The Taliban attack on a Kabul restaurant which claimed the lives of at least 21 people, including two Canadians, also killed the restaurant’s Lebanese owner, Kamal Hamade, known to a generation of diplomats, aid workers and journalists as a figure akin to Humphrey Bogart’s shrewd nightclub owner in “Casablanca” for creating an oasis of hospitality in a time of war.
Regular customers would be treated to double portions sent to their tables unrequested, private conversation about the local security scene, green fresh mint frappes, and slabs of chocolate cake, on the house, that arrived with the bill. During crackdowns on alcohol, wine was sometimes hidden in teapots.
“Like so many who had the privilege of knowing Kamal, I am absolutely devastated that he’s gone,” Soraya Nelson of U.S. National Public Radio wrote in a tribute. “I will raise a tea cup filled with red wine to you, habibi (dear friend). You won’t be forgotten.”
The restaurant was one of about a dozen places in Kabul that welcomed both middle-class Kabulis and many of the thousands of foreigners who have come to work in the capital in the 12 years since the Taliban were pushed from power for harbouring Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.