Off the Beaten Path, Afghanistan

Aleta Fimbres 21/02/2013

Slums of Belgrade

You want a holiday a bit off of the beaten track. Somalia and its pirates have been ruined by Johnny Depp, Pripyat and Chernobyl are now fancy tourist excursions. Libya? Perhaps a bit too soon.


Upon your arrival at Kabul airport a short 16km ride will take you to the centre of the city. From here on in the world, or chiefly Afghanistan is your oyster! For the security conscious there’s the Marriot Kabul, for those on a budget there’s… well absolutely anywhere. One Euro = 64 Afghanis (the currency not the people). You won’t want to spend too much time in the hotel however, there’s a lot to see!

Your first stop should be the Kabul Zoo – Home to around two hundred animals, and Afghanistan’s only pig (but don’t expect much from the Aquarium, it has been shelled repeatedly over 30 years of war in the region and apparently rabbits and deer are thin on the ground due to their being so tasty for insurgents and rebels alike).

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Once you’ve ingested all the zoo has to offer it is time to make your way to OMAR Mine museum to take in a collection of 51 different types of land mines deployed in Afghanistan. The collection boasts unexploded ordinance, so please do not shake or touch the exhibits. If mines are not really your thing then you’re out of luck as the next attraction, the lakes of Band-E-Amir – and in fact any attraction outside of Kabul itself – requires you to traverse a heavily mined route to the ancient city of Bamyan.

The city was formerly home to the two largest standing Buddha’s in the world before their destruction by the Taliban in 2001, due to their being an affront to Islam. It is apparently possible to still see the feet! If you’re lucky enough to be in Herat on a Thursday night, it’s poetry night for the locals. People, that is, men, gather to share stories both modern and ancient.

Bring along your latest epic about the pressures of your life. The locals are sure to appreciate a touch of the west which hasn’t come from the barrel of a M16A2. For those sporting types there is Afghanistan’s national game; Buzkashi, or Horseback Goat Dragging. Described as “the wildest sport in the world” the aim is to drag a goat (or calf – the meat is tougher and the game lasts longer) carcass towards a white chalk circle. On horseback. Along with fifty other people. No women or animal lovers are allowed, though do stick around for the after-game meal.

Mine Museum Afghanistan

If you manage to complete a tour without kidnap, you can successfully boast to all of your friends and colleagues that you’ve joined an elite rank of tourists, currently only two, who have visited Afghanistan in the last ten years!

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