Killing time in Kabul part 2 and 3

Coming back to our lovely guesthouse was like coming home! We went out for a stunningly good local iftar dinner – lamb, lamb and more lamb! It was delicious!!!! Unsurprisingly the streets were deserted at 8.30 when we headed back to the guesthouse, I guess Kabul doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife. Some more tea and another quiet nights sleep.

In the morning, after another enormous breakfast, Kausar offered to take us to the bird market, provided we followed his instructions about how fast we had to move – as we didn’t want to attract too much attention. The market is an extraordinary set of lanes in old Kabul where you can buy racing pigeons, fighting birds, song birds, and just about any bird you might want . We were quick in and out for security reasons, but every time we stopped to take a photo, others would clamour to get in the photo. For some professional photos check these out

Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
Kabul bird market
A sikh man in Kabul whose family has lived here for 300 years

We stopped to see the Shah e de shamshira mosque -it was built by someone who had been to europe and wanted mimic the design of a church.

Shah e de shamshira mosque

We then visited the Shrine to the murdered girl – Shaheed Farkhunda – on 19/3/2015 she was tortured and burnt to death ostensibly for disrespecting the quran. The monument expresses disgust at the “barbaric ignoramuses” who murdered her. That it happened in Afghanistan didn’t surprise people, but that it happened in Kabul, and was not perpetuated by Isis or the taliban but by everyday citizens, and in 2015! that was the surprise! More here

Farkhunda monument

The traffic was appalling, and we were basically liquifying in the back seat of the van, moving about 10 metres every five minutes so we retreated to the Bookseller of Kabul (as written about in two books of the same name). They have an excellent selection of new and old books, and it was gloriously cool. I didn’t actually buy any physical books (too heavy) but did use the inspiration to buy some good local titles on my kindle.

So far the first book has made for mostly depressing reading about how grim life is as an afghan woman with a life expectancy of 44, (WFP 2014), daughters are a form of currency for their fathers, if they are raped they get arrested for pre-marital sex and/or have to marry the rapist, most women still wear burqas and are illiterate (not having had access to education), and women routinely burn themselves to death with cooking oil to escape domestic violence (The Underground Girls of Kabul, Jenny Nordberg). I don’t expect the other books to be any happier.

As we were leaving the shop we heard reports of a bombing and gunfire at new interior ministry, Originally we thought it was old ministry which we were right next to. The policy of isis and the taliban is to destabilise the government, which they do by attacking government offices and the public. As a result, lots of monuments are closed – multiple shrines, the intercontinental hotel, the land mine museum, and chicken street were all off limits following attacks – but then Isis and the taliban just find other targets.

We popped into to see the last jew in Afghanistan – Zablon Simintov – he has a synagogue on Flower St above a juice bar, and has lived here all his life. His family fled to tel Aviv years ago but he refuses to go. He sounds like he is quite a character (check out his wikipedia entry which details his feud with the other jew who lived in Kabul for a time).

Zablon Simintov in the synagogue
Synagogue windows
Torah

We met a foreign affairs diplomat who had been visiting him, and got into an extended debate about Isis, Iran and eu intervention into the affairs of the region. We lounged around on the matts for a while, ostensibly having a chat, but largely to stay off the street while the gun battle was ongoing at the ministry. Details of the battle here

We headed back to the airport for our flight to Mazar. I was recognised by every security lady – you get patted down at five different checkpoints before you get to the domestic terminal. We are off to Mazar for three nights, back to Kabul for part 3 on saturday morning.

May 30, 2018

Part 3 – returning from Mazar…..

Back to Kabul for the third time after a very early flight from mazar…. it really does feel like home. We had some bread cheese honey and coffee and then went to check out the mini mobile circus for children (afghanmmcc.org). This was the two hours that made me the happiest the whole time I was in Afghanistan, as it was the first time I had seen confident young girls (mostly from refugee/IDP camps) laughing and playing, and more importantly learning to read. The school teaches (for free) circus skills (including acrobatics, pop and parkour), but girls are limited to what they are allowed to do, which is pretty much juggling and acting – well they were some damn good jugglers. Once the families are ok with them coming to circus school, they get persuaded to let them to go real school also, and so they learn how to read

Circus school
Circus school

One particular young girl had beautiful green eyes and was full of energy, but apparently had been woefully malnourished when she arrived. She taught me how to swing on the hoops hanging from the ceiling (am not sure they are used to grown ups doing that). Another was playfully punching the male director, behaviour that would never have been allowed outside of the circus walls, so I gave her a few tips (thanks Jenny Garbutt) for hitting harder and getting your hip behind the punch :-). If you are in Kabul, go visit them, it’s a remarkable organisation, and give a generous donation while you are there.

