#A variety of breathtaking landscapes
When arriving at Kabul airport, the plane slips through the mountains. The arrival in Afghanistan is thus majestic and vertiginous. But this is only a modest foretaste of what awaits the traveller. Afghanistan is a mountainous country. They cover almost the entire territory and in various forms: rounds in Maimana, salient in the Salang and gigantic in the Pamir. The Hindu Kush chain, which is none other than the extension of the Himalayas, cuts the country from east to west. But it doesn't stop there! Plateaux in the north, Band-e-Amir lakes in the centre, many rivers, steppes of Central Asia, green plains, sand deserts in the south... there is something for everyone!
Afghan hospitality :
Wherever the stranger goes, he is received as a prince. Afghans systematically offer a tea to the visitor. But never without too much insistence or heaviness. Afghan hospitality follows a very subtle ritual. If you stay for dinner, the Afghans will immediately send a child shopping and go so far as to deprive themselves so that the guest's plate is the most full. The table is quickly set up: a carpet, bread and tea, sometimes small sweets. Even poor Afghans share everything. They like to discuss Afghanistan with the person who discovers it. The guest usually leaves with small gifts: jewellery, scarves, dried fruit, etc.
Immerse yourself in an eventful history
Travelling to Afghanistan means being at the heart of the news, but also immersing yourself in a past marked by conquests and wars. Afghanistan's history is rich and complex, but once there, many things make sense for anyone seeking to learn about the country's past. The remains of the wars are there: buildings completely destroyed, carcasses of Russian tanks on the roadsides, bullet holes in the buildings. Over the past two decades, historic monuments have been destroyed by terrible wars that have literally ravaged the country. There are still living memories, which will gladly chat with the visitor. Former Mujahideen, former communists or supporters of American intervention, the actors of this country are the key to understanding Afghanistan today.
Countries at war, post-conflict or pre-conflict?
The difference is not very clear. The reality of the country is that military convoys cross Kabul, barbed wire protects the homes of foreigners and Afghan elites, and helicopters fly over the city several times a day. It's not war, but it looks like it. It is interesting to immerse yourself in this world of humanitarian and international organizations and, above all, to be at the heart of the news. Since 2009, the upsurge in insurgent attacks has unfortunately raised fears of a resurgence of civil war and a return to Taliban rule. Will the country, which has been open until now, still be open tomorrow?
A return to the roots?
For many, it is a shock. Afghanistan offers what few countries can still offer in the 21st century: scenes of daily life similar to those of centuries ago. And this is true even in Kabul, the capital, where you can see donkeys crossing the streets, which are really roads. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Electricity in the main cities runs for barely five hours a day, water pipes freeze in winter and Afghans use wood for heating. Sometimes, men, mostly dressed in traditional clothing, go barefoot. Imagine also the villages where people live in small earthen houses, feed on their crops, plough their land with oxen ploughs, have no running water or electricity and collect water from the well. In most parts of Afghanistan, time has stood still. And, even today, some hamlets are only accessible by donkey...
For walking and trekking, Afghanistan is a dream place. Its mountainous geography offers a variety of sites suitable for walking, hiking and climbing. Like the Wakhan corridor in northeastern Afghanistan and the province of Nouristan in the east, many areas are still accessible only by foot or by animal. This makes these places unique in the world and almost virgin. Unfortunately, some of these regions have become too dangerous in recent years to organize excursions there.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette