Afghanistan: Female restaurateur expands business despite challenges

Well known restaurateur Bakhtawar Mahdawi from Bamiyan City has taken the step to expand her business by opening a second restaurant despite the challenges of being a businesswoman in the country.

Under Taliban rule, women have been largely erased from public life. However, Mahdawi is committed to making a success of her businesses and runs her restaurants remotely.

Mahdawi has had her restaurant, Shahmama, located on the outskirts of Bamiyan on the popular tourist route in the Khwaja Ali area, for three years.

“I had a lot of customers during the former republic [government], though the startup did not begin generating revenue,” she said.

Now, however, things are a bit different. “Under the Emirate (Taliban) women are not allowed to work, therefore, I manage [the restaurant] remotely and I often just visit the restaurant [to check everything is ok] and when we face worker shortages I get busy in the kitchen,” Mahdawi said.

However, many women are not allowed to work and have been forced to stay at home since the Taliban came into power in 2021.

Laila Haidari, a resident of Bamiyan province and a frequent customer at Mahdawi’s restaurants, expresses her admiration, saying, “I feel good coming here and seeing that a lady manages this restaurant.”

Bamiyan has witnessed significant growth in its tourism industry in recent years. Despite the challenges associated with traveling to the province, both domestic and international visitors have been drawn to the region to explore its ancient monuments and cultural heritage.