Afghan bodybuilder
Afghan bodybuilder Reuters

In yet another example of unexpected cross-cultural phenomena, it turns out that one of the biggest idols in Afghanistan is none other than ex-movie star and ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bodybuilding has become a craze among young men in Kabul, said a report from MSNBC.

The Afghan capital has at least 200 gyms, which are usually packed to the brim – and their hero and role model is Schwarzenegger, the Austrian muscleman who first attained fame through winning bodybuilding championships.

Apparently, under the rule of the Taliban regime, such gyms were deemed un-Islamic, with some bodybuilders beaten or imprisoned for showing too much skin in public. However, others were allowed to work out as long as they were fully clothed and wore beards.

A report in the Guardian newspaper in Britain from 2004 cited that the bodybuilding craze was started by refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran.

The gyms in Kabul are shabby and primitive by Western standards, but more are planned to open this year and next.

Schwarzenegger’s bulging biceps will likely adorn the walls of those facilities as well.

Reportedly, young Afghans also admire the disgraced ex-California governor because of his success in business and films, as well as politics.