Before entering a country, the question always comes up: how will the people be? In the case of Afghanistan, this question had an extra dimension: how will people have been affected by the decades of war that have ravaged the country? Already upon arrival at the airport, several men turn out to be very helpful, and when our coachsurfing host turns out to be going beyond what we could have expected, we feel welcome in this country, legendary for its hospitality. Indeed, in all the places we visit, we meet people who, in one way or another, do their best to make us feel at ease, and enjoy their country. Afghans are a proud people, and they enjoy seeing their visitors appreciate the beauty of their country. While always a little cautious in our contacts with the locals (there are many warnings saying you should not trust anyone, people could try to make money by handing you over to Taliban kidnappers, etc.), we never develop paranoia, and are constantly rewarded for that.
The second question I have before visiting a country: how will people react to my camera? Especially given the war situation large parts of Afghanistan is in, I expected people to be camera-shy. I soon find out the contrary is the case. People often struggle to be in a picture, they ask to have their picture taken, they run towards you when they see your camera. Even though there sometimes is a language barrier, we soon find out Afghans have a great sense of humour, appreciate any effort to speak one of the local languages (our small dictionary Dari-English turns out to be a good investment), and often, someone who speaks English is found to make communication a little easier. So, apart from all the unique and beautiful places to see in this country rich in history and stunning landscapes, its people are definitely an important part of our travel experience. Invitations for chai and/or food are so frequent you sometimes have to say no to them. We have very interesting and eye-opening discussions with Afghans about the wars, the political situation, freedoms, sexual habits, the ways personal life is organized. Too bad only a small number of Afghani women can be found in the streets, and those you see, are almost invariably veiled or hidden by their burqa, and are extremely shy in their contacts with foreigners.
What is more, the Afghani people are an exotic mix of all the influences that have gone through this Central Asian country. It is at once the blessing and curse of Afghanistan: its strategic position has seen the likes of Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Indians, Mongols, Russians, British, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and others come to the country - making for an exotic cocktail of Asian and European people, but also bringing foreign meddling and wars. The population today reflects this rich history, consisting of Pasthuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Tajiks, Nuristani and other ethnic groups. How many brilliant eyes have we seen: blue, green, black, hazel? Fair-skinned people, and those with darker skins. Blondes and black-haired people. Then, the traditional dresses still widely used, the turbans and pakols (woollen hats), turning the streets into colourful affairs, and making you want to dress up like a local, too. In fact, I loved walking around the country in my tailored shalwar-kameez! Thank you, Afghani people, for taking good care of us.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Afghani people (Afghanistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Afghani people.
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