We then popped by to see one more fort on a hill in Kabul – there are many, and the different Mujahideen groups did a great job levelling Kabul from their hilltops as they battled over Kabul when the soviets left.  Most of the buildings have bullet holes and bomb damage.

 

And then finally, for the first time ever in my travelling career, I went to a carpet shop.  I never go to carpet shops, as I am sure I would feel obliged to buy something after drinking tea and chatting.  This time, both Rob and Hubby wanted to buy a carpet.  Hubby wanted a war rug!  These are quite famous in Afghanistan – rugs with kalishnakovs and bombs.   We had seen one once at a friends house in rural England.  Apparently his neighbours had seen it also through his window, as the police turned up to check out they weren’t terrorists (worth noting that my friend was Sri Lankan and it was a very pale English town)….   Anyway, our carpet seller was a former mujahideen commander from Mazaar, so in between tea and carpets we got to hear some of his fascinating history.   And yes, we left with two carpets

2011 carpet
Rob Lounging while shopping
Carpets

 

And then we went for one final wander down Chicken street (so named as it was where you could once buy chickens, but there are no chickens anymore)..  It is as famous as Freak street in Nepal and Khao sahn rd in Bangkok as part of the legendary hippy trail.  I can imagine the hippies having a fabulous time in Kabul in the 70s before the soviets and the Taliban.   There were fabulous souvenir shops – with fur hats, great carpets, wonderful jewellery, but not so much in the way of customers.  I found out afterwards most aid and govt organisations have banned their employees from shopping there after a spate of recent bombings As is often the case, this has made it safer for the few of us still going, as isis and the Taliban have gone looking for other targets.

Chicken St jewellery

To round out our wonderful 9 days we went for dinner at Bukhara.  The family room was deserted and a bit sterile so we went downstairs and ate with the men.  We were joined by Gull and his lovely daughter Mohadesa, and as usual ate far too much!!  After tea and baklava, time for bed, as an early wake up call to head home the next day.

Hubby, Rob, Gull, Mohadesa, Me, Kausar and Big Ishmail

We had an amazing time in Afghanistan, and I will definitely be back to visit Bamian.  Gull has agreed to run the Bamian marathon with me when I come back!   Until then, I hope that security improves for our Afghan friends!

3 June 2018, Kabul

Additional notes if you are visiting

– women’s dress – in Kabul, skinny jeans or leggings with a dress that reaches to close to knee length is appropriate, with a headscarf. Sleeves must go to the wrist and obviously necklines must be high. Outside of Kabul I felt most comfortable on the street in an abbaya (long black ankle length zip tunic) and a headscarf which was still less than most people wore.

– men’s dress – go local! it costs less than $15 for an outfit including the waist coat, and you look great in it. The benefit being you only need to come in the clothes you are wearing…. but two sets of local, wash as require, and then put your original clothes on the day you leave

– guides/tours – I recommend Kausar at untamed borders without hesitation – he was amazing! I will be coming back and would only go with Kausar!

– hotels – am not sharing where we stayed for security reasons as best not to publicise where the foreigners hang out. Suffice to say, they aren’t five star!!!

– drinks – coffee – lots of places either didn’t have it, or had the weird three-in-one packets with sugar added. If you want sugar free black coffee, carry some instant with you. Most places also had a water filter which saved on plastic bottles.

– communications – WiFi is available lots of places but isn’t great. For $14 you can buy a SIM card with 4gb of data which is more than enough for a week or two.

 

Mosques in Mazar e sharif

We arrived in Mazar as the sun was going down, checked into our hotel (which could have won awards for the pungentness of the smell of pee and cigarettes), and headed out for dinner as iftar was approaching. Our destination – the king – was closed, so we went to the ‘chife’ burger ( ie chief) across the road. I walked in first and got shouted something in Arabic, and the only word I understood was ‘family’, as the man ushered me out of the room. Result! This means I get to eat dinner with women tonight!!!! I took my four husbands (actual husband, Rob, Kausar the guide and Nowruz the driver) upstairs for dinner. It was pretty noisy as there were kids, which turns out to be an unexpected upside in segregation – no screaming kids over dinner. Dinner was various fried things with a token salads. And after dinner we went to the ice creamery where three strong men literally churn the icecream in big vats in a block of ice in front of you. It was delicious – milk and cardamom and sugar.

