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28 avril 2007

Press Review

Revue de Presse de L'Atmosphère

Press review about L'Atmo

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Jasmin Afghanistan mars 2007

Téléchargement jasmin_afghanistan_mars_2007.pdf


AK-47 appetizers for main-course security


By Doug Beazley

KABUL - December 10, 2007 - Guests at L'Atmosphere restaurant in the afghan capital are srutinized by the meanest  bouncers on the planet.

You pass through a metal door set in a high stone wall, topped by rolls of razor wire, flanked by six guards armed with Russian-made AK-47s. Inside, a bored-looking Afghan rises from his seat next to the woodstove, waves a metal detector wand over you, frisks you and empties your pockets.

You push through a woolen flap, through a courtyard lit by kerosene lamps - and straight into the hoppingest war-zone nightclub since Rick's joint in Casablanca. The lounge is usually jammed wall-to-wall with diplomats, civil servants and aid-group employees from 100 nations.

There's a decent house red wine, cold beer, a full menu, a killer sound system and a roaring log fire - wood being the only reliable source of heat in Kabul since the city lost hydro when the river dried up six years ago.

Owner Marc Victor, a former French radio journalist, opened the restaurant two and a half years ago. But the muscle has been in place for only about six weeks.

"We were told by the British Embassy that our security wasn't good enough, that their people could not come here," he said. "So, we made some changes."

Newcomers to Kabul are always being told the city is safe, but it's a funny kind of safety. Westerners do not venture onto the streets unaccompanied by night, and never without a car. It's not even considered a wise practice in daylight.

Every residence for westerners, from the posh Serena Hotel to the humble guest houses, is a walled compound with armed guards.

"We don't really get to see much of the city," said one foreign aid worker. "All day long, you pretty much stay indoors."

Actually, it's been pretty tranquil in Kabul for the past month and a half - by Kabul standards, at any rate.

That's how long it's been since a suicide bomber blew himself and 10 Afghans to atoms outside the Ministry of the Interior office in the city centre. There's another French restaurant on the same block.

That road is still blocked by massive concrete barriers, which appear from time to time on Kabul streets with no explanation. No wonder the city has traffic jams.

"We get phone calls from the Ministry once a week," says Aziz, our Afghan "fixer" - kind of a combination driver, guard and tour guide. "They tell us what the security situation is, and what we should tell our guests to do.

"Basically, you don't go outside after 11 p.m., not without a driver. I don't go out after 11 p.m. But things are very calm and safe now.

"I would say your chances of being kidnapped or killed by a bomber are maybe one in ten."

Top Kabul restaurant takes Afghan youngsters off the streets

by Christophe Vogt


KABOUL, 26 juin 2006 (AFP) –The head waiter at one of the most popular restaurants in Kabul gently encourages his young apprentice who is still a little clumsy as he gets to grips with the art of fine dining French style.

The man might be struggling a bit now but he is on the road to a good career that is a far cry from the petty low-income jobs on the streets of the Afghan capital that he once depended on.

The youngster is among 15 Afghan men aged between 15 and 18 who are mastering the restaurant trade in a unique training programme at one of the busiest establishments in the city -- L'Atmosphere.

Marc Victor, one of the owners of the restaurant, initiated the project after he had trouble finding staff even though about a third of the people in the city are unemployed.

"It annoyed me a little that I could not find trained people and so I thought there was room to teach people this trade, a job which is very practical," said the journalist and writer who has now also become a restaurateur.

"It is a modest project, we are not going to put thousands of people in the job market, but it's simple and it is solid," he said.

The training programme offers something new that can take advantage of the booming restaurant trade in a city filled with expatriates who have few other options for entertainment, little time to cook and cash to spare.

"It is something completely different and which no one else is doing," said Alexia Van der Gracht from the NGO Afghanistan Demain, the main partner in the project.

"There are quite a few NGOs that do job training but it is always the same thing," she said. "For girls it is sewing or being a beautician and for boys it is mechanics, carpentry or shopkeeping."

