‘Despite the war, Afghanistan is beautiful,’ says country’s first female tour guide

The first tourist

Journalism is a difficult profession for women here, but I saw it as a bridge to a better future. One of my projects at Herat University was on tourist attractions in Afghanistan, and I started posting about the places I read on a Facebook travel group. It was then that Biktop, a traveler from Ukraine, texted me asking if I could show them my city. I was able to make new friends from another country and I had a lot to share on Herat. Biktop ended up suggesting my guide services to Untamed Borders, a travel agency specializing in inaccessible areas. Last year they came to Herat, joined a group that I was leading and hired me. They explained to me how to pick up guests from the airport, brief them on security and get them to Herat.

Visits during the pandemic

The risks international travelers face are different from those I face as a local woman; In particular, we have ensured that travelers do not stay too long on the street or in one place. My first trip with Untamed Borders took place in October 2020; I juggled university tours and then started guiding for Silk Road Afghanistan travel agency. I led 100 people on 30 tours and dreamed of taking bands across Afghanistan and having my own business someday.

Afghanistan has a history of over 6,000 years; its monuments and the beauty of its landscapes are the greatest attractions for travelers. The 1970s saw over 90,000 tourists; after that, security concerns deterred the most. People have negative stereotypes about life here, but despite the war Afghanistan is beautiful. I wanted my tours to reflect his positive qualities.

I told stories of women in Afghanistan and showed guests ancient places I loved, like the central Blue Mosque in Herat, very detailed with blue tiles and, we believe, the largest mosque in the world; the guests felt peaceful sitting there and enjoyed its beauty. We were going to the Timurid Shrine at Gazur Guh and the Citadel in Herat, dated to 330 BC when Alexander the Great and his armies arrived.

We wandered through a bazaar where various ethnic groups were selling traditional and handmade souvenirs, and we stopped at an old teahouse where the owner spoke about his time as a jihadist who fought against the invasion. from Afghanistan to the Soviet Union at the turn of the 1980s. Much of Herat is educated, so you can see women in teahouses, although they are only allowed out if accompanied. of male family members.

My guests gave me a different world view as we exchanged notes on our cultures. Meeting single travelers has given me the strength and the will to travel on my own; they gave me the perspective that the world is for the brave.

I had never been alone anywhere until I became a tour guide. My parents are conservatives; my sisters were forced to marry when they were 13 and 15 years old. But having accepted my visits, my parents were more open to letting me travel alone; I have been to Kabul twice for a scholarship and as a practice for tours outside of Herat.

About Thomas Thorton

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