Mazar -icecream makers

We got up at 5.30 to see the famous shrine of Hazrat Ali in the Dawn light. It is extraordinary, and is the most famous shrine in Afghanistan. However, it is unfortunate that they have taken a few modernisation liberties and there are a few too many air conditioners, power lines and down pipes in evidence, as well as some neon signs on the dome. However, it was amazing. The shrine is a little contentious as most Muslims agree Ali is buried in Najaf, however everyone agrees it is a holy place. I enjoyed practising wearing my burqa – it’s bloody difficult, but given we aren’t supposed to photograph women, I figured I could charge rob and hubby baksheesh for walking atmospherically in front of the mosque. It turns out I have the wrong gait for a burqa, and the local kids were in fits when I tried running to get the burqa to flow behind me.

Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar -cleaner
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar -famous holy doves
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar – me in my burqa
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar – non muslims not allowed inside
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar – me and hubby

Yes that’s me and hubby in the photo above….

Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar
Hazrat Ali Shrine Mazar

We came back for a wee nap and then had a very weird afghan breakfast of bread, jam and what seemed like clotted cream….. served in a dusty conference room which was last used by the Norwegian refugee counsel. It was delicious but probably not nutritious.

We headed to Balkh – once the most famous city in the world and birthplace of Rumi the poet and Zoroastrianism. We went to see the largely ruined Noh gonbad mosque – oldest mosque in Afghanistan, which had nine domes. They are restoring it, but slowly. In the garden we met a Sufi mystic who lost his family 20 years ago in the war, renounced his life and moved here to care for the shrines and the mosque. He reputedly smokes 250g of hash per day, and I can’t comment, but it smelled impressively strong, so not sure how he remained upright

Noh Gonbad Mosque under restoration
Sufi mystic smoking
Sufi mystic with his crop

We then went to see the citadel walls. Alexander the Great conquered Bactria/balkh and married Roxana the former kings daughter – apparently the best looking woman in Central Asia – she decided it was a practical way of staying alive

Old Balkh city walls
Old Balkh city walls
Old Balkh shrine
Nowuz checking up on us

We went to conservative downtown Balkh (Kausar made us ditch our sunglasses so we didn’t look too foreign) and checked out the Mosque and shrine of Hoja Pasha, which was lovely.

Hoja Pasha mausoleum
Hoja Pasha mausoleum
Hoja Pasha mausoleum
Hoja Pasha mausoleum

More interesting was the shrine to Rabia Balhi, a female poet. She fell in love with her slave so her husband and brothers tied her to the walls and she wrote poems in her own blood until she died. Now it is a pilgrimage site for romantics

Rabia Balhi mausoleum
Rabia Balhi mausoleum
Rabia Balhi mausoleum

We then had to make a stop at the Shrine and tomb to Baba Ku Mastan, who converted marijuana to hash for the first time ever. Hashish is a big deal here as the Sufi mystics smoke it all day long. Who knew you could be a religious stoner? Sufis come from all over country to celebrate and sing poetry for him.

Sufi at Baba Ku Mastan shrine

We headed back to Mazar – passing the ruins of the German consulate, which was bombed out by the taliban last year – there is nothing left and the windows in all the neighbouring buildings were blown out

We stopped at am unassuming mud building which turns out to be the main Cock, quail and dog fighting ring. Not really a sport I understand or support but these men are very proud of their birds and they are apparently very valuable

Mazar bird fighters
Mazar bird fighters
Mazar bird fighters

After that we went for a quick tour around the bazaar. Usual Kausar security rules applied – keep moving and don’t stop too long – but it was tricky to obey when everyone wants their photo taken and to say hi! It was different here than Herat as there were women working on some of the stalls and plenty of women out a shopping, though most in burqas

Mazar bazaar
Mazar bazaar
Mazar bazaar
Mazar bazaar
Mazar bazaar
Mazar bazaar
Mazar bazaar

After another nap and a sneaky non Ramadan snack of fried afghan pizza we went back to the shrine for the early evening. It was an entirely different place. Bustling with people and lots of groups sitting round relaxing. We sat for a while to give Kausar time to go pray and were a source of great amusement to the locals around us who were amused by my burqa, which I was wearing in a style that some local ladies do, with the veil flipped back so you can see and breathe. They had a good laugh when I decided to retreat under my veil entirely. They came over to befriend us and I ended up with some new Facebook friends as Steph had taken some nice photos of them.

Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hubby at Hazrat Ali Shrine

We hung out in the setting sun enjoying the amazing sounds of two Sufi singers chanting to god – these were ‘real’ sufis as opposed to the hash smoking ones. And we watched the mosque set up for iftar, where they feed everyone for free, rich and poor together (though women last of course, and in a separate place). There really isn’t much like Ramadan to see the best of Islam, it was a lovely evening.

Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hazrat Ali Shrine
Hazrat Ali Shrine

Another iftar dinner, with more lamb. Lamb cutlets, lamb rack, lamb shanks, lamb casserole and lamb pilau – Kausar likes lamb, and it was all delicious

We are quite close to the border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, so mazar I sharif is an important cross roads (and has been for thousands of years). As we were driving out of town we saw evidence of that, both in the trucks, shipping containers, shiny Petrol stations and the newly built rail line from Uzbekistan to bring in oil, but also in the numerous camel trains that we passed.

Camels by the road
Camels by the road

We stopped at Bagh I jahan, the amazing kings hunting lodge. Fascinating architecture designed to keep them cool in the heat. What was more stunning was our first glimpses of the Hindu Kush in the background. The pictures aren’t great as there is a lot of haze, but the colours and the ridge lines are stunning.

Bagh I jahan with the hindu kush in the background
Bagh I jahan with the hindu kush in the background
Burqa and a tank

Our guide is also a journalist and photographer, so he got us to stop and take some burqa tank photos, which were corny but hilarious. Note to self, next time climb up on the tank and then out the burqa on…. it’s quite hard to climb while wearing one (it’s quite hard to do anything while wearing one – which I guess is part of the design, to keep women partially handicapped).

We went through the tashkurgan gorge – a small break in the line of the Hindu Kush…. stunning! The valley runs for a long way, and after the barren desert, it is lovely to drive through a lush valley full of almond and pistachio trees, herds of goats and mud houses that look they have been here for a millennium, with the mountains rising up on both sides

Tashkurgan gorge
Tashkurgan gorge
Tashkurgan countryside
Tashkurgan countryside

It was a lovely drive. Nowruz had the afghan beats playing, and in spite of it being 40 degrees it was pleasant in the moving van with the wind blowing through.

The purpose of the drive was to see Takht-e roshtam! Buddhism was the reigning religion for a long time here and since the Taliban destroyed the standing buddhas at Bamian, Takht-e roshtam is the most important and impressive preislamic sure in Afghanistan. It’s a stunning stupa which is dug into the ground like the churches of Lalibela. Part of the stupa has been blown up as one of the local warlords thought there might be gold inside

Takht-e roshtam stupa
Takht-e roshtam stupa
Takht-e roshtam stupa

Close by the stupa is a monastery complex with an amazing dug out temple where the standing buddhas were until the warlords looted them, and an amazing ancient bazaar. The photos don’t really do it justice but it was lovely

Takht-e roshtam monastery
Takht-e roshtam monastery
Takht-e roshtam monastery
boys in the river

By the time we got back to mazar it was 42 degrees so time for another nap! After that, we decided to head back to the shrine to enjoy the ambience of Friday night prayers. And then another iftar dinner – more delicious food, lentils, chicken, kofta, aubergine, spinach dumplings, bread and spinach dumplings. Our delightful driver Nowruz took us out to another ice cream shop as he reckons he knew a nicer place than we had the first night – we tried three flavours – cardamom, mango and cherry. Amazing. Then we needed to get to bed for an early flight. I had found out earlier that night that our driver Nowruz had only ever seen one woman drive a car, so I offered to drive us home, and he said yes. The boys weren’t too keen, especially given it was dark, roads in Afghanistan are pants, and the van was a right hand drive (ie steering wheel near the footpath), but I couldn’t refuse!!!!!!! Well we are now safely home so all good!!!! Back to Kabul tomorrow :-).

