The Afghan Series reflection post. As I sit in the flight heading back to Ireland I can seriously say Afghanistan took every ounce of energy out of me.
I UNDERSTAND WHY AFGHANS GET THE REPUTATION AS SOME OF THE FRIENDLIEST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET
If it wasn’t the many miles and hours on the road it was that plate of fish I had enroute to Jalalabad.
WHERE IS AFGHANISTAN?
IS IT SAFE?
The question everyone wants to ask is; Is Afghanistan actually safe? From my own experience, yes, I had very few issues for a country that has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous. I don’t recommend everyone to go, no doubt it is an acquired taste but considering it has just come out of a 20 (or 40) year war its as safe as it ever could be. The only issue you will get is how to accommodate all the requests for Chai and lunch!
Government Travel Advice
In all seriousness, there is still an element or risk here, ISIS is still the main threat to the Taliban as is breaking some of the rules that might otherwise be accepted in the west.
- DAYS – 20
- COUNTRIES – 2
- NEW COUNTRIES – 1
- REVISITS – 1
- FLIGHTS – 6
- STEPS – 197,655
- MILES TRAVELLED – 8492 miles
I was never worried about potential experiences with the Taliban but I do remember the first time I seen one, in the arrivals at Kabul which instantly gave me the feeling of “welcome to Afghanistan.”
But we all have an idea of the Taliban, and I was the same. However my experience couldn’t have been anymore different. Although the checkpoints do little to help the experience it’s a necessary evil if wanting to visit here.
Beyond the standard questions I had only one bad experience with the Taliban when I was ever so slightly fondled and who knows maybe on another day I would have enjoyed it! But the rest of the experiences were good, especially from those in higher positions.
Where do I start with the people of Afghanistan. There were countless experiences and interactions that I will remember, most of them were happy to chat even considering the camera I was casually sticking into their faces. I lost count of the number of times I was asked for Chai and back to their home for dinner, and each time I felt guilty for having to say now. If I was to return I would give myself an extra few days just to be able to spend them with the local.
It’s not the fact the locals were so friendly that surprised me, its what they have all gone through over the past 40 years and still remain so open and generous. There isn’t a soul in Afghanistan who hasn’t lived through a war as Afghanistan has not experienced peace for over 200 years. Add that to the brutal working conditions and long hours many of these people have to endure and rightly so they should really be a pack of miserable sods. But I find this a lot, the less people have the more content and generous they seem to be. Here they have time for you and although they might not have much, they are willing to give it all to you.
- PEOPLE – 9.5/10
- BACKPACKING – 2/10
- WEATHER – 7.5/10
- THINGS TO DO – 8/10
- HISTORY – 8.5/10
- FOOD – 7/10
- VALUE – 6/10
- PHOTOGRAPHY – 8/10
- GETTING ABOUT – 3/10
- SAFETY – 7/10 I was safe even if at times I didn’t feel it
WOMEN OF AFGHANISTAN
One of the most documented aspects of new Taliban rule was the rights and freedoms of women. After turning a corner during the U.S. invasion it seems that things have gone back again. Although its worth noting there are few restrictions which have been somewhat relaxed, many have not, especially that allowing a girl older than 12 to go to school.
There is no official rule of law in Afghanistan, things are very inconsistent and it also depends on which region you are in. Although it is suggested that women cannot work I did walk through a bazaar in Bamiyan which was owned by only women. Bamiyan doesn’t seem to be that bit more Liberal.
Veils also seem to be back in use, covering anything from the head to the entire face. I have visited many Islamic countries before but had never seen the entire face of a women covered, including the eyes.
They are also required to sit in private areas of the restaurants or mosques, although no better or worse than the male areas. Female tourists do have all the same restrictions however and can enjoy much more freedom.
However, I only ever seen women treated with great respect and often priority. Never did I see a woman stand without a man insisting she takes the seat or pushed (for want of a better word) to the front of the queue. Although I suppose some will find that as a sign of systemic benevolent sexism.
- HIGHLIGHT – The people
- LOWLIGHT – The food poisoning
- BEST SURPRISE – How open people were
- VISIT AGAIN – Yes!
- TRIP RATING – 8.5/10
The history of Afghanistan is well known and although it can proudly define its borders its had to work for it, hence the nickname the graveyard of empires. While driving around you don’t need to go far to see proof of the many wars. From soviet tanks and Kalashnikovs to Hummers and Hescos there is something on every corner.
I took huge interest in the US invasion but the shear number of abandoned military outposts shocked me, a sign of how dangerous things were.
That’s it for another series and good to really delve deep into a new country that didn’t disappoint. If only ever trip was a good as this one I’d consider doing this full time!
TBC…. Time to plan something I think.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.
- Which region do you like to visit the most?
- Would you travel to Afghanistan?
Let me know in the comments below . . .