Philosophy: Will They Cut Your Head Off?
In a sense, Afghanistan is safer than the US. There are two real dangers, and both are under your control.
The first danger is mines and unexploded ordnance. It is virtually non-existent where people walk. In the cities, for example. But it does exist outside of the cities. Demining is actively conducted, and you can often see rows of painted stones on the roadside. The white side of the rocks points to the demined area and the red one — to the area that has not been checked yet. The absence of painted rocks does not point to anything.
|“Desperately waiting for infidel tourists”|
In practice it means that you should not trek out of the cities. No mountain treks and so on. When an intercity taxi stops and everybody goes to take a leak, you should first ask the locals about the mines and only then go into the bushes. Also, do not roam through the destroyed city blocks and do not loiter around dead armor. Notice that children do not play there, and for a good reason: they are taught in school not to approach destroyed machines. Because those vehicles have been destroyed by something, and it is possible that an unexploded piece of the very same something is buried nearby.
The second danger is asymmetric warfare, also know as terrorism. There are no elected officials in Afghanistan. Therefore, politicians can not be voted out of the office if they misbehave. And socially active citizens are forced to kill bad politicians. And they do just that. For cultural reasons, they do not use sniper rifles but mostly choose bombs. In practice this means that you should not hang out with various commanders and other people in charge although you will have plenty of opportunity for that.
Washing My Hands
Naturally, stupid people get into trouble everywhere. And as any other country does, Afghanistan has its share of criminals and psychopaths. Therefore it is only possible to talk about some abstract average level of danger for a sensible person. Based on my experience, this level for a tourist is negligent, significantly lower than in Russia or the US. And your experience can be different. Especially if you are a dumb dick. I saw dumb dicks go to Afghanistan. They have had bad time. About three or four have not come back.
The responsibility of making a decision to come is on you. Do not go to Afghanistan just because I have told you so. Besides, I am not telling you to go, I only tell you how to do that if you want to. The responsibility of collecting and evaluating recent information is on you — this part I am not even going to do. I make very small changes to the guide from time to time, but I do this based on other people's accounts and can not even put my weight behind their words — I am not there anymore. The situation always changes and sometimes to the bad. The responsibility for everything stupid you do there is on you. I wash my hands.
Tourists have direct enemies in Afghanistan. Namely:
- — the UN people;
- — the foreign personnel of NGOs;
- — the journalists.
The first two groups actively dislike the tourists. I saw many irritated posts in travel forums from these people badmouthing the tourists and demanding the end to any tourism in Afghanistan. I can only guess about the reasons for that. Their hate must be quite intense because monitoring travel forums and regularly posting this garbage there takes a lot of money and effort when you are in Afghanistan.
I think many of these people have come to Afghanistan with half-suicidal intentions, to carry the white man's burden, sacrifice their life for the good of mankind. But they have ended up in a poor, destroyed country where nobody really rushes to wash foreign helpers' feet. All the Afghans I have talked to about the UN/NGO projects could hardly conceal their irritation and contempt, something the helpers no doubts feel too.
And to add insult to their injury, some kind of “tourists” dare to come to Afghanistan, socialize with the locals, stay in their hotels, eat in their restaurants. No wonder the main emotion generated in the helpers by the tourists is often hate. More than once I saw the same thought rotating in various media, “Afghanistan has been already taken. By the UN/NGOs. There is no place for the tourists here.”
So, just keep all this in mind. Do not get upset if you personally encounter such attitude.
The journalists, however, spoil it for you in a different way. The main issue with them is huge supply of their employers' money they have access to. The Afghans have quickly caught upon the fact that there was a group of people that could spend the money endlessly. As a result, they have established a network of what we in this guide will call “foreign morons' demoneying centers”. Spinghar Hotel in Jalalabad, Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Mowafaq Hotel in Herat, Barat Hotel in Mazar-i-Sharif, and so on. With average income of a hundred dollars per month and an average hotel room costing five dollars, there were tons of the locals wishing to get work as translators for 150–200 dollars per day or to charge 50–75 dollars for a hotel room per night. What was worse, there were tons of the abovementioned foreign morons willing to pay these crazy amounts at a first request.
That directly affects you because on the surface you look exactly like a foreign moron. Therefore, the first thing you should do when you come to a hotel is to explain that you are not a journalist. This should immediately drop the price from 50 dollars to 20, and you will end up paying 10–15. Take similar course in many other money-based interactions.
In conclusion, you will hardly have an opportunity to socialize with the UN/NGO people or journalists due to their preoccupation with the games they play, but in any case stay as far from them as you can.
next: A Word to the Girls
more: Other things
this page: http://www.zharov.com/afghan/dangers.html
copyright: © Sergei Zharov, text, photos, maps, design, code, 2004–2018