The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Photos: What life looks like in Helmand province

Although Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, has largely been shielded from the violence elsewhere in the province, it still remains a city on edge. International forces have withdrawn, and most consider it too dangerous for travel. But life in the capital – a grid of tree-lined roads and fruit and vegetable markets alongside the Helmand River – goes on, even with the war being waged at its outskirts.

Afghan boys in matching shalwar kameez – the traditional pant-suit combo worn by both men and women here – ride a motorcycle in the morning on the first day of Eid, the Muslim festival.

Melons – all kinds – are in season this summer, and Helmand is known for having some of the largest and sweetest in the country. In Lashkar Gah, there is a market dedicated entirely to selling melons when the fruit is ripe.

Young Afghan girls dress up in their finest for the Muslim festival of Eid, when children receive gifts of new clothes and head out of the house to play or visit family.

Helmand governor Mohammed Naeem sits at his residence in Lashkar Gah on the second day of Eid, a three-day holiday. Naeem is from the ethnic Baloch minority, while the majority of Helmand's inhabitants are ethnic Pashtuns.

Young boys carry sacks of goods on a street in Lashkar Gah. Many children leave school early to work for their families -- in a province that suffers from searing poverty.

A boy scoops up a stack of freshly baked bread he delivers in a wheelbarrow to families across the city before dinner. Bread is a staple of the Afghan diet and is baked fresh all day.

A girl stands on a street corner as a man passes by on a motorcycle in central Lashkar Gah. Cars are rare – and expensive – in Helmand because of import costs. Most Afghan men ride bikes or motorcycles to get around the city.