Mazar-e Sharif, June 2, 2018

History in Herat

The landscape from the plane between Kabul and Herat is like a long rolling wave of rock! It was extraordinary! The people on the plane were amazed to see foreigners , several of the women actually asked me (while I was on the plane or the bus on the way to the plane) if I was going to Herat – well I hope so! I am guessing it isn’t a tourist hotspot these days.

Apparently the dress code in Herat is a little more conservative than normal, and I was approached by a lady in the loo at Herat airport who told me I wasn’t wearing enough clothes – oh well, just as well I bought an abbaya.

Herat traffic – this boy doesn’t look old enough to drive
Herat traffic – tuktuks – mostly with guitar motifs
Herat wheelbarrow men waiting for work

We checked into a glorious hotel which is painted in a riot of pastel colours, and then headed out for iftar dinner. The restaurant was in a delightful courtyard with lounging areas. I couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with the place until I realised I was the only woman in sight. Odd!!!! Apparently women have to sit in a different room or in the family room, but I get an exemption as a foreigner. Many quips were made by the hubby and rob about the women’s room – which was obviously the kitchen! Dinner was an amazing feast of grilled meat and bread, preceded by wonderful iftar pastries – glorious combinations of sugar and fat. We were joined by a kiwi guy off my nutters group of Facebook travellers who was coincidentally in Herat staying with a taxi driver and his family, and having quite an experience!

Back to the hotel for a good nights sleep where I discovered I had been eaten by something, I am covered in huge bites!!! Oh well! I scratched most of the night and then we were up early to start sightseeing before it got to hot.

Herat roadside stalls
Herat roadside stalls
Herat roadside stalls

The lovely Mahboob picked us up in his beat up van with the cracked windscreen and drove us round to the mosque. The street near the entry was lined with scholars who write letters and applications for those who are illiterate- which is apparently quite common here.

Herat writers
Herat writers

There is a lovely tile factory adjacent to the mosque entry where craftsmen make beautiful mosaics in the same way they have for thousands of years, it’s extraordinary work, and was lovely to visit.

Herat tile factory

The main mosque was delightful….. huge and very much still in use. There was a cadre of wizened old men who were busy cleaning up after morning prayers with brooms whose design probably hadn’t changed for centuries. It is easy to see why the locals often come and rest and meet their friends in the mosque as it is a wonderful place to lie down and chat, far from the cacophony of the busy Herat streets.

Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque – nap time
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque- cleaners
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque – happy man
Herat Friday mosque
Herat Friday mosque

We wandered back to the van, passing a famous souvenir shop as we went. While I thought I was fitting in with the locals, it is obvious I stand out, as quite a few women stopped and stared at me – it’s probably a combination of my sunglasses and kiwi walk!

Herat souvenir shop
Herat souvenir shop owner
Herat -boys wanting a photo taken

Next up the Herat fort. A stunning piece of architecture! We paid the curator some baksheesh and he let us into the royal palace, the highlight of which was the queens bath!

Herat fort
Herat fort
Herat fort
Herat fort
Herat fort – me in my abbaya

Driving around the streets is fantastic – there isn’t a spare piece of space which isn’t being productively used for retail – from trucks of watermelons to wheelbarrows of soap. The vendors are all men, and for some weird reason many of them are in cowboy hats. The driving in Afghanistan is generally chaotic, it is the first place I have ever seen anyone go the wrong way round a roundabout! No one seems that bothered as the traffic moves so slowly everyone has time to react.

Herat roadside
Herat roadside
Herat roadside

We headed up the hill to the jihad museum – a tribute to the mujahaddin who had died fighting the ten year occupation of the Russians. The gardens are full of old helicopters and anti aircraft guns. It also had lots of wonderful fruit trees, so we were surreptitiously stuffing our faces with apricots and mulberries while the guard wasn’t looking (naughty given everyone is fasting). The museum had a wonderful diorama showing Afghans bearing Russian tanks with stones and sticks…. if it wasn’t so serious it would have been hilarious

Herat Jihad museum
Herat Jihad museum
Herat Jihad museum
Herat Jihad museum
Herat Jihad museum

Next up the wonderful shrine to Ansari. It is the first time I have seen a mosque type building filled with graves. Women were allowed on one side and men on the other. There was a woman at the shrine wailing and banging her head against the concrete. The women around her were giving me hostile stares and ignoring her. Eventually one intervened and held her to stop her doing it. I have no idea why – but have to assume she is in mourning. You do see quite a few female beggars here, they have lost their husbands in the war and apparently their families often won’t have the means to take them back. I saw very few women working in public in Herat, so I imagine it is difficult for these women to look after themselves. Kausar is terrific at sharing around donations to different people in need, in keeping with good Muslim tradition.

