprentices are trained there according to German guidelines. That’s all the Berliners know, and that’s pretty little for us. Here you can’t have a quick
August 2009 – Mercedes takes cover
Far away in Berlin, one of the editors believes to have read that there is now an official Mercedes-Benz branch in Kabul and that apprentices are trained there according to German guidelines. That’s all the Berliners know, and that’s pretty little for us. Here you can’t have a quick look in the Yellow Pages or ask at the gas station. After dozens of phone calls and after Wahab, our driver, has also started searching, we actually find out that there indeed is a Mercedes agency. Under the name “Afghan-Star” there is even an internet page where the services are offered. With address – but without telephone number. The address leads us to the village of Dehkhaduda Dad, about 15 kilometres to the east on the road to Jalalabad.
A beautiful village with friendly people. Chickens run over the clayey streets, people wave to us, at the well in the village centre there is a group of children. The polling station is already decorated with a flag. Wahab talks to an elderly man with a grey-blue turban. He doesn’t know anything about Mercedes, has never seen a car repair shop in his village. “And I live here more than 60 years,” he adds. In fact, there is a small grocery store and a tea house. A tiny school where ballot boxes are put up and a public toilet. Doubts creep up on me. Maybe there is no “Afghan Star” or any other Mercedes dealership…
Back towards Kabul. Shortly after reaching the outskirts of the city we see the building of the representative office of the Japanese car manufacturer MITSUBISHI on the right hand side. Wahab parks our car crosswise in front of the entrance door and starts looking for a competent looking person. After about 10 minutes he comes back with a note in his hand.
“They know the Mercedes garage,” he says. “Very easy to find. We’re turning now, heading east about 200 meters. Then left, past the little kiosk and straight on until the road ends. There we turn left and immediately right again. After about 100 meters there should be a big iron gate on the left side of the road. We have to knock there.” Very easy, yes…
The description seems to fit. Barely five minutes later we stop in front of a nearly four-metre-high iron gate between equally high walls. On top of the gate and the top of the wall, several layers of barbed wire. Not a sign, not at all. Nothing here indicates a workshop – not even a discreet Mercedes star can be seen.
Carefully I knock with my fist on the massive door. Nothing. No reaction. Once again. More violently and to be heard in the whole neighbourhood. Shuffling footsteps can be heard behind the gate. A key is turned groaning in the lock, two bolts are opened. Squeaking, the gate opens a good two centimetres. The gap is just wide enough to allow the barrel of a Kalashnikov aimed directly at my shoulder to pass through.
So this is Chapter 56 and we’re in the forth book of my Afghanistan diary. The next chapter will be published on 7 July 2020. It will be named “August 2009 – A Prince with a Broom” New chapters will follow fortnightly – more than 60 will be published in total. Please scroll further down for subscription.
Dieter Herrmann, the author of this Afghanistan diary, lives in Australia, reports from there for German television stations and is editor-in-chief of the only German-language newspaper in Australia. He is known as a media trainer for radio and television stations all over the world as well as media trainer for senior managers, officers and pilots. To get in touch with the author and for further information on media training by Dieter and his crew please use the “contact”-button or send an email to dieter(at)australia-news.de (please replace the (at) with the @-sign!)