THE AFGHAN SERIES, DAY 19 & 20
Herat – Kabul – Dubai – Dublin
Camels, rolling & sleep ‘n fly. We were in Herat for our final full day in Afghanistan, it might have only been 18 days but the amount we have done and seen its felt like I have been here for months.
I DIDN’T EXPECT A SHRINE TO BE…F**KING HILARIOUS!
Its been great but I don’t want to see bread or rice for another 3 months at least!
- FLIGHTS – Kabul – Dubai – Dublin
- MILES COVERED – 4,246 miles
- HOTEL –
Tejarat ($50, 7.5/10)
- RESTOS –
- FOOD –
- ATTRACTIONS –
Citadel or Alexander
Camel sesame oil
- STEPS – 9,400 & 11,900
If you were to look at a guide book of Herat it would tell you the place to visit is the city’s mosque. Its typical of the style from Uzbekistan, big, incredible detail and absolutely immaculate. This is what disappoints me about places around the world. It is well known to keep these places tidy from dirt and rubbish, everyone is happy to do their bit but step outside and the streets are like an open landfill at times.
Again I was approached by the Taliban who were took an interest in my camera, not because it was not allowed but because they didn’t know what it was and the thought of someone walking around talking to this tiny electrical device seemed alien and I suppose a little narcissistic.
Camels, rolling & sleep ‘n fly
CITADEL OF ALEXANDER
After a quick stop and dress up in a local shop we made it to the Citadel of Herat or Alexander the Great’s citadel. The original was built in the 4th century during his conquest of the region and later expanded by the many rulers throughout it’s history.
It was the city’s main fortress and an incredible defensive capabilities with it’s high walls and towers allowing it to withstand the numerous sieges and attacks over the centuries.
Camels, rolling & sleep ‘n fly
GLASS FACTORY, CAMEL & SESAME SEED OIL
Another few bonus’ thrown in by my guide was the glass factory and the most bizarre thing I have seen in Afghanistan yet, sesame seed oil. The glass factory is pretty much a shed behind the citadel where a father and two of his sons make glass ornamounts and vases from old and broken bottles. After the old glass is broken and prepared it takes only 4 minutes to make one unit but I didn’t realise how much of a work of art it is. The process includes blowing through a steel pipe to create the inner shape of the glass, a far cry from how the many factories do it in the west. Its an absolute sweat and smoke box and another example of the harsh working conditions here. On the plus side it actually smelled of BBQ sauce.
Camels, rolling & sleep ‘n fly
This was just bizarre and seemed pretty cruel but I always try and remind myself that countries operate in different ways for various reasons. But the last thing I expect to see before opening the door was a camel down 10metre circles all day. However it’s the market to blame more than anything, the camel costs $1,200 and a machine to do the exact same job costs $1,200. However sesame oil produced by a machine sells for much less than the same from a camel.
A normal day for the camel is 12 hours, a few hours on and 30 minutes break. The blind fold is meant to make it believe that it is walking straight and with a purpose. I suppose the only saving grace is that it only does this for 12 months before being sold…probably to a butcher!
FACTS ABOUT HERAT:
- Herat has a rich history that dates back more than 2,000 years. It was a major center along the Silk Road, which connected China to the Mediterranean region.
- Herat is known for its stunning architecture. One of its most famous landmarks is the Herat Citadel, also known as the Citadel of Alexander, which was built during the reign of Alexander the Great. The city is also home to numerous beautiful mosques, including the Jama Masjid of Herat, which is renowned for its intricate tilework.
- Another remarkable architectural gem in Herat is the Gawhar Shad Madrasa and Mausoleum, popularly known as the Blue Mosque. Built in the 15th century, it features stunning blue tiles and intricate calligraphy.
- Throughout history, Herat has been a center of learning and scholarship. It was home to many renowned scholars, poets, and artists, and became a hub for Persian literature and culture during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th century.
THE ROLLING SHRINE
After checking out the Malan bridge and playing dress up in the bazaar several times, we made it to the rolling shrine. Now, again I was back to my unwell self and wasn’t keen to visit another mosque or shrine, the guide had actually been threatening to send me to more shrines as he knew it wasn’t where I was getting my fun from but this one was very very different. As usual I don’t know the history of the actual shrine but its more the rolling bit that was interesting.
First you lay down (the kid of the shrine keeper will be there to keep you right), cover your eyes and make a wish. Then you lean to one side and let nature takes its course. Its virtually flat but I did feel myself rolling much more than I expected. However there were others who were rolling so frantically I was curious if they had been possessed in some way. Some had to be stopped from rolling into the wall.
DAY 20, LAST WALK AROUND KABUL
This morning I said my goodbyes to the intern and the driver, 2 people that made this trip extra special. After spending almost 3 weeks with people I am often pulling my hair out but I loved their company and although ready to leave but gutted I wouldn’t be seeing them for a while.
We landed in Kabul and headed straight to the market for one last interaction with the locals and as usual they were all in good form as I joked and pointed my way through the butcher section.
As you might know I bring my drone anywhere I think I might be able to get away with it. Its got be into bother a few times but I didn’t expect it to come up on the way out of Afghanistan. As I should have known bags are checked several times before getting to the terminal and although it was my drone that was flagged it was my bag holding the drone controller. As the officer worked his way through the bag he found the controller and asked for the drone. Me being me was able to play stupid but he wasn’t budging and praying he didn’t understand English I asked my guide, “do I show him.”
This eventually brought us to airport commanders office which I have no idea what was said apart from my guide calling the tourism officer in Herat and asking him to confirm a permit had been granted, emergency avoided.
- MVP – The kid at the rolling shrine
- HIGHLIGHT – The people of Herat
- LOWLIGHT – That camel
SLEEP ‘N FLY
The many times I have used Dubai as a stop over I have always tried to stay at one of the terminal’s sleep ‘n fly, a small airside hotel with a choice of pod like rooms. They are often full but I was sure to know my terminal and make a booking.
Although not cheap (you book per hour) at over $140 for 9 hours to get anything from a pod you can barely turn in to something like more like mine; a table, shelves, luggage storage, power outlets, aircon, earplugs and a chair that also fully reclines to a bed. Its for sure not the comfiest bed I have slept on but definitely not the worst this trip! Its an idea spot in the middle of the terminal and no more than 6/7 minutes from the furthest gates. You can also book a meeting pod or shower for an extra $ but must be booked before hand.
Great trip but for sure happy to be heading home.
My reflection post on The Afghan Series!! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.
- Have you slept in an airport pod?
- Do you travel with a drone and camera gear?
- Does it cause problems?
Let me know in the comments below . . .