There is a cultural gap to bridge with French dining customs worlds away from those in Afghanistan , where people traditionally eat with their hands.

The gap is even wider for those who come from the poorer classes, as do Victor's trainees.

The nine-month training course is practical: at L'Atmosphere it covers the basics of the hotel and restaurant business -- including how to lay a table, a bit of history about the hospitality trade and hygiene.

Afghanistan Demain teaches the men to read, write and use a computer, or brushes up these skills.

There is a strong focus on English, which is indispensable for working with foreigners. The language is studied for 10 hours a week with vocabulary angled towards their future jobs.

And this is a job of the future, said Victor.

"I don't say that it is a country which is going to become very touristy in the next two years but in the longer term that will be the case," he said.

The job is demanding but it pays well. A L'Atmosphere waiter is paid 150 dollars, but he can triple this wage with tips, Victor said. This compares to a policeman's 70 dollars a month and a teacher's 50.

The French embassy also believes in the project: it has contributed 40,000 euros (50,600 dollars) to train around 30 trainees in the next 18 months.

The trainees -- who were selected by social workers who trawled the streets for suitable candidates -- are paid 30 euros a month, more or less what they might have earned doing odd jobs.

The sum goes some way to persuade families in this conservative Islamic society to let their sons work in a place where alcohol is served and where they have a lot of contact with foreign women.

But L'Atmosphere will not be seeing waitresses any time soon.

"We asked the social workers and they said, 'No, never!'" said van der Gracht.

"There may be some in the restaurant business one day but they would have to from a much higher and open social class," she said.

Cherchez le garçon...un restau français de Kaboul sort les enfants de la rue

Par Christophe VOGT


KABOUL, 20 juin 2006 (AFP) – Le maître d'hôtel du restaurant français très couru de Kaboul, encourage gentiment son apprenti serveur encore un peu maladroit. Mais bientôt, le jeune homme aura un vrai métier, après avoir connu les petits boulots dans la capitale afghane.

Ils sont une quinzaine de jeunes garçons afghans dans les jardins et les dépendances de l'Atmosphère à apprendre les arcanes des métiers de la restauration.

Marc Victor, l'un des propriétaires du restaurant, avait du mal à trouver du personnel, dans une ville où le chômage touche pourtant bien plus du tiers de la population.

"Cela m'a un peu agacé de ne pas trouver des gens formés et je me suis dit qu'il y a quand même un espace pour former des gens à ce métier, un métier qui est très pratique", explique le journaliste-écrivain devenu en plus restaurateur.

"C'est un projet modeste, on ne va pas mettre des milliers de gens sur le marché de l'emploi, mais c'est simple, c'est concret", souligne Marc.

Selon l'UNICEF, il y a 40.000 enfants travailleurs à Kaboul, qui font très souvent de petits boulots mal rémunérés.

"Il y a pas mal d'ONG ici qui font de la formation professionelle et c'est toujours la même chose", se désole t-elle, "pour les filles c'est de la couture, ou esthéticienne et pour les garçons c'est toujours mécanique, menuiserie ou les métiers du bazar", renchéri Alexia Van der Gracht, dont l'ONG Afghanistan Demain est partie prenante dans le projet.

A l'Atmosphère, "c'est des cours d'hôtellerie, de restauration, d'hygiène, un peu d'historique de l'hôtellerie, qu'est ce que c'est qu'un restaurant français, comment on met une table", raconte Marc Victor.

Afghanistan Demain prend en charge le reste, lire, écrire, compter, ou rafraîchir des connaissances émoussées par des années loin des bancs de l'école. L'anglais, indispensable pour travailler avec des étrangers, est appris de manière intensive (10 heures par semaines) et avec un vocabulaire axé sur leur futur emploi.

La restauration est un secteur d'avenir en Afghanistan. "Je ne dis pas que c'est un pays qui va être extrêmement touristique d'ici deux ans, mais sur le plus long terme ce sera le cas", affirme le patron de l'Atmosphère, où la clientèle d'expatriés se presse.

