For Kabuls wealthy elite,some things are de rigueur: armed guards,a marble-clad mansion,a blacked-out SUV. But one man has taken the flamboyant lifestyle a step further he has bought a lion.
Mohammad Shafiq,a 42-year-old businessman,is very proud of his growling pet,which spends its days prowling a roof terrace at his sprawling home in a posh residential area of central Kabul.
A friend said he had a lion in Kandahar and wanted to sell it to me, Shafiq,who runs a construction company,said. He knew I loved dogs and birds,but this was more than what I was expecting.
I had seen lions on television and in the zoo,but never this close. So without any hesitation,I said I will buy it. To me,lions are brave and I respect them. Knowing I could buy one was very exciting.
The lion,still unnamed,is not chained up and has no collar and spends much of the day lying quietly in a corner of the roof terrace above a storeroom,coming down each evening to eat.
Shafiq says he spends about $1,000 a month employing a caretaker to feed it fresh meat bought from a butcher and also paying a vet to check its health regularly.
Tens of billions of dollars have flowed into Afghanistan in the 12 years since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban. Some Afghans have become very rich as a result and they are not shy when it comes to flaunting their wealth.
Kabul is dotted with the flashy houses of the nouveau rich,dripping with chandeliers and nicknamed poppy palaces hinting at the shady provenance of at least some of the money in the worlds leading opium producing nation.
Shafiq is however,so far,thought to be the only person to acquire such an unusual status symbol.
Shafiq,who says he was a resistance fighter when the Taliban fell and made his money through lucrative construction contracts for clients including the US embassy,said he had owned the male cub for two months and thought it was now about six months old.
It cost me $20,000,including transport from Kandahar to Kabul by road, he said,declining to explain about how the lion was driven on the 480-kilometre route that is often hit by insurgent bombs and ambushes.
He brushed off suggestions he is being cruel by keeping a large wild animal in captivity in a city wrecked by decades of war,and said he thought it may have come to Afghanistan via Iran.