When Taliban tanks rolled into this northern city on Saturday, the women melted into the shadows and their homes.
With their capture of Mazar-e-Sharif, the Taliban all but completed a three-year campaign to create a strict Islamic state.
Women in Taliban-controlled territory dare not appear in public unless they are wearing a veil that covers them from head to foot.
The city, which had been the stronghold of warlord Rashid Dostum, fell at 5 p.m., two hours before dusk.
Some residents watched glumly as tanks, jeeps and armored personnel carriers flying the white flag of the Islamic militia rumbled unopposed into the city.
Not one woman was among the sullen spectators.
Occasionally a burst of tracer bullets carved a red path in the air, apparently in celebration. But for the most part, the city was silent. Heavily armed men wandered the deserted streets.
Hours before, however, the city was in an uproar with Dostum’s soldiers frantic to leave. Some of the soldiers held up civilians at gunpoint and seized their vehicles.
“Everyone is terrified,” a hotel receptionist said.
In the frenzy, frightened mobs grabbed foreigners and threatened them. It is widely believed among the Taliban’s enemies that the Islamic army is supported by Western governments, including the United States.
On Friday, Dostum’s generals and his administration began to show signs of nervousness about foreigners. They ordered two journalists expelled, but the order could not be carried out before the city fell.