Have you ever stopped to imagine how Afghanistan is today? How are the streets, the people, the places? All we hear about is the Afghanistan war and destruction. But does it have more than that? What about Tourism in Afghanistan? Is it ever there in Afghanistan news today?
Ana is Brazilian and went to visit Afghanistan. Like us, she likes to visit unconventional places.
She is from the Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and her work is 100% online. So, she spends a good part of the year travelling to different countries while working. In 5 years she has visited 25 countries on 4 continents. And she has travelled several times to a single country. India alone, she went like 5 times, including a period when she lived in the country, between 2018 and 2019. So let us visit Afghanistan today virtually with her?
ARRIVING IN AFGHANISTAN
Upon arriving in Kabul on an afternoon in May 2018, I was filled with excitement. And the adrenaline pumping. I already knew that I would have to cover my whole body and head. So I bought 2 abayas in Delhi and some scarves to wear as a hijab. I took the flight in Delhi wearing the Abaya. Because with western clothes I already knew that I would not be allowed to enter the country.
I spent 11 days in Afghanistan and visited Kabul, Panjshir Valley, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Balkh Province. Bamyan and Band-e-Amir were also planned. But because the flights there were cancelled so I could not visit. I was planning to travel to Afghanistan again to visit these places in March 2020. But then, the lockdown came and it was not possible.
VISA FOR AFGHANISTAN
There has been no diplomatic representation in Brazil since 2005, when the embassy in Brasilia closed. The nearest embassy is in Washington DC, United States.
Brazilians who intend to get a visa for the country can choose to get it in any country in Europe, the Middle East or Asia, which has an Afghanistan embassy. I applied for my visa at the Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi, India.
So I’ll tell you what it was like at this embassy. It is necessary to take 2 photos, in the exact size described on the embassy website. Fill out an extensive form, with 3 pages, and then do an interview with an embassy agent (all in English). If the interview is successful, he forwards the $ 80 fee slip, which must be in cash. The passport is held for about 3 business days. If it’s around the weekend, the passport is held by the embassy for 5 days.
When travelling to Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministry recommends that Brazilians register their trip, itinerary, travel time, etc., at the Brazilian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Because if something goes wrong they will be the ones who will provide help.
IS AFGHANISTAN SAFE?
Attacks are very common in Kabul. The city is extremely guarded, you cannot photograph everything you see. But in other cities, it is much more peaceful.
As I am not a Muslim, I was unable to enter any mosque. But I was able to enter their courtyard. Walking through the streets of Kabul I felt like I was in a vintage movie. Because everything there is very old.
In the Panjshir Valley, I visited Ahmad Sha Massoud’s Mausoleum. He was the Afghan leader who managed to expel the Russians from Afghanistan. This mausoleum cost 6 million dollars. Massoud was murdered by fake Belgian journalists. At the behest of Al Qaeda on September 9, 2001; two days before the attacks on the twin towers in New York. Because of this attack, where bombs were hidden in fake photographic cameras exploded. I had to turn on my camera to prove that it was a real camera, not an explosive device.
For Afghanistan, a terrorist has no face, everyone is suspicious. So the security and searches are very strict. And, even so, they cannot prevent attacks.
PLACES TO VISIT- HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP
In Herat, I visited The Friday Mosque. It is a very beautiful mosque (even though I just visited the inner courtyard, it was very worth it). And, next to this mosque, I visited an old tile factory, which currently has 3 generations working there. And performs the same process of tile manufacturing for centuries.
Still in Herat, I visited the War Museum, which shows the atrocities committed by the Russians when they invaded Afghanistan. They left behind tanks of war, planes, helicopters, cannons and a multitude of weapons, currently on display in this museum.
But what impressed me most about Herat were the 5 minarets. Called Musalla Minarets, which are 5 huge ruined towers, built by Queen Gawhar Shad, in the year 1417.
Everything there is still original, nothing has been restored. And what was destroyed is due to the wars in Afghanistan. I also visited the Citadel of Herat. Originally built by Alexander the Great when he conquered Afghanistan in 330 BC. There are still parts of the original construction there.
In Mazar-e-Sharif, I visited the Blue Mosque, which was completely destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1200 when he invaded Afghanistan. This mosque is one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture in Asia.
TOURISM IN AFGHANISTAN – IS IT WORTH IT?
Afghanistan is an incredible country, unique beauty, welcoming and curious people. It was one of the most fascinating trips I have ever made. So I want to visit the places that were missing (those that are not under Taliban control).
I do not recommend tourism in Afghanistan without the support of a local agency authorized by the government of Afghanistan. Because about 70% of the territory is controlled by the Taliban and you never know where they are. You can run into them anywhere and take unnecessary risks.
As I went in the spring, the country was in full bloom Spring. The roses from Afghanistan, which they call Mursal Flowers are beautiful, with very intense colour and perfume. In Kabul, I was impressed by the Sakhi Shrine Mosque. Also, the Babur Gardens, where I visited the tomb of Babur, the first Mughal emperor in history.
THE AFGHANIAN PEOPLE’S HOSPITALITY
For showcasing tourism in Afghanistan, I tried to photograph and film what the country has most beautiful. Because Afghanistan war and destruction, the traditional media already shows.
At various points during the trip, I received thanks from Afghans for visiting the country. They said thank you, we know that you are brave to visit our country, for that we are very grateful.
Before leaving Afghanistan I received an emotional statement from my guide, thanking me for everything I recorded about the country. And saying that people like me, are the only hope for Afghanistan. They need those who look at them with a positive outlook. As people there, are tired of so much war and the world looking at them with only negative looks.