It’s amazing to see girls coming here. I overheard them saying ‘I can’t believe we’re in Afghanistan’
My Name is Meena Rahmani
I am the owner of Strikers Bowling Alley. I came back to Afghanistan in 2009, having spent most of my life in Pakistan and Canada. In Kabul there is nothing to do apart from going to a restaurant and after 7pm everything closes and the streets are deserted. It is mainly to do with the security situation but it’s also partly to do with the lack of entertainment on offer.
Every Afghan knows this and the youth are crying out for enjoyment. When I first came up with the idea everyone thought I was crazy; ‘why not open a one in Canada where it’s safe?’ was the usual response.
When I came back I saw my city was in such a poor condition. Nothing was complete. Even people’s mentality was different and it was rare to see women in the street but I could see development; there were new buildings and some paved roads. So I felt it was important to invest my time and money in my home country.
The first problem was finding the location. Property here is expensive but my family had some land so we sold it and I invested it in this businesses. When I first walked through the doors to this place it was being used as a parking lot and I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, am I really going to set up a bowling alley here?’
It was very daunting as I was working on my own but I persevered. At first there were problems from the municipality. They tried to extort money for spurious reasons but I refused as I had done everything official that was required.
I designed the whole place from top to bottom and employed many people. They had never worked with a woman before and they couldn’t believe I was their boss. I sourced most of the parts from China. We had to import everything from the lanes to the shoes to the kitchen but everything else is Afghan. I had to go to different markets where women don’t usually go and had local carpenters make the round sofas. They were used to making traditional furniture so it was a new experience for them too.
A major problem is the electricity in Kabul. It’s not strong or constant enough to run the alley. I was going to open in July but the power surges ruined some of the machinery so I had to import a whole new set of parts. Power is an ongoing problem and I have spent $10,000 on replacement parts. I spend about $1500 a week on generator fuel.
It is an expensive business to run so my prices reflect that. It is $30 per hour per lane but you can hire the whole place out for $420 per hour. But people really like the place we have even had Afghan pop stars make their music videos here.
I still have to be careful about security. The guards I hire keep the peace if customers start disturbing each other, which happens occasionally. If there is a suicide bombing in the city I send everyone go home.
In the restaurant I offer a variety of food; Pizzas, seafood, fruit juices, smoothies etc. At first my customers just wanted Afghan food but I wanted to open peoples minds and to taste different things. It’s about bringing a change to the culture of Afghanistan – not necessarily western, just a global standard of cuisine.
Many returning Afghans start an enterprise and let it go to seed after a few years. My dream is to open other franchises throughout Afghanistan and I have been in touch with organisations in Singapore with whom I am planning to start a league. We already have some talented bowlers and I make sure their photos are posted on the Strikers Facebook page to encourage competitiveness. It’s about providing the Afghan nation a healthy and entertaining environment. It’s physical and lots of fun.
It is amazing to see girls coming here for an hour or two. I overheard them saying ‘I can’t believe we are in Afghanistan’, and it was music to my ears. Ultimately I am doing something for the Afghan nation. I would like other Afghan women to join me. Let’s do it for Afghanistan.