Rahim Khan arranges for a man named Farid to drive Amir to Kabul. As they drive past a bullet-riddled sign for the Khyber Pass, Amir starts to get car sick. Farid acts scornful of Amir, and hardly ever speaks as they drive. Rahim Khan had told Amir that Farid joined the jihad against the Russians at age fourteen, but many years later he moved to Peshawar after two of his daughters were killed by a land mine.
Farid appears as an important new character representing the Afghans that did not flee when the wars began. Amir must face the realities that he tried to escape – his country has been ravaged by violence, and the Afghans who stayed to fight (and then lost loved ones to land mines) are bitter against those who left.
Amir is dressed like Farid, in an Afghan hat called a pakol (which he never wore when he actually lived in Afghanistan), but Amir has to wear a fake beard that reaches his chest – beards are required for men under Taliban law. Amir explains that he left Pakistan soon after his decision, as he didn’t want his comfortable life in America to lure him to change his mind. He did not tell Soraya he was going to Afghanistan, but let her assume he was staying with Rahim Khan.
Amir must dress up like an Afghan man, as he has changed and been “Americanized” more than is acceptable in the Afghanistan he is now returning to. Amir recognizes his own natural cowardice and insecurity, but he manages to overcome it with a newfound strength of will.
As they cross the border, Amir starts to see the poverty and damage of constant warfare. He says that he feels like a tourist in his own country. Farid sarcastically asks if Amir still thinks of Afghanistan as his own country.
Afghanistan has changed radically, and when Amir sees it for himself it is even more shocking. This reaction is the same one Hosseini himself had when he first returned home after living in America.
Amir asks Farid to stop snickering, and Farid guesses that Amir grew up in a big house with servants, that his father drove an American car, and that this was Amir’s first time wearing a pakol. Farid points to an old man dressed in rags, and says that this is the real Afghanistan, and Amir has always been a tourist. Farid assumes that Amir is returning to sell off his father’s land and then go back to America.
Farid recognizes and points out Amir’s privilege. Though Amir had to flee his home, he still had money to escape and never had to fight or lose loved ones to random violence. Even when he lived in Afghanistan, Amir was much better off than the average citizen, and has never suffered as they have.
They reach Jalalabad that night and stay with Farid’s brother Wahid. The house is small and bare, and though the family is clearly very poor, they treat Amir like a guest. Wahid is impressed that Amir is a writer, and he hopes that Amir will write about Afghanistan, as the rest of the world should know of their plight.
Unlike Farid, Wahid is not bitter against Amir for his privilege, but is generous with what little he has. Amir is almost embarrassed to say he is a writer, as it is a career that implies the privilege of having safety and food, but Wahid reminds him how he can use his talents to help Afghanistan.
Wahid asks Amir why he has returned to Afghanistan, but Farid interrupts and says scornfully that Amir is probably there to sell his land and bring the money back to America. Wahid is angry that Farid would insult a guest in his home, but then Amir explains that he is here to find the son of his illegitimate half-brother (he no longer tries to keep Baba’s secret) and bring him back to Peshawar to be cared for. Wahid says that Amir is a true Afghan, and he is proud to have him in his home. Farid looks uncomfortable.
Almost everything that Farid had assumed was indeed true – Amir did grow up with servants, never had to fight the Russians, and escaped to an easier life in America – except for Amir’s reason for returning. Wahid’s description of Amir as a “true Afghan” seems tragic and idealistic, like Baba defending Afghan honor and decency, as the country has now become defined by violence.
Wahid’s wife serves dinner to Amir and Farid, and Wahid apologizes that there is no meat – only the Taliban have meat now. Wahid says that he and his family ate earlier, so they do not join the guests. As he eats, Amir notices Wahid’s three young sons staring at his wristwatch. He gives them the watch as a present, but they quickly lose interest in it.
Amir gets his first experience of real Afghan poverty (which is at its worst at this point in the story, but was always there in Afghanistan despite Amir never experiencing it) with Wahid’s family. Again the father and son relationship is emphasized, but Wahid has no resources to help his boys.
As they prepare for bed (all in the same room), Farid apologizes to Amir and says he should not have assumed Amir’s reason for returning. He says he will help Amir find Sohrab.
Farid becomes a loyal companion to Amir after he learns his real reason for coming to Afghanistan. Farid has no qualms about facing danger to do what is right.
That night Amir dreams of Hassan’s execution, but in the dream the executioner is Amir himself. He wakes up and looks at the stars, and for the first time feels like he is back home. His feeling of kinship with the land surprises Amir.
Amir will be haunted by Hassan’s death until he acts to make things better. Amir is still deeply connected to the land of his childhood, despite how it has changed.
While he is out, Amir overhears Wahid and his wife arguing about dinner – they gave all their food to Amir and Farid, and so the children had nothing to eat. Amir realizes then that the boys weren’t staring at his wristwatch, but at his food. Before Amir and Farid leave the next morning, Amir slips a wad of money under one of the mattresses in the house.
This is an even more distressing example of both Afghan poverty and generosity. Amir mirrors his old action – framing Hassan by stuffing money under his mattress – but this time Amir doing it to make things right, and so he begins his path to redemption.