Dans la capitale, les restaurants fleurissent, et les étrangers qui y travaillent ont de l'argent, peu de temps pour faire la cuisine, et surtout le besoin de se distraire du quotidien.

Le métier est exigeant mais il paye bien. A l'Atmosphère, un serveur est payé 150 dollars, mais il triple son salaire grâce aux pourboires, selon Marc Victor. Un policier ne gagne que 70 USD par mois, un instituteur 50 USD.

Pour Gullam Mubin, 18 ans, l'argent est important. "En tant que serveur je peux gagner de l'argent. On a beaucoup de soucis à la maison parce que mon père est instituteur" et que son salaire ne suffit pas, explique-t-il.

L'ambassade de France croit au projet. Elle le finance à hauteur de 40.000 euros pour une trentaine de stagiaires formés sur 18 mois.

Pour convaincre les jeunes, et leur famille, ils sont payés 30 euros par mois peu ou prou l'équivalent de ce qu'ils gagnaient dans leur petit boulot. Il a aussi fallu que les assistantes sociales de l'ONG, en appellent à leurs pouvoirs de persuasion pour laisser le fils travailler dans un restaurant, où un bon nombre de clients sont des clientes et où se vend de l'alcool.

Un signe encourageant: tous les stagiaires sont restés après les manifestations qui ont endeuillé Kaboul le 29 mai et qui avaient une forte connotation xénophobe.

En revanche, les serveuses ce n'est pas pour demain. "On a demandé aux assistantes sociales et elles ont dit: non jamais!", se souvient Alexia van der Gracht.

"En fait je crois qu'il pourrait y avoir des femmes dans la restauration mais il faudrait qu'elles viennent d'un milieu social beaucoup plus élevé et beaucoup plus ouvert", souligne t-elle.


At L'Atmosphere

Ann Marlowe in Afghanistan


Kabul - Friday, October 7, 2005

L’Atmosphere is something of a scene, a large restaurant with a bar and many tables set in a huge garden with a  swimming pool. Sean is in the middle of a group of expats -- no Afghans go to places like L’Atmosphere, with the exception of young overseas Afghans -- and it seems we’re all waiting for our ride to the party. Everyone is some sort of journalist.  I’m surprised that the sex ratio seems even, but I guess the mercenaries and security types are a cadre unto themselves.  You can usually spot them right off -- bigger, burlier, and walking with a lumbering gait never seen in the journalistic world.

It occurs to me as I observe the body language of the group drinking in the garden that expat society in Kabul is split in two classwise: the press corps and NGO administrators who are middle to upper class, and the security people who are from the same strata as the armed forces most of them were trained in. My impression is that the Americans and Brits here are skewed to the upper class: two of the Americans I know here graduated from Harvard, and Sean went to Eton. Like their kindred spirits from England who went out to India and the farflung bastions of empire a hundred years ago, these young Ivy graduates have gone to work in a country where they can have more responsibility- and power- than as investment banking grunts back home.

The party is a big one -- maybe 100 people. Sean and his friends drift off into more or less urgent flirtations, and I don‚t want to get in their way. It‚s so crowded that it‚s easy to meet people anyway. I talk with a Spanish NGO worker, an Australian who seems to have been drifting around the country for nearly a year without any particular mission, and then, just as I‚m casting about to see where the handsome men are, someone calls my name. Sven is towering over me. I met him and his brother Eliot and his sister in my friend John’s Bowery loft eight months ago, when Eliot was between jobs in Afghanistan. They’re a strapping, attractive, quintessentially American upper class set of siblings. Sven and I quickly make plans to play golf tomorrow, his last full day in Afghanistan.

I went to the bathroom and took a walk around the party. Any handsome men? There were a few, but they had that odd hostility that I’d noticed on other trips here, a defensiveness that wasn’t going to help them move the gender ratio in their favor, or they were wimpy Euros…