Ansari shrine
Ansari shrine
Ansari shrine
Ansari shrine

We picked up some snacks and retreated to the hotel for a break. It is hot here! There is a wind that blows 120 days a year, and it drives the locals bonkers, but I love it for the respite from the heat. My abbaya is a big black sweat sack – I bought it for £12 from amazon – it’s made from polyester and isn’t very breathable. I took a shower, turned up the AC and lay down in my underpants for two hours to cool down!

Refreshed, we went off to see the shahzada abdull qasim mausoleum- two shines with wonderful Sufi scholars, one of whom interrogated us about Jesus and encouraged us to convert.

Scholar shahzada abdull qasim mausoleum
shahzada abdull qasim mausoleum
scholar shahzada abdull qasim mausoleum

We drove by a bread shop, and had to stop for our fix of fresh bread. The guys invited us in to see it made – it’s an extraordinarily efficient process with no labour waste – and the bread cooks in 30 seconds. We hurriedly stuffed our faces in the van (we aren’t supposed to be eating in public, so we were hiding) before arriving at the Gauwar Shawd mausoleum.

bread shop- 15c per loaf

She was the legendary daughter in law of Timurlane who lived to 79, and was responsible for much of the early development of Herat.

Gauwar Shawd mausoleum

Next to her mausoleum are 5 lovely ancient minarets. There were originally 21 but the British bombed the rest in the 80s as they thought they were Russian watch towers.

Minarets

Next some more shrines. The tomb of Molana Abdul Rahman Jami which had some stunning gravestones. And then finally we headed to the Khaltan shrine – famous in Herat for having a female Sufi. It is also at this shrine that you can get your wishes granted if you roll along the gravel with your eyes closed – i did it, but the boys weren’t keen.

tomb of Molana Abdul Rahman Jami
Man at tomb of Molana Abdul Rahman Jami
Female sufi at Khaltan shrine

By this time I was starving, so I have no idea how Mahboob and Kausar were still functioning. Another lovely restaurant with an amazing feast of mantoo dumplings, local samosa, shashlik, lamb shank, pilau, beans, salad, bread and watermelon. The food here is amazing. Fully iftar stuffed we headed home! I got an ok nights sleep punctuated by waking up to scratch my huge bites.

Our hotel are delightful, and make us breakfast every morning even though they don’t get to eat. This mornings feast was a random but sumptuous assortment of eggs, soup, sour yogurt, bread, jam, cheese and pudding, together with the local mahmood instant coffee which is brutally strong!

A slower start this morning. We went to see the lovely shrine near the fort which has a unique arch made of silver. The kids from the madrasah were hard at work studying the Quran under the watchful eye of an old man.

We then had an amazing few hours wandering around old Herat. Kausar knows where all the ancient and hidden caravanserai can be found, and he showed us all of them. The local men were all eager to chat. They see few tourists here, and all were willing to have their photo taken. If you took a photo of one guy, his friends would want one too. They were all genuinely delightful and most would summon up their best ‘how are you’. While we are still dressed as locals, we do stand out….

Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar – wheelbarrow man
Herat tailor
Herat tailor
Herat child who followed us around
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Herat bazaar
Old caravanserai in Herat bazaar
Old caravanserai in Herat bazaar

We stopped off at one more shrine – the tomb of sultan agha. It had more security than usual as it was a Shia shrine and is apparently an Isis target. They also had an imprint of Ali the prophets foot!

Tomb of Sultan Agha

Mahboob the driver had arranged some amazing musicians to play for us for an hour before we went to the airport. They were extraordinary! Two men, two hand drums and a harmonium, and amazing voices. What a way to end our visit, eating melon and drinking tea!

Herat wasn’t originally on our itinerary, we were only here as couldn’t get to Bamian, but it was lovely and am so glad we came!!!!

Herat, 29 May 2018