Kite fighting (and the subsequent running) are long-held traditions in Middle Eastern cultures. Described as "part science and part art" (Semple) kite fighting is a delicate balance between the tools used (the kite and string) and the skills of its handlers (one person handling the spool while the other actually controls the kite). It is still a male-dominated activity, but for years no one in Afghanistan flew a kite because it was outlawed by the Taliban. It has quickly regained its place as the main recreational activity in Afghanistan following the toppling of the Taliban regime, but do not be misled by the term recreational; kite fighting is competitive by nature. Contrary to the symbolism of kites in the U.S. as being care-free and relaxing, it is the ultimate, level battleground in Afghanistan. Doctors and government officials will have kites in the sky beside school boys and common working-class men (Semple).
Kirk Semple's New York Times article about kite fighting in Afghanistan
Excerpt from The Kite Runner
"The kite-fighting tournament was an old winter tradition in Afghanistan. It started early in the morning on the day of the contest and didn't end until only the winning kite flew in the sky - I remember one year the tournament outlasted daylight. People gathered on sidewalks and roofs to cheer for their kids. The streets filled with kite fighters, jerking and tugging on their lines, squinting up to the sky, trying to gain position to cut the opponent's line. Every kite fighter had an assistant - in my case, Hassan - who held the spool and fed the line.... Afghans cherish custom but abhor rules. And so it was with kite fighting. The rules were simple: No rules. Fly your kite. Cut the opponents. Good luck."
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. NewYork: Penguin, 2003. Print. 51-52
Semple, Kirk. "With Color and Panache, Afghans Fight a Different Kind of War." The New York Times. 14 Dec. 2007. Web. 13 May 2015.