People who want to visit Kabul via Dubai have an embarrassment of choices: Kam Air, an Afghan/Kazakh joint venture that never runs on time and sometimes crashes; or Ariana Afghan Airlines which relies on 727s that cannot land in Europe out of concerns about airworthiness, is never on time and sometimes crashes.
Flights in and out of Kabul from Dubai are frequently booked, so I was "lucky" to get tickets on Ariana when I showed up at the airport, cash in hand (the only way to buy tickets) the morning of departure. The flight out of Kabul, I was told, is known as the "happy belly" plane, since its cargo hold is usually filled with opium.
Interestingly, 727's, which started in production in 1963, are often mistaken for two of my other favorite jetliners, the Soviet-made Tupolev 154 and the Yak-42. Spare parts for the 727 are probably just as easy to come by.
Other than loading through the ass-end of the plane, there was little out of the ordinary about the flight itself. It seemed completely safe! Because it was Ramadan, fight attendants passed out food plates preceded by a plastic cup of dates, the traditional food to break the fast. No one started eating, however, until the pilot announced that, according to Iranian time (we were in Iranian airspace), it was ok to break the fast. I couldn't wait to dig in, unable to resist that stringy mutton and greasy rice!
Appropriate to its status as a post-conflict zone, the Kabul airport was pretty ghetto. Due to security concerns, cars are allowed nowhere near the terminal, so baggage get unloaded about a 10 minute walk away, in a dusty, concertina-wire lined parking lot.
Huge photos of Hamid Karzai and Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panjshir, hung from the freshly-painted terminal. It is impossible not to notice that Massoud's photos was 1 1/2 times as big as that of Karzai.
The view from the air was certainly welcome, though no more so than the view of the Arabian Gulf from my Dubai hotel room.