Bowling for Peace in Afghanistan
Wire Report | 6/7/2012, 4:58 p.m.
A woman from Afghanistan, whose family fled from the country when the Taliban took power and is one of many Afghans who have since returned, is doing something no one else has ever done.
Behind a blastproof door and through a cordon of armed guards searching for hidden weapons, Meena Rahmani is planning her day one strike at a time.
Welcome to Strikers, Afghanistan's first and only bowling alley. It's a stark contrast to the world outside, which is filled with barbed wire, armed soldiers, and concrete blast-proof barriers.
Inside, it's a different world - strobe lights, a menu with nachos and pizzas, and families enjoying a night out together.
"I'm responsible for taking part in rebuilding the country," ABC News quoted her as saying.
The bowling alley is so authentic, so western, you'll even hear the latest Rihanna tunes blaring from the alley's many speakers.
"They should feel like they're not in Afghanistan, a war torn country."
"They should feel like they could spend hours here in total peace of mind," Rahmani said.
That, in a nutshell, is Rahmani's goal. Using the alley as an escape, a chance for ordinary Afghans to forget there's a war outside, and just have fun.
It's a simple concept - in a country plagued by 30 years of war, giving ordinary Afghans the chance to relax and feel safe while enjoying a night out with friends, can make all the difference in the world.
"I came here with my wife and my friend," Hadi Safdari, who works in IT, said.
Before Strikers, the closest Safdari ever came to bowling was on an app on his mobile phone. Now, he's convinced the new bowling alley can be a ray of hope in what otherwise appears to be a dark future for Afghanistan.
With NATO troops scheduled to pull out of combat duty in 2014, many fear the Taliban will become emboldened, targeting western business, like Rahmani's, with more frequency.
"When we see people of different ethnicities or tribes coming together, with their family, it shows something."
"It shows they want to experience a sort of normal life. Having this attitude in the back of their minds to have a normal life... that's a ray of hope in Afghanistan," he said.
Rahmani's journey to becoming a female Afghan entrepreneur came almost by accident. Although she was just a child when her family fled the country, she always remembered its natural beauty and longed to return.
Four years ago, she moved to Toronto, where during the cold Canadian winters, she learned how to bowl. When she moved back to Afghanistan last year, she convinced her parents to sell their ancestral land, and invest a million dollars into her business.
She imported brand new bowling lanes from China, and brought in trainers from Brunswick Bowling to help get the business off the ground.
With a price tag of more than 30 dollars an hour, in a country where the average per capita income is less than 500 dollars per year, she knows she's taking a big risk. But she's convinced the business will take off.