The German Afghan Connection | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 05.12.2001
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The German Afghan Connection

An Afghan sultan who finds mention in wild carnival songs and a German club serving pork and pepper steak in Kabul? Germany and Afghanistan have more in common than most think.

Why Germany? - That was the question on most people’s minds when the Afghan conference on the future of the war-torn country was reported to be held in Germany. Apart from the obvious explanation that Germany is a neutral country like Switzerland or Austria, there’s more to the German-Afghan connection than meets the eye.

No colonial past

For starters, Germany never invaded Afghanistan – the country was just too far away and the Germans too busy conquering territory in Europe.

Unburdened by a colonial past, it’s no wonder that the Afghans look upon Germany as a benevolent nation. Not just that, but Germany was a close ally of Afghanistan’s during and after the world wars, and helped form a united front against England, which wanted to spread its notorious colonial tentacles over Afghanistan.

As far back as the Berlin conference in 1978, iron chancellor Otto von Bismarck helped pour oil over troubled relations between Afghanistan and England.

The grateful Afghan leader, Amir Abdul Rahman looked to Bismarck as a role model and went about earnestly trying to unite the disparate ethnic groups. To his pride, he even earned the name, "Bismarck of Afghanistan"!

"Dä Sultan hat Doosch!" - Amanullah creates a flutter

But the most charming aspect of German Afghan ties were forged with the arrival of Sultan Amanullah in Berlin in 1920.

At that time in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, Germany was still a pariah nation and still in the black. The Pashtun Sultan didn’t seem to care. He roared around with German President Paul von Hindenburg in a convertible during a state visit to Berlin in the golden 1920s.

The exotic and dashing Sultan caused quite a stir and fired the imagination of the Germans. Inspired by the dark foreigner and his mystical land of the deserts, German song writers furiously scribbled a "Schlager", a popular German hit and a carnival song for him.

Till today at every carnival season in Germany carnival revelers sing at the top of their voices, " Die Karawane zieht weiter...Dä Sultan hat Doosch". Loosely translated it means "the caravan rolls ahead, the Sultan is thirsty".

Sultan Amanullah also suitably impressed the BVG (Berlin public transport). They promptly named a subway train that he rode on after him!

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