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Thursday, April 29, 1999 Published at 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK

World: South Asia

Kabul's wall of death

The Taleban's telly ban left a gap in the entertainment market

By William Reeve in Kabul

People in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have a new form of entertainment - right in the centre of the city a wall of death has been built.

For the equivalent of 10 cents, large numbers of spectators have been watching a motor cyclist speeding around the inside of a circular wooden wall.

From a distance the structure looks like a small medieval theatre.

In a country where most forms of entertainment are banned, the excitement has been considerable.

[ image: Motorbike magic]
Motorbike magic
Afghans watching the show describe it as magic. Most have never seen anything like it before.

Few can understand how a motorcycle can whirl around the inside of a high vertical wooden wall without falling to the ground.

Mohammad Daoud, who set up the project, says it is not only fun but proving to be a good way of earning his living.

Mr Daoud first saw a wall of death in Iran and then built his own in the West Afghan city of Herat seven years ago.

While entertaining Heratis, he earned his living clearing landmines.

Capital entertainment

More recently, he trained two other men to keep the show going in Herat, and set off himself to the capital, Kabul.

The new wall of death in Kabul was built this month but Mr Daoud says in Afghanistan, with all the fighting, he refers to his spectacle as riding round the wall. He does this with considerable style.

As he slowly circles around the bottom of the wall on his Suzuki bike he encourages his audience to shout out 'Allah Akbar'.

He then speeds up and within seconds he's whirling around near the top of the wooden drum, around five metres high with about the same diameter.

He plays many tricks to keep his audience transfixed. In a country where there's very little entertainment they loved the show.

The purist Taleban forbids television, cinemas, theatres, music and dancing saying they're all un-Islamic.

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