“It’s not really like choosing clothes. It’s just a kind of covering.”
My name is Abdul Ghaffor
There are three sizes, small medium and large. But size doesn’t matter too much, and if you buy one that is too long you can always cut it shorter. Women wear different colours in different places – blue in Kabul, white in Mazar-i-Sharif, brown and green for Kandahar. I am not sure why, you’d have to ask them!
Most women will only have one burqa. If they wear it daily, they have to change it every year – if they wear it only to go to some places then it may last two or three years. Men or women come to buy burqas for their family. It’s not really like choosing clothes, there is just top or second quality. It’s just a kind of covering.
The only change since the Taliban era is that about 50 percent of women don’t wear burqas now in Kabul, so businesses is worse for retailers here. But in the provinces, people still want them, and as I supply the provinces as a wholesaler, my business is the same. I started learning this business from my father when I was fifteen. At 25 I had to join the army, under Najibullah. I spent four years working in the kitchen at Kabul airport, as a kind of manager.
I worked for my father for about a year, when I came back, then I got married and set up my own business. We had a big family, five or six brothers, and I didn’t want to live with my wife with the whole family. It is human nature to want to be independent, although we still get on well.
Women wear different colours in different places. I am not sure why, you’d have to ask them!”.
According to our traditional beliefs most families want their women to wear burqas, but I sell them as a business, not because of any religious reason, and people just see me as another businessman. If you want to be a more religious man, you have to have to pray more, do things for other people.
In the past, burqas were made from a special cloth produced in Afghanistan. It was a very long process, first we bought the fabric from other shops, then we took it to the tailors, who made the burqas, and also did the embroidery. Then we took them to special shops to dye them, then the grilles were sewn by another tailor, and then when everything was finished we brought it back here.
Now everything is made in China, we just process the burqas, we only have four tailors ourselves, with machines.
Overall it is a positive change, because when they were handmade the quality was very low, if they were washed, they lost their colour and pleats. The Chinese ones only started coming onto the market about five years ago, but no one makes the old ones now, because no